Home Audiology What Are Micro-Aggressions? While Celebrating Multicultural Milestones, Convention Highlights the Work Before Us

What Are Micro-Aggressions? While Celebrating Multicultural Milestones, Convention Highlights the Work Before Us

by Carol Polovoy
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Two women talking and looking at computer screen at ASHA convention--one on left is Vicki Deal Williams.

“I learned something today,” said Marilyn Negron, a bilingual speech-language pathologist from Kissimmee, Florida. “I didn’t know about transliterators. I know about working with translators and interpreters, but this is different.” (Hint: A transliterator conveys a message word-for-word from one form to another form of the same language, such as using American Sign Language signs and features to produce a message using English grammar and syntax.)

Negron had just had an introduction to “That’s Unheard Of!”—ASHA’s campaign to pique members’ curiosity about what they know (and don’t know) about their own cultural competence. The sneak preview is available at the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) booth in the Concierge Learning Center, located in the Exhibit Hall at the ASHA Convention.

The booth also includes a wall mural inviting participants to add their responses to “My cultural competence journey includes …” and a photo collage in the shape of the numbers 5 and 0 that looks at the OMA’s growth over the past half-century.

The online microsite, still in development, is targeted to those who may not have thought about how cultural and linguistic diversity affect service delivery. The comprehensive, interactive site provides information designed to evoke empathy and inspire clinicians to learn more about working with people from diverse backgrounds.

“It’s definitely user-friendly,” Negron says of the site, “and hugely informative.”

“That’s Unheard Of!” is being developed during a year of anniversaries for ASHA’s multicultural and diversity programs—OMA celebrates 50 years, the Minority Student Leadership Program celebrates 20 years, and the Student to Empowered Professional programs commemorates 15 years. ASHA is marking these milestones with celebrations, activities, and programs at the ASHA Convention.

The celebration kicked off with a special address by Ijeoma Oluo, author of “So You Want to Talk About Race.” In her talk—as in her book—she offered candid and practical insight in response to common questions related to race.

“The truth is, we live in a society where the color of your skin still says a lot about your prognosis for success in life,” Oluo writes in the book. “This is the reality right now, and ignoring race will not change that. We have a real problem of racial inequity and injustice in our society, and we cannot wish it away.”

In her talk, Oluo said her book title should have been “So You Were Dragged Kicking and Screaming Into Talking About Race,” because people are uncomfortable with the topic. “No one wants to talk about it less than people of color,” she says. “There’s a mistaken belief that people of color want to talk about it all the time. Systemic racism is impacting the lives of everyone, but detrimentally affecting people of color every day. We talk about it because we have to.”

A post-talk interview with Oluo will be featured in an upcoming ASHA Voices podcast.

The image of racism as someone who hates people of color and wants to do them harm is overly simplistic, Oluo says. “You don’t have to have a cross burned on your lawn to experience racism. If it doesn’t kill you outright, it kills you slowly.”

In the U.S. today, the average family of color has 1/13 net worth of the average white household. “These numbers are genocidal,” Oluo says. “They ensure you don’t get medical care, that a medical disaster leaves you homeless, that you have no lawyer, no safe housing, no adequate nutrition, no political power, no safety, no security, nothing to pass on to your children.”

And the microagressions people of color face every day—the clerk that follows you around the store, the police car that pulls up alongside of you—are what can kill you, she says.

“You may be contributing to these scenarios,” she says. “Care about your actions—care about saving lives. It doesn’t matter how you feel. The way we feel about each other only matters to the extent that it motivates us to try to do better when we have done harm.”

Carol Polovoy is managing editor of The ASHA Leader. 


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