It’s Called Melanin
By Nivashinee Krishnakumar |
‘It’s called melanin,’ I remember my mother telling me as I rested my head on her lap, confused over why I felt as though I didn’t fit in with my neighbors and peers. ‘[Your parents] are from a very hot country, so as a way to protect themselves from the heat, our bodies made a lot of melanin, which makes skin look darker. You are my baby, so you also have some of that.’
Now, of course, we all know the development of melanin in the skin isn’t the body’s response to protect oneself from the heat, but really to protect the DNA of keratinocytes from potentially harmful UV rays. However, I was only four years old, so my mother spared me the cognitive overload and left those finer details out.
With everything going on in the world at the moment, I’m sure you’re familiar with the terms and impact of ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination,’ but how familiar are you with ‘microaggressions?’
"Microaggressions: everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership." - Derald W. Sue
I grew up in an area in which I was an ethnic minority. For years, I was on the receiving end of racial microaggressions: people telling me my English was good, looking confused when I spoke and telling me I didn’t sound brown, and giving me nicknames I didn’t introduce myself as after we’d just met because they didn’t want to take the time to learn how to pronounce my name correctly.
Now, I won’t take any more of your time sharing my experiences and stories with you— that novel will have to wait. Rather, I’d like to use this time to introduce you to three types of microaggressions, prompt you to think about how these may play out in the world, and encourage you to reflect on whether you experience or employ microaggressions within your day-to-day life or in the classroom—we are an EdTech company after all.
I’m going to try and make this a little fun and not ask you to just read words on a screen. I want to invite you to play a game with me. Woooo!
Here are three types of microaggressions and their definitions:
Test Your Knowledge
Below are some examples of how these microaggressions may play out in the classroom regarding race. Your task is to match each example to the proper term from above.
Thanks for playing—that’s it from me! To conclude, I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes:
“So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education First.” -Malala Yousafzai
If you’d like to share your experiences in a safe space, please feel free to post them in this shared padlet.
If you’re interested and would like to read more about this topic, you can find additional information through the following links.
American Psychologist - Racial Microaggressions in everyday life
American Psychological Association - Unmasking ‘racial microaggressions’
EMEA Head of Delivery at Construct