Micro-Regression, Or, 'Lurkers Of The World, Unite!'

Dr. Maxine Thompson teaches sociology at North Carolina State University (NCSU). Recently, she provided a textbook example of why you should only pay for your child’s education on the condition that he (or she or undecided) promises never to take a sociology class. In fact, Thompson’s course in Human Behavior (SOC 301) is little more than a three-month lesson in how to become increasingly intolerant of other people - and how to do it in the name of “tolerance” and “inclusion.”

Thompson’s SOC 301 course syllabus sets the stage on day one by teaching students that they have a right to negate the speech of others simply by declaring it to be “sexually or racially offensive.” Here’s a quote taken directly from her syllabus:

At no time should you feel uncomfortable or degraded because of words or acts that you find sexually or racially offensive. If anyone says or does anything that you consider sexual or racial harassment in this class, you may write me an anonymous note or contact me in person.

The last thing we need on our college campuses is more secret investigations prompted by anonymous plaintiffs. Presumably, NCSU legal counsel has already told professors that even anonymous complaints of “harassment” must be turned over to the administration in order to ensure compliance with Title IX. Even if the anonymous notes fail to result in a campus prosecution (read: kangaroo court), the administration can still use them to show the feds that the university is serious about policing so-called harassment. The state institutions want to keep the feds happy and thus secure more funding. In the final analysis, that’s really all that matters.

To make matters worse, Thompson gives her students a semester-long micro-aggression assignment that has the following stated goals, which also come directly from her SOC 301 course syllabus:

Students at the end of this assignment should be able to: 1. Define micro-aggressions, 2. Identify them when they see them in public/their own lives, 3. Identify the hidden communications that are expressed through micro-aggressions, and 4. Understand the impact of their social positions on their experiences with micro-aggressions.

Those four goals seem like a lot to accomplish in just one semester. However, most students have already mastered goals one and four. They know what a micro-aggression is because they have heard the term repeated in the popular culture. They also know that if their “social position” is that of a white heterosexual male then they cannot be impacted by so-called micro-aggressions. However, if they are non-white, non-heterosexual, or non-male they might qualify as victims. Therefore, Thompson’s vision for the semester really revolves around goals two and three. The crux of the assignment seems to be twofold:

Students need to learn to a) identify specific micro-aggressions and b) learn to identify “hidden communications” behind them.

Of course, this assignment really boils down to learning how to accuse people of various “isms” such as “racism,” “classism,” and “sexism” (and especially “heterosexism”) when they are completely innocent. Hence, they are given a class assignment, which is described in the syllabus in four paragraphs. I have reproduced Thompson’s assignment below with my own commentary interspersed between each paragraph:

Students are to be observant of their interactions with others and the interactions of those around them on campus and in the community, noting when they experience or witness what they perceive to be a micro-aggression. Notes of such interactions should be submitted via the assignment page and once a week (by Sunday at midnight) students should submit a short reflection on their experiences/observations.

So here we go. Students are being instructed to monitor the conversations of others, both on and off campus, and then take a tally of “what they perceive” to be micro-aggressions. In other words, the students are now being taught to eavesdrop on other conversations and impose their own subjective moral judgments on them without necessarily being invited into the conversations to gain proper perspective or context. She continues:

Notes should include location, descriptions of individuals involved and sufficient descriptive narrative that instructors can understand what happened pretty clearly. Students are encouraged to include their initial ‘gut’ reaction to the interaction.

This is just a prelude to actually recording the names of suspected “micro-aggressors” and turning them over to the campus police. Mark my words: The naming of names and reporting of the identity of offenders will start happening soon. I’ve been writing about the campus culture wars for over a decade and my campus prophecies are almost always eventually fulfilled. (I’m not bragging about my accuracy. It actually depresses me). But there’s more to the assignment. Let’s continue:

Weekly reflections can include their personal emotional responses to that week or previous week’s submissions, relating their experiences to the course material, exploring what they perceived to be the motivations behind the interactions, what kind of messages were communicated through the micro-aggressions they noted and/or other themes that students and instructors feel are pertinent. Weekly responses should be at least 250 words.

Occasionally, I will ask a student a question in class and he (or she or undecided) will respond by saying, “I feel …” Whenever a student does this, I always interrupt the emotional response and say, “I am asking you what you think, not how you feel.” The reason I have to do this so often is because of professors like Thomson who consider emotional vomiting to be a proper way of communicating in college. Thompson continues:

While there may be a week that passes when students do not experience or witness interactions that involve micro-aggressions, students should still complete a weekly reflection. In this case students might explore their social position or social experiences and how that relates to their lack of experiences/observations during a given week. They may also reflect on an experience from a previous week or even something they witnessed or experienced prior to the start of class and what if any impact learning about micro-aggressions has had on how they understand that interaction.

Mark my words: The naming of names and reporting of the identity of offenders will start happening soon.

This is the part of the assignment that reminds students that if they witness or experience no micro-aggression during the week then it is due to their social position - for example, their race or class privilege.

Unfortunately, sociology classes like this one are no longer the exception. They are the new normal. Therefore, it isn’t very difficult to understand why, in terms of preparing its students; America is now falling behind other nations that once lagged far behind us. We are now implementing a form of reverse social Darwinism that promotes the survival of the least emotionally and intellectually fit.

This micro-aggression movement also exposes a flawed worldview among our educators. It is a view of human worth and dignity that is at odds with our nation’s core principles. Professors such as Thompson no longer see their students as having rights because they are made in the image of God. They see them as being entitled because they are made to be victims by “society.” So the path to their redemption is pretty simple: Students are told to hand over their privilege and join the victim class.

In the end, those who simply sit back and observe the speech of others without actually participating are the ones who will launch the revolution. They have nothing to lose but their privilege. They have a world to win.


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