Brief moments of racial understanding…

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In my field, we talk about a lot about microaggressions.  Wikipedia offers the definition of racial microaggressions, but microaggressions can apply to people because of any aspect of their identity… sexist, heterosexist, faithist, etc.  Microaggressions are difficult to understand because we do them often unconsciously or unintentionally.  We make a stereotypical comment or we are insensitive to other cultures, but we don’t realize that we’ve done it.

I am responsible for microaggressions myself, and work to understand my white privilege and male privilege so that I can be more sensitive and understanding of my non-white and female peers.  This is very important to me, because I expect the same effort of my heterosexual and faithful friends of the dimensions of my own identity that are typically oppressed.

I say all this to share a moment this morning where I had the OPPOSITE experience.  There isn’t a word for micropositives, because we shouldn’t need one.  Being good and being nice mean being good and being nice.  At any rate, I was sitting in the waiting room at my university health center this morning, and I was alone except for one other student who happened to African-American.  Behind us, a TV was on and President Bush was holding his last press conference and we were both listening.

Bush was talking about Hurricane Katrina and reconstructing New Orleans, and all of a sudden got kind of angry and said the following:

You know, people say the federal response was slow… Don’t tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed.

After which I immediately said, “All the white people.”

The student got the biggest smile on his face I’d ever seen.

We all need to try just a little to be more sensitive to the racial inequities that still persist in our nation.  We are white, and whether we have overtly acted in racist ways or not is irrelevant.  We have a responsibility to reach out and build bridges that other white people destroyed.

Every little moment counts.

You can watch President Bush’s press conference on MSNBC.  The moment I referred to is at 39:16.

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