Well… we are back again talking about microagressions. Earlier this week, a couple members of the board gaming community posted media imitating a cultural/ethnic/racial accent. Almost instantly, the twiterverse blew up with tweets of anger and offence, calling these folks out in public as racist.
Are they racist? Most likely not. Most likely they had very good intentions and didn’t think twice before posting the content. Most likely, it did not occur to them the profound, negative, hurtful impact it would have on members of the community, particularly members who might share that culture. Most likely they did not realize how their actions support and reinforce a system and culture of racism in our country. When I first read the response and investigated the posted content, I was heated. I was angry and frustrated and completely in agreement with the tweets expressing outrage. Luckily, I was in a meeting and could not respond at the moment. It gave me time to think and process what was going on instead of posting my initial reactions. It gave me time to come up with constructive responses so I did not come off as the angry person of color (POC). “Ohhhh there he goes again ranting about race.”
So how should we respond to microagressions? There is no one way to respond and there is no right or wrong way to respond. We each are affected differently and it’s perfectly valid to be angry, frustrated, upset, or any other emotion. Microagressions as a single isolated incident can seem brief and trivial. But they happen every day and the effect builds and builds and wears down a person. Consequently, we get angry and we express that anger. I think strong emotional responses are therapeutic and healthy; however, I go back and forth about the effectiveness for change with heated responses. Emotions should always be present in social justice work – this is our life, these are our experiences – and there is a culture of disregarding angry POCs and there issues. So I tweeted and tweeted. Sometimes in response to someone’s comment or question. Sometimes just out in the twiterverse. What I appreciated most about my experience yesterday was the open and genuine questions… “Why is that offensive? What if someone mocked a European culture?” While it is not on the marginalized to educate others, I would rather spend time talking to those willing to learn and change. I was able to respond honestly, pointing out different ideas about privilege/oppression, individuals versus systems, and the importance of addressing these issues in our own community.
In a way, I am glad this happened. It is what we like to call an educational opportunity to talk about the dynamics of race in the US and in the board game hobby. When we stop talking about race, race falls on the wayside and the status quo remains. When we stop taking about race, it’s easy to say we are a post-racial society. It is easy to disregard issues that do not directly affect us. While relationships were strained, we have to challenge the status quo, we have to challenge our culture and our systems. If we are committed to creating a more inclusive hobby, we must commit to actively fight for social justice. It is not an easy journey and we cannot do it alone. I am committed to working towards social justice with you all. I will make mistakes and so will you. We cannot be afraid of our mistakes. When that time comes, I look forward to a dialogue full of emotion, personal experience, and growth.