“You Don’t Seem Like the Type”: Microaggressions at Boise High


The Women And Leadership Conference 2019 was held at The Boise State University Student Union building. (Lauren Lafrades)

Lauren Lafrades, Editor-In-Chief

At the end of September, I had the opportunity to attend the Women and Leadership Conference put on by the Andrus Center for Public Policy.

The two-day conference consisted of 900 attendees networking, participating in informational workshops, and listening to keynote speakers.

Women that were authors, musicians, politicians, firefighters, engineers, and business owners converged to talk about the struggles women face in the workplace and be inspired by the stories of other successful women.

There was one workshop on the conference program that attracted my attention; ‘Microaggressions in the Workplace: What Are They and What Can I Do About Them?’ by Tasha Souza, a Professor of Communication.

I was familiar with the concept of microaggressions but wanted more clarification on the technicalities of issue.

I soon learned the definition of microaggression: “subtle verbal or nonverbal communication, intentional or not, resulting in a harmful consequence to members of marginalized groups” (Solorzano, Ceja, & Yosef, 2000).

After a short introduction, all of us workshop attendees were encouraged to discuss our experiences at school, in the workplace, even with friends, and I began to realize how often microaggressions appeared in my life. I feel that Boise High has strong cognizance of being politically correct.

As a liberal echo chamber, students pride themselves on inclusivity and progressiveness towards marginalized groups. So it shocked me to reminisce on the numerous times I’d been a victim to microaggressions perpetuated by my seemingly socio-politically enlightened peers.

Throughout my high school career, I’ve been told multiple times by other students that I “didn’t seem like the type” to be taking this or that AP course, to be involved in debate, or have a high GPA.

I always felt a slight twinge of frustration whenever I was confronted with these statements. I knew that I was being victimized by a stereotype, but what I have learned is that these seemingly harmless words are actually rooted in long held ideals of sexism and bigotry.

However unintentional these harms may be, my peers were projecting on me the notion that girls don’t belong in academia and weren’t capable of keeping up.

Similarly, as a biracial student, my friends would light-heartedly say things like “but you’re not like a real Asian” or “ I don’t even think of you as Asian”.

People used these phrases as a way of trying to say ‘I find you relatable and similar to me’ or ‘I feel connected to you, we aren’t different’.

They meant it as a compliment. Unintentionally they were telling me that a vital part of who I am, my ethnicity, was deemed invisible, or even worse a negative.

Boise High culture fosters a sense of belonging and acceptance that is rare to find on a high school campus.

The students that surround me work hard to be the activists and advocates that they are.

The fact that my high school experience demonstrates this progressive culture accompanied by numerous accounts of microaggressions, goes to show that even the most politically aware individuals can be the microagressors.I myself have unknowingly said things that could potentially harm a member of a marginalized group in the exact way that it has been done to me.

The important thing to note is that an act is deemed a microaggression by the harm it has on it’s victims, not the intention of the perpetrator.

Each of us has the capability to be more aware of the potential perception of the things we say.

It’s vital that we not only recognize the negative impact of microaggressions, but dually we confront them in hopes of educating those who may not even realize the things they say and do have these effects.

We must advocate for ourselves and others when we are faced with microaggressions in order to further stimulate acceptance at Boise High and make it a safe haven for all students.