Wednesday, April 09, 2014

without femtoaggressions to give it value, purpose, and meaning, the cathedral will implode


theatlantic | The study that might have put to rest much of the recent agitation about microaggressions has unfortunately never been published. Microaggressions, for those who are not up on the recent twists and turns of American public discourse, are the subtle prejudices found even in the most liberal parts of our polity. They are revealed when a lecturer cites mainly male sources and no gay ones, when we use terms such as “mankind,” or when we discuss what Michelle Obama wore when she visited pandas in China, something we would not note about a man. In short, they are the current obsession of political correctness squads.

The study that I believe could have helped a great deal was conducted by a research assistant of mine at Columbia University who disappeared before she completed her Ph.D. Carolyn (I am withholding her last name in order to acknowledge her without embarrassing her) asked members of 80 groups in New York City what they felt about other such groups. She avoided broad strokes and asked not about divisions between black and white, but what African Americans felt about Africans from Nigeria and blacks from the West Indies. She asked Hispanics about Dominicans, Haitians, Mexicans, and Cubans, and so on.

What Carolyn found was that there was little love lost between any two groups. Members of all the 80 groups she studied attached all kind of unflattering labels to members of other groups, even if they were of the same race or ethnic group. When she interviewed members of subgroups, they were unsparing about each other. German Jews felt that Jews of Polish origin were very uncouth (and surely would not want their daughter to marry one or to share a synagogue with them). The Polish Jews, in turn, felt that those of German background were stuck up and “assimilated,” and hence one was best off crossing to the other side of the street if they neared. Iraqis from Basra considered those from Baghdad to be too modern, and those from Baghdad considered their brothers and sisters from Basra as provincial—and so on and so on. Today they would all be called at least microaggressive.

None of this is surprising to sociologists, who have long held that one major way community cohesion is promoted is by defining it against out-groups—and that there is a strong psychological tendency to attribute positive adjectives to an in-group and negatives on to the outsiders. In short, it’s part—not a pretty part—of human nature, or at least social nature. Choose any group and you will find its members griping about all the others.

I hence urge those who are troubled by the ways others talk about them to use Carolyn’s findings as a baseline. That is, not to ignore slurs and insults, and most certainly not racial, ethnic, or any other kind of prejudices, but merely to “deduct” from them what seems to be standard noise, the normal sounds of human rambling. We may wish for a world in which people say only kind things about each other, but until we get there, we should not take umbrage at every negative note or adjective that is employed. For now, that is something most of us do—yes, I suspect even those who rail against microaggression.

3 comments:

woodensplinter said...

It feels good to be sanctimonious.

Vic78 said...

Microaggressions always seemed like common annoyances to me. Like those posters the Harvard underclassmen put up. Now we have a study that states that microaggressions are common annoyances. I want to say that the study was a waste of time, but Americans as a rule don't travel.

woodensplinter said...

Hunting micro-aggressions only serves to make uncomfortable enemies out of potential allies. It doesn't change anything in the thinking or outward behavior of genuine adversaries, because they actually enjoy inflicting the hurtfeel/sadfeel. Like political correctness before it, this is really just about building a construct that allows an imaginary or reputational exertion of power over somebody else.

Shouting "you can't say that!" is very far from empowering, rather, it shows the incredibly low self-worth of those who traffic in it.

At this moment in the history of your republic, equality and liberty are being eroded by a political class that serves wealth and real power. Instead of organizing around that big and real issue to fight trends that will turn most Americans into serfs, the most thin-skinned, self-righteous, and frankly useless elements in your privileged chattering and academic class - complain about negligible offences that make no difference in the real political economy.


Micro-aggressions don't exclude and marginalize anyone with normal, healthy self-esteem. Economic disempowerment is what marginalizes. In order to do something about it, disempowered minorities are going to have to ally themselves with disempowered members of the white working class - and somehow be sane enough, thick-skinned enough, and self-loving enough to discount and accommodate straight-up racism, homophobia and religious bigotry, pursuant to common political and economic ends.

The MSM Is Accidentally On-Purpose Throwing In The Towel On Biden

kunstler  |    “Biden’s most important achievements may be that he rescued the presidency from Trump, resumed a more traditional style of...