Kiyun Kim’s photography series Microaggressions capture the casual racism of our American society. The Fordham University student photographed fellow students holding signs with the subtle racist remarks they often hear. The comments probably aren’t intended to be racist, and I would imagine many people think they’re actually complimenting the person.
When I found out about Kim’s work via Flavorwire, I recognized a lot of the signs as comments I’d heard directed toward many of my friends. And while White privilege means I don’t have to deal with racism in the same way that others do, as someone whose skin is too pale for Greek functions and whose name is ethnic for many Americans—not all of whom were White—I have heard my fair share of remarks that were less than culturally sensitive.
“Stephanie, can you explain to the class who the Titans are?”
“That’s so nice of you to show an interest in your husband’s culture.”
“In the Koine, there are five different words for ‘love.’ Today we’ll be talking about philia. …I hope I pronounced that correctly with Stephanie sitting in the room!”
“Which is your favorite translation of The Iliad?”
“So how did you find out about this event?”
How do you deal with remarks like this? On the one hand, you don’t want to overreact because usually the people saying these things don’t understand the hurt it may cause. On the other hand, they will continue to say these things to you and to others if they’re not corrected.