By Hannah Dugan ’21, Photo Editor
“We want this to be a gateway to anti-racism,” said Michi LaCorte ’22 of the Davidson College Microaggressions Project at the beginning of a newly-established Instagram Live initiative. The series, “Let’s Talk About It: A Gateway to Anti-Racism,” began on June 4th in conjunction with Common Ground.
Each Thursday at 8pm EST, LaCorte and her Common Ground counterpart, Yunah Han ’22, lead a live discussion that centers on a work by a Black writer, intellectual, or activist. The discussion is not structured, nor is it meant to be. Han, via email, wrote she “hope[s] that people also see the messy and imperfect process of learning and taking action so that they feel more motivated to make mistakes while learning[,] instead of staying immobilized.” They intend each discussion to act as a starting point — both LaCorte and Han are frank about its purpose as a beginning, not an end, to anti-racist education. LaCorte wrote, “we don’t know everything, and there are so many resources out there that are frankly better than us.” Han said that students should realize that the “discussions are meant to be an amplification of Black voices and therefore [are] incomplete without people taking the extra step of action and more research afterwards.”
As a student who has attended two of the livestreams, Anna Linzell ’21 found that the discussions “expand[ed] on the knowledge that [she] already [has]” and have helped her delve “a little bit deeper [into] the history of what we were discussing and the impact that it’s had.”
While the livestream serves as a gateway for dozens of students, attendance is an individual choice. In terms of reaching the broader student body, Linzell pointed out, “the people who I think probably need to be educated the most are not people who would choose to opt into [the livestream].” LaCorte added, “a lot of this work has to come from taking responsibility as an individual, and making anti-racism an everyday part of your life.”
Dr. Amanda Martinez, a professor within the Communications Department, and a group of students founded the Davidson Microaggressions Project (DMP) in 2017. In an email, Dr. Martinez wrote that they intended the project to serve as “an outlet for these stories to be shared so that everyone could learn from some concrete examples how Davidson (campus and town) can be a hostile place for some.”
Microaggressions, Dr. Martinez noted, “are not just about a few people with malicious intent. […] Microaggressions are about individuals who collectively help to cultivate and maintain the climate and sense of who belongs and how those messages are communicated through subtle slights that accumulate to take a toll on those on the receiving end of microaggressions, often those underrepresented and minoritized students and faculty.”
Han acknowledged the pervasiveness of microaggressions, writing that “anybody is susceptible to perpetuating microaggressions.” Our reaction, according to LaCorte, “as an individual and as a community [ …] matters most.”
LaCorte and Han both want viewers to take away that anti-racism is not a stagnant process but an ongoing one. For LaCorte, “the best outcome of this series is that it gets people in the habit of engaging with anti-racist texts and the work of Black organizers, creators, and activists.”
This work, LaCorte and Han believe, deserves greater institutional and administrative support from the college. LaCorte wrote that Davidson has a habit of “say[ing] that they want all change to be student led [ …] [but] the school itself needs to take more responsibility in recognizing the history and how staying silent and hiding behind student action only continues these harmful practices.” Han would also like to see “active support for student-led initiatives while allowing for students to have the freedom and creativity to build what they envision.” She thinks this support should come “in the form of direct financial aid to BIPOC-led [Black, Indigenous, People of Color] student groups, as well as faculty and staff training so that students can tap into professional capacities,” the expansion of staff and faculty departments such as Africana Studies and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and revisions to the admissions policy to eliminate legacy admissions and recruit BIPOC students.
Support from the administration, however, is not the only change they would like to see. LaCorte hopes for a greater cultural shift from within Davidson’s predominantly-white culture, noting that she would also like “white students, faculty, and administration [members to] take more responsibility for creating the atmosphere that Davidson has. When BIPOC talk about the microaggressions that occur so often, they are usually committed by white people at Davidson. There needs to be more of a conscious and active effort to change this.”
The series, “Let’s Talk About It: A Gateway to Anti-Racism,” occurs every Thursday at 8pm EST through July 30th on Instagram. For more information, and access to the livestream, check out the Instagram page @dcmicroaggressions.