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Mackayle Weedon
Mackayle Weedon
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My name is Makaylee! I am going to be a senior majoring in Social Media Design Management. I am apart of the Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority chapter on campus! I love thrifting, photography, skiing and going...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion — Its okay to outgrow your college friends
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The power of language: English grad student discusses microaggressions

The power of language: English grad student discusses microaggressions

In order to create a positive environment on campus, it is important to be aware of microaggressions and the power of language and words, English graduate student Miranda Findlay said in her Microaggressions and the Power of Words talk on Wednesday, March 20.

A small group of students gathered in Jamrich room 2319 to listen to the presentation and discuss their experience with microaggressions in their own lives. Findlay is a graduate assistant and teaches various composition classes each day and is always reminded of the power and impact of language, she said.

“This term has been around for a while and has had some resurgence in the recent years,” Findlay said.

“Microaggression” was coined in 1970 by Harvard professor Chester Pierce and more recently psychologist Derald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as, “brief and commonplace daily verbal or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostility and derogatory phrasing and insults.”

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NMU is a community of over 7,000 students, 43 percent men and 56 percent women and anyone can experience these microaggressions based on their age, class, race, sexuality, gender or mental and physical abilities, Findlay said.

NMU is around 80 percent white and Marquette county is roughly 93 percent white, so it is important to notice how the community can impact the campus and vice versa, Findlay continued. These discussions can be uncomfortable and it is beneficial to acknowledge that discomfort and learn to learn from it, she said.

“It is important to remember that no one was born knowing about microaggressions and no one was born knowing about the impact of language,” she said.

Many microaggressions come from a discussion of impact versus intent, meaning that a comment was said without the intent of being hurtful but that was the outcome.

“We are more aware of these overt acts that we see people using derogatory phrasing on social media and it immediately comes to light. The way we obviously see groups of people being targeted in the news[…]those are definitely more in your face.” Findlay said. “But, a lot of the subtle things that we see here on campus day to day deserve just as much attention.”

A microaggression can be broken down into three categories: microassault, something that is consciously done to hurt someone; a microinsult, more subtle things that can be intentional or unintentional and a microinvalidation, which discredits a persons experiences, Findlay said. She added that to address a microaggression situation, it is important to focus on the event, not the person, in order to have a productive conversation.

“It can be something that we don’t notice because it is so deep down and ingrained in who we are,” Findlay said. “Anyone can face discrimination and prejudice in their lives regardless of their circumstances.”

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