First ‘Speak and Eat’ conversation of semester tackles micro-aggressions

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The Dr. Harley E. Flack Student Mentoring Program held the first “Speak and Eat” Conversation of the semester in James Hall, discussing micro-aggression with students from all ethnicities and genders.

Participating students engaged in prejudice scenarios that replicated actual situations of Resident Assistants (RAs) at Rowan University, according to Undergraduate Coordinator for Harley Flack Mentoring and one of the two speakers of the discussion, Yesica Molina.

“A lot of the scenarios that we use was [sic] more for people to understand that these things happen and not a lot of people either know how to correct them or don’t notice that this is happening,” said the junior sociology major.

The Dr. Harley E. Flack Student Mentoring Program provides mentoring relationships, academic support and cultural enrichment activities for Rowan University students, according to Rowan University’s Office of Social Justice, Inclusion and Conflict Resolution website.

The program services many “Speak and Eat” Conversations throughout the school year and covers topics that include healthy relationships, why diversity matters, priorities and body image, according to the website.

“People always asked me, ‘What are you?’” Molina said. “And I never knew that was a micro-aggression until I got here, and one of my professors jumped ahead of me and said, ‘She’s human.’”

A micro-aggression is unintentional discrimination against a member of a marginalized group through a statement or action. The discussion held in James Hall was meant to teach students how to react in positive and meaningful ways towards that type of discrimination.

The students were divided into four groups of four, and each group was given different scenarios. Examples included micro-aggressions towards race, gender and people with disabilities.

“Mico-aggressions are ignorant comments you make that are offensive, and even though they’re done innocently, it doesn’t make it less hurtful,” said Jannette Garriga, a first year doctoral student in clinical psychology and graduate coordinator for the Harley E. Flack Student Mentoring Program.

Students were shocked to hear that each of the scenarios actually happened to resident assistants at the university.

One scenario simulated a Jamaican RA female student who was asked by another RA to help her investigate a room which smelled of Marijuana because of her Jamaican ethnicity.

“I hope that the people who came today can understand that words are very powerful and that we might not always understand the impact on people,” said Nyesha White, an undergraduate coordinator Harley Flack Mentoring and one of the two speakers.

White, a senior biochemistry major, described a video that she wished was in the presentation about people who don’t understand why and how things can affect people.

“Everyone gets mosquito bites, but let’s say some people are pronged to getting a little bit more misquote bites,” White said. “People who only get one or two a day might think it’s annoying to complain about that.”

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