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Fight microaggressions with personal relationships, not punishments, student writer urges

When every personal slight is a microaggression, aggrieved students may feel the desire to retaliate against their offenders by getting them in trouble with administrators – to claim that it’s a conduct-code violation such as harassment.

That’s not only the wrong response but it will make campuses less diverse, Daily Gamecock columnist Andy Wilson writes.

The University of South Carolina student argues against making those who commit microaggressions into cartoons of malice, noting that the bar for “harassment” has been dramatically lowered by the feds (“unwelcome conduct“):

I think to effectively deal with the problem we need to acknowledge that most offending incidents are unintentional or merely ignorant, not actively bigoted or intended to assert cultural dominance. … if all are punished, or at least publicly aired to shame the perpetrator, in the same fashion, then the diversity acclaimed by university administrators and students alike will actually be reduced.

If it becomes acceptable to socially shame or punish people for microaggressions, what outcome can we predict? Would we observe closer interracial connections? I think not. It is more likely that we would see fewer white people running the increased risk of befriending racial minorities given that accidental offenses could earn them disciplinary action.

Wilson says it’s more likely that perceived slights are accidents or a failed “attempt at humor”:

In the relational approach, I envision the person affected by a microaggression explaining to the friend, classmate, or colleague responsible how it made them feel and why the slight was offensive. The civil explanation of offended feelings within the context of a relationship can bring about behavioral change without making white people apprehensive about interacting with other races for fear of racial missteps. …

Common sense tells us that the better we know a person and the more highly we value their opinion of us, the more likely we will be to listen to them when they have an objection. Likewise, the closer the relationship between the offender and the offended, the more weight a rebuke will carry. Effective addressing of racial insensitivity on college campuses will grow from the bottom up, between friends and classmates, not trickle down from administrative measures.

Read the column.

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