I learned the word and meaning of micro-aggressions in a race studies class under Dr. Nancy Lopez here at the University of New Mexico. Micro-aggressions, the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership (Derald Wing Sue, PhD). That academic learning of a term gave definition to the micro-aggressions I’ve been experiencing my whole life. “Micro” seems so small to explain how powerful they have been in my life. Micro-aggressions had the power to limit my aspirations, to define my self-worth, to stop me from reaching higher. Such little things, little comments, little actions were a powerful force in my life and so many others. There is a powerful movement of people documenting the micro-aggressions they have experienced, which you can see at http://www.microaggressions.com/.
We are in a moment now in our country where people are getting motivated for action. There are these huge moments of seeing millions in the streets marching and protesting injustice, and millions of dollars being donated to social justice causes. Can we keep this going? Is this enough for real change or do we need even more? We keep striving for huge forces showing that we want change. We’ve been discussing in the office our participation in the International Women’s Day on March 8th. The Day without a Woman seems like such a great movement and a visual representation of women’s 50% membership in our world. We’ve decided to keep business as usual. For many reasons including women will still need our services that day. And, the decision was influenced by a more powerful and personal reason.
Micro-aggressions have been powerful in my life, but they haven’t been all powerful. They have attacked me, but they haven’t shut me down. The reason they haven’t been all powerful is because I’ve experienced so many micro-moments that have boosted me and created space and access for me. Large demonstrations of millions in the street haven’t done that for me, but one person being an ally, standing up for me during the micro-aggressions or offering me knowledge or access have been the powerful medicine against micro-aggressions. I love the community that I experienced going to the local Women’s March here in Albuquerque where more than 10,000 people gathered. More powerful was hearing 12-year old Sarita Gonzalez read me one-on-one her poem about woman when we were standing together at the Round House. I have been invigorated that donations have increased for social issues by the millions. And still, my real joy has come when I’ve seen new donors for the YWCA at any amount. If I am out and about on March 8th and all the women are there working, I won’t be disappointed. I won’t feel like we haven’t been able to sustain our movement. I’ll know that each woman who heard about “A Day Without a Woman” likely weighed the options and made the choice that was right for them. I’ll spend the day remembering the women who gave me micro-moments of support. If they hadn’t been there on that one day when I needed them I could’ve succumbed to the micro-aggressions. I know that the YWCA New Mexico staff are that person for someone every day.
Please see below from the YWCA USA a statement on its decision about “A Day Without a Woman”. The YWCA New Mexico applauds and agrees with their decision, and we will follow along.
YWCA USA supports “A Day Without a Woman.” The event is an opportunity to speak in one voice for the rights of women and highlight the critical role that women play in our economy. YWCAs across the country provide housing, childcare, domestic violence and sexual assault programs, legal and financial, and other crucial services to more than one million individuals every year. So many YWCA employees cannot step away– even for a day– from our work, or the towns, counties, and cities that we serve all across the country. As such, we will join in solidarity with our allies for equity, justice, and the human rights of women, by wearing red to name that solidarity; shopping at women run businesses only to support the economic security of women; and educating others that women’s rights are human rights so that women may realize economic equity.