The Intercultural Center at USF is nearing the end of a three-part series, consisting of presentations and lectures, titled “Exploring Whiteness.” Spanning from October to November, this series provides hands on activities and presentations hosted by various faculty and staff from multiple departments at USF. The goal of these events are to have students reflect on issues of power, privilege, and oppression, as well as to provide information and raise awareness about microagressions.
“Microaggressions are an important issue on and off campus,” says Brandi Lawless, an assistant professor of Communications Studies and director of Peace and Justice Studies. “In discussing microaggressions with students, I’ve learned that they are more prevalent than we think,” said Lawless.
Ja’Nina Walker, an assistant professor of psychology, also agrees that microaggressions are prevalent at USF. “Microaggressions are a serious issue on campus,” said Walker, “perpetuated by students, faculty, and staff.”
The first part of the series, held Wednesday, Oct. 14, was titled “What Do You Mean, White?” and revolved around white privilege, as well as the creation of race. Various activities, hosted by Elliot DeVore, a Resident Director in Lone Mountain with a passion for LGBTQ+ rights, allowed students to explore this topic more thoroughly. The occasion began with dividing the students into two separate groups to work on a given prompt portraying two separate scenarios. After brainstorming briefly, the groups reunited and discussed their ideas on the prompts. The event concluded with clips from the film “Race The Power of Illusion: The Story We Tell,” followed by a discussion about the creation of race in American society.
On Oct. 28, the second session, “I Didn’t Even Notice You Were White: Navigating The Matrix of Whiteness” was co-hosted by Walker and Lawless. This event began with a short exercise centered on microaggressions in everyday life. Examples of phrases were presented and discussed by those present as to how it made them feel and what thoughts were being evoked. “It allowed me to think about what kind of microaggressions I encounter,” said senior Aya Bensing, “ and better think about myself as a future teacher.” A presentation followed, introducing the main topic of this occasion; the matrix of oppression. Divided into a total of 7 parts, this matrix outlines the different ways in which oppression is visible. Three facets of this matrix were discussed, individual, institutional, and social/cultural, with time allotted for discussion and to hear student thoughts about each one. The event concluded with a short discussion about the information presented and how it made those present think about microaggressions in their own personal lives.
The Intercultural Center’s three-part series will conclude with “Whiteness in Action, Whiteness Inaction: Awareness And Skills Development” on Wednesday, Nov. 11. This will raise awareness about microaggressions, as well as developing skills related to this topic. Different ways in which students can increase knowledge about microaggressions will be presented. Short activities revolving around developing and strengthening personal skills pertaining to this topic will be played out in order to further understanding about the main focus of this series.
USF has multiple resources on campus that provide students with a safe place to freely discuss topics such as microaggressions. “Reach out to the Intercultural Center or professors on campus,” says Lawless. Located on the fourth floor of the University Center, the Intercultural Center provides a secure and open place where students can come and discuss whatever is on their mind, whether it be about microaggressions or any tribulations they are experiencing at that time.
“Microaggressions can attack any part of you that is marginalized,” says Black Student Union President Sarah Toutant, “Interns are here staffing the Intercultural Center, so there is someone always here to talk to.”
When asked what students can do right now to raise awareness on campus, Toutant said, “Speak up. Silence continues to perpetuate problems. Student voices matter.” Walker said, “USF students have the power to enact change in any setting.”
Further information about the Intercultural Center, the programs it sponsors, as well as future upcoming events can be found online at: https://www.usfca.edu/student-life/student-activities/cultural-centers/intercultural-center.