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    An Essay Studying the Microaggressions Present in the Schools of California

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    The course has examined many different topics relevant to the pedagogy of culturally responsive teaching. All of the topics discussed so far are directly related to the importance of including culture and cultural differences in the classroom, as they are considered integral to learning. There are a great many aspects to realizing culturally responsive teaching, and many of them are easily implemented once teachers and others in the field of education are aware of them. However, racial microaggressions are not always easy to overcome, as they can be subtly and unconsciously enacted even by the most conscientious of educators. By their very nature, microaggressions constitute small, apparently harmless words or actions that actually denote racism, and that can actually inflict damage on the recipient.

     This paper examines racial microaggressions in the classroom by selecting three specific, peer-reviewed articles on the topic and assessing their relevancy and insight to educators around the country. This is a more specific aspect of reducing prejudice and addressing diversity in the classroom, as discussed in the class text. Each one provides a different perspective on microaggressions: the first discusses racist nativism in California, the second examines cultural disrespect in the form of mispronounced names in K12 education, and the third discusses the various forms of racial microaggressions against African American and Hispanic students in urban schools, along with ways that they can be overcome with culturally affirming education. 

    While certainly not an exhaustive discussion of the topic, examining these three articles and providing my own personal reflection will go a long way toward ensuring that I enact culturally responsive teaching in the future.

    This study focuses on microaggressions in the classroom. Simply put, microaggressions are the “consistent and subtle forms of racism that had negative cumulative effects on the mind and body over time” (Huber, 2011, 386). This includes offensive mechanisms like low expectations, racist attitudes, and often-unconscious assaults on race (Huber, 2011).

    In contrast to full on racial assaults, microaggressions are often subtle and layered. Nevertheless, they can have lasting mental and personal damage to those who are on the receiving end of the microaggression. Microaggressions in the classroom (and particularly racial microaggressions) is an important topic for realizing culturally responsive teaching, as their existence stands in direct opposition to cultural inclusion and honoring cultural references through a student’s learning experience.

    This topic was chosen because it is a more specific aspect of reducing prejudice and addressing diversity as discussed in the textbook and because overcoming the prevalence of racial microaggressions in the classroom presents an opportunity to enact culturally responsive teaching on a consistent, daily basis.

    Research has a great deal to say about microaggressions, as will be seen in the three studies presented below. First and foremost, research shows that microaggressions are real for minorities, and can have lasting damage if it goes unchecked, both on the educational progress and overarching worldviews of a child. Perhaps even more importantly, all three of the studies presented below show that microaggressions occur in the classrooms of public K-12 schools, and can even be enacted by teachers themselves. 

    Finally, the research all shows that microaggressions can be addressed and overcome with culturally affirming education, as has been discussed through the duration of this course. While the damage that microagressions have inflicted on Hispanic, African American, and other minority students in public schools may not be reversible, steps can be taken to ensure that public education in this country is marked by cultural competency.

    Discourses of Racist Nativism in California Public Education: English Dominance as Racist

    Nativist Microaggressions

    Lindsay Peres Huber posits her study in the context of a specifically Californian public education, and hones in her research the experiences of Latina/o student experiences in this state. More specifically, Huber (2011) utilizes the Latino critical theory framework, which is a subset of crticial race theory to examine how racist nativism is experienced by Chicana students in the California public K-12 educational system. Racist nativism, according to Huber (2011), is “the institutionalized ways people perceive, understand and make sense of contemporary US immigration, that justifies native (white) dominance, and reinforces hegemonic power” (379).

     In other words, racist nativism is can take the form of microaggression. In the context of the Californian classroom, racist nativism takes the form of English dominance (Huber, 2011, 380). In short, the scholar argues that language plays a role in the “subordination” of Chicana students, and as such is a form of microaggression (Huber, 2011, 381). This is the main thrust of Huber’s paper.

    In order to support her claims, Huber posits her research within critical race theory, which was developed in the post-civil-rights era as an effort to understand more subtle forms of racism in society (Huber, 2011). In this way, critical race theory can be used to “challenge dominant ideologies imbedded in educational theory and practice”, which is exactly what Huber does by questioning the dominance of the English language in the California classroom, despite the prevalence of Latino/a students (Huber, 2011, 381). 

    This is what the scholar calls the hegemony of English (Huber, 2011). According to Huber, the hegemony of English in the California classroom was cemented by Proposition 227 in 1998, which effectively ended bilingual education in the state. By way of methodology, Huber utilized the network sampling method to bring in twenty Mexican-American students from one University of California campus (Huber, 2011, 388). The author than conducted two sets of interviews with the students to find her results. Her main finding regarding the hegemony of the English language was that only three participants entered school with English fluency, yet all were made to participate in an English- language classroom (Huber, 2011, 390). While qualitative, these results seem to support Huber’s main contention.

    I found that Huber’s article does a great job of summarizing what microaggression really is, particularly in an educational setting. Rather than focusing on individual teachers, the researcher chose to focus on the experiences of twenty individual Chicana students in California, which highlighted the effect that latent racism can have on the average student. In this case, maintaining English as the dominant language in the classroom led to feelings of exclusion or lack of accomplishment in the students, which shows the impact that microaggression can have. The fact that there is a sort of racist nativism due to English dominance may not be purposeful, but it does not stop it from adversely affecting students. In short, Huber’s article is very persuasive in communicating the importance of overcoming microaggression in public education.

    Racial Microaggressions and African American and Hispanic Students in Uran Schools: A Call for Culturally Affirming Education

    The final journal article that this paper discusses is more conceptual in nature, utilizing existing literature to make its findings. Overall, the paper finds that microaggressions “can be detrimental for their long-term effects on students’ psychological, social-emotional, and intellectual development” (Allen, Scott, & Lewis, 2013, 117). In other words, this study places macro-level support for the micro-level findings of the studies discussed above. The article places the discussion of microaggressions within critical race theory, and provides a detailed overview of what constitutes microaggression in a school setting.

    More specifically, the authors identify some of the institutionalized microaggressions in education, including discipline policies, academic tracking policies, and hegemonic curriculum, all of which work to undermine the cultural references of minority students. In contrast, the article posits that culturally affirming education and curriculum can serve as a “change agent” by accommodating various cultures, backgrounds, and experiences (Allen, Scott, & Lewis, 2013, 124). In this way, the conceptual article works to not only support the findings of other studies, but also forward a way that microaggression can be addressed.

    This article does an excellent job of summarizing the important aspects of microaggression within a critical race theory framework, as well as providing specific examples of what it looks like in a school setting. While the journal article does not forward any original research, its discussion is based on the assessment of dozens of other studies, and in this way presents a convincing account of both the danger of microaggression in education and the way it can be addressed through culturally affirming education. Overall, I find that this article provides the most holistic overview of racial microaggressions in the classroom, due to the fact that it is based on many different studies.

    Overall, this paper has shown the detrimental effect that microaggressions can have on minority students in and out of the classroom. This was chosen as the topic of focus for this paper because it represents a more specific part of reducing prejudice and addressing diversity in the classroom as has already been discussed in this course. The three journal articles discussed above present three unique perspectives on the topic of racial microaggressions in the classroom. 

    The first study provides qualitative evidence and a theoretical framework for how English dominance in the California school system is a form of racial microaggression; the second study discusses a more specific form of microaggression in the form of mispronounced names and relates this discussion back to a critical race theoretical framework; finally, the third article discussed the various extant literature on the topic of microaggression and used it to summarize both the symptoms and proposed cure to this specific form of racism. Again, this is not an exhaustive account of racial microaggression in education, but it can go a long way to addressing my own form of culturally responsive teaching in the future.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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