Illinois State University will be holding a two-day conference next month devoted to microaggressions in the age of President Donald Trump.
ISU will be hosting "Social, Ethnic, and Racial Boundaries on Campus and Community in the 21st Century: Microaggressions in Everyday Life," at the Bone Student Center over the weekend of Feb. 9, free and open to the campus and local community.
The topics will include lectures on how a microaggression is different from racism, sexism, and age-segregation; the social, emotional, and academic cost of campus microaggressions; microaggressions in the classroom; and how to integrate diversity into curriculum, so all students learn about power, privilege, and equity in the United States.
Yolanda Flores Niemann, a psychology professor at the University of North Texas, will deliver the keynote address on "Subjective Experiences of Microaggressions from the Lenses of Others: Being an Ally and Developing Alliances Across and Within Demographic Groups."
Lectures will cover Islamophobia in the United States since 1980, the similarities between Japanese internment during World War II and the "eerie resemblance" to contemporary daily treatment of Muslim-Americans, and applying sanctuary city policies to illegal immigrants on campus.
Microaggressions can include almost anything, from asking someone where they are from to stating one’s trust in a meritocracy. Guides to theoretical offenses and suggested responses by teachers and students are included on many university websites.
A recent study found that most racial minorities were not offended by common examples of microaggressions.
Columbia University psychologist Derald Wing Sue, who wrote Microaggressions and Marginality: Manifestation, Dynamics, and Impact, expressed concern in a 2016 interview with the weaponization of his theory by college administrators and students.
"I was concerned that people who use these examples would take them out of context and use them as a punitive rather than an exemplary way," Sue told the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The organizer of the ISU conference, Nobuko Adachi, an associate professor of anthropology and director of ISU’s Ethnicity and Ethnography Laboratory and Research center, said in a statement, "This conference examines race, ethnicity, and microagressions in light of the new political developments in the United States, both local and national."
The conference was a year in development, according to a university spokesperson, dating its genesis to the 2016 presidential elections.
Primary funding for the nearly $14,000 conference was drawn from private donations to the university foundation, said a spokesperson, but 11 academic departments and programs are co-sponsoring the event.
These include the College of Arts and Sciences, the Multi-Ethnic Cultural and Co-Curricular Programming Advisory Committee, the School of Social Work, the Department of History, the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, the Department of Politics and Government, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the LGBT/Queer Studies and Services Institute, the Milner Library, and the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology .