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September 14, 2015

Microaggressions: A Case Study

We have a major microagression situation at, get this, Oberlin College.

Apparently there was an intramural soccer match scheduled at the same time as a Latin Heritage Club meeting. A White Male (uh oh) sent out an email to a Hispanic girl noting that he'd like to have her at the match, if she wasn't going to the Latin Club meeting.

He wrote the most racist sentence since Mein Kampf:

Hey, that talk looks pretty great, but on the off chance you aren't going or would rather play futbol instead the club team wants to go!!

Anyone see the problem there?

That's right, he said the f-word-- Futbol. He racistly appropriated the Spanish language.

Here's what the Lantina maniac wrote back to him:

1. Your (sic) not latino, call it soccer. You donít play futbol. Futbol is played with people (LATINO) who know how to engage in community soccer, as somebody who grew up on the cancha (soccer field) I know what playing futbol is, and the way you take up space, steal the ball, don't pass, is far from how my culture plays ball.

2. I'm not playing intramural once again this semester because you and your cis-dude, non passing the ball, stealing the ball from beginners, spanish-mocking, white cohort has ruined it (for the second time). Unless I find another team you wonít be seeing me.

3. I don't care if this email is over the top or mean. So complain to whatever white friends you want about it. Youíre never going to know what its like to not be able to your own heritage sport comfortably because of your gender/race/ethnicity.

But this aspiring young lunatic wasn't done yet -- she also published a complaint on the, get this, Oberlin Microagressions blog:

Ok. 1. Thanks for you thinking that the talk [referring to the Latino club meeting, I think] is "pretty great". I appreaciate (sic) your white male validation. I see that it isn't interesting enough for you to actually take your ass to the talk.

2. Who said it was ok for you to say futbol? It's Latino Heritage Month, your (sic) telling people not to come to the talk, but want to use our language? Trick NO! White students appropriating the Spanish language, dropping it in when convenient, never ok. Keep my heritage language out your mouth! If I'm not allowed to speak it, if my dad's not allowed to speak it, then bitch you definitely are not supposed to be speaking it. Especially in this context.

Brah, do you even college? Maybe you should worry less about the purity of the Spanish language and more about the correct usage of the English one.

Compare to Lukianoff's and Haidt's piece in the Atlantic suggesting that "microagression culture" is an insidious, harmful form of cognitive therapy -- as positive cognitive therapy would desensitize a hysteric so that the hysteric could behave normally, insidious cognitive therapy supersensitizes normal people into acting like hysterics.


Let's look at recent trends in higher education in light of the distortions that cognitive behavioral therapy identifies. We will draw the names and descriptions of these distortions from David D. Burns's popular book Feeling Good, as well as from the second edition of Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders, by Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J. F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn.

...

Burns defines magnification as "exaggerat[ing] the importance of things," and Leahy, Holland, and McGinn define labeling as "assign[ing] global negative traits to yourself and others." The recent collegiate trend of uncovering allegedly racist, sexist, classist, or otherwise discriminatory microaggressions doesnít incidentally teach students to focus on small or accidental slights. Its purpose is to get students to focus on them and then relabel the people who have made such remarks as aggressors.

...

Burns defines catastrophizing as a kind of magnification that turns "commonplace negative events into nightmarish monsters." Leahy, Holland, and McGinn define it as believing "that what has happened or will happen" is "so awful and unbearable that you wonít be able to stand it." Requests for trigger warnings involve catastrophizing, but this way of thinking colors other areas of campus thought as well.

Catastrophizing rhetoric about physical danger is employed by campus administrators more commonly than you might think--sometimes, it seems, with cynical ends in mind...

It should be no surprise that students are exhibiting similar sensitivity...


All of these actions teach a common lesson: smart people do, in fact, overreact to innocuous speech, make mountains out of molehills, and seek punishment for anyone whose words make anyone else feel uncomfortable.

Mental Filtering and Disinvitation Season

As Burns defines it, mental filtering is "pick[ing] out a negative detail in any situation and dwell[ing] on it exclusively, thus perceiving that the whole situation is negative." Leahy, Holland, and McGinn refer to this as "negative filtering," which they define as
"focus[ing] almost exclusively on the negatives and seldom notic[ing] the positives." When applied to campus life, mental filtering allows for simpleminded demonization.

They are actively, and perhaps deliberately, training normal-functioning young people to be mentally incompetent neurotics, phobics, hysterics, and outright maniacs.

By the way, Greg Lukianoff describes how he came to have this insight. He'd fallen prey to depression, and went through cognitive therapy to teach his brain to stop "catastrophizing" and to unlearn other pernicious mental habits. It began to dawn on him that the Social Justice Warrior claque was using cognitive therapy to go the other direction, transforming the mentally well into the mentally unwell.


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posted by Ace at 12:38 PM

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