More Than A Meme: Microaggressions offers a safe space for sharing short, painful stories

By Arturo R. García

Unlike other tumblr pages, Microaggressions isn’t laid out so that you have to scroll down to go from post to post; the multitude of mini-anecdotes is arranged side-to-side, like a community bulletin board:

“You speak so well. You don’t sound like other black girls.”
- when: almost every week since I started high school

In less than a week, the site has already amassed more than 200 contributors, with stories touching on issues from racism to size discrimination to stereotyping to sexism and beyond.

“We’ve had a lot of great feedback on Twitter and Facebook, and we haven’t had any trolls yet,” site co-founder David Zhou said via e-mail this week. “Publicity on our end has been relatively modest – a Twitter and an email to friends – but the fact that it’s gained so much popularity in a couple of days speaks to how many people relate to this project and the experiences they read here.”

“Maybe it speaks to the unfortunate temporary disappearance of privilege denying dude,” added Vivian Lu, whose partnership on the site with Lu started as a series of conversations and “notes on everyday life” the two shared as classmates at Columbia University.

“There was an incident on campus where students running for student council put up ignorant posters that upset some people while others were completely apathetic,” Lu said via e-mail. “I wanted to start a visual art project that showed that people were not necessarily angry or upset about that ONE poster but instead about that poster in the larger context of their lives & the history of receiving and seeing hurtful comments. We wanted to do a visual art piece but needed more entries so the solution was to start a blog and people will send their own in!”

The brevity of some of the stories makes them all the more chilling:

“I would rape the shit out of her.”
- Guy next to me at a restaurant in Flushing, Queens

I’m not sure that men constantly commenting on my race in a sexual manner is microaggression. It feels plain aggressive to me.

However, Zhou said the ones that are most poignant to him aren’t the ones that are most like his own experiences.

“They’re the ones that happen at an early age or the ones that suggest violence,” he said. “Most of all, they’re the ones that are committed by people we love. That said, I think the ones that are the most effective are simply the ones that are awkward, creepy or sadly hilarious.”

Both Zhou and Lu said they want Microaggressions to go beyond being a meme, into something more sustainable.

“I hope this becomes a resource for people to show each other and spark conversations about how lived experiences are shaped by different socialized identities,” Lu said. “I also hope to create a visual compilation of all these microaggressions, either on a huge canvas or online, with friends/interested artists.”