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Get to know microaggressions to better combat them

Adena Young-Jones sits on steps of Hill Hall.
Kevin White/Missouri State University
Adena Young-Jones is an associate professor of psychology at Missouri State University.

Our weekly program, Missouri State Journal, is a collaboration between KSMU Radio and Missouri State University. It's hosted and produced by MSU's Office of Strategic Communication, and it airs each Tuesday morning at 9:45 a.m. on KSMU. 

A couple of years ago, Dr. Adena Young-Jones, psychology professor at Missouri State University, conducted a study of bullying victims. The study revealed these now college-aged students showed significantly lower academic motivation, lower levels of autonomy and reduced academic competence.

This inspired her to change her focus to how microaggressions affected college students.

Young-Jones points out that microaggressions are “commonplace indignities that communicate insults through a stereotype or a negative attitude, or even well-meaning intentions.

"Microaggressions are extremely subtle. A common response to microaggressions is that 'they're just like innocent acts,' and the person who experiences them needs to just let go of the incident and not make a big deal out of it," Young-Jones said.

Young-Jones uses an analogy like 'the straw that broke the camel's back' to describe how these microaggressions have an accumulative affect.

"It definitely adds up over time and can be difficult for someone outside of the marginalized group to completely understand," she said. "The fact that people experience identity in unequal ways indicates that we can easily dismiss microaggressions if you are not part of that marginalized group.

"It's definitely a privilege of the majority group to not see or to not recognize that microaggressions occur, or to not recognize the detrimental impact of it happening over and over and over and over again."

Young-Jones noted to gain awareness on the levels and the types of oppression, you must listen to people who are willing to share their experiences.

Nicki received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Business Administration from Missouri State in marketing, in 2002 and 2004 respectively. After gaining experience in writing, marketing, special event planning, fundraising and public relations, she returned to the university to work in the office of strategic communication. There she tells the university’s story by sharing the stories of individuals at Missouri State.