Viewpoints

What are microaggressions? Find out at Cuesta College forum

Cuesta College.
Cuesta College. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Imagine being a female engineer and when you share your line of work with others, constantly hearing the surprised response, “What, you’re an engineer?”

Imagine you are a third-generation Asian-American and when mentioning you are from Los Angeles, more often than not being met with, “No, where are you really from?”

Imagine being gay and while coming out to a co-worker, you hear, “Wow, I’m surprised, you don’t act gay.”

Imagine you are a black college student who’s regularly asked by classmates, “So, what sport do you play?”

These responses are all microaggressions—subtle insults or put-downs that affirm stereotypes about marginalized groups. They may seem harmless and even well intentioned, but can actually undermine a sense of community and belonging. Microaggressions also negatively influence an individual’s ability to succeed in classroom and workplace settings.

Why is it important to learn about issues like microaggression?

If we are to be fully committed to increasing diversity in San Luis Obispo County, topics like microaggression must be understood and addressed. Later this month, Cuesta College will provide a platform to encourage this dialog.

Seen by many as one of the happiest places in America, we must recognize that this sentiment may not be felt by all San Luis Obispo County residents. We can do better. It is not good enough to be a community diverse in thought. To foster a more creative and innovative workforce, our community must retain more diverse individuals in terms of ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, as well as those with disabilities.

On Aug.17, Cuesta College is bringing experts to its San Luis Obispo campus to speak on diversity, equity and inclusion. San Diego State University professors and co-directors of the Center for Organizational Responsibility and Advancement Dr. Frank Harris III and Dr. J. Luke Wood will engage participants in a dialog on microaggressions and unconscious biases. The community forum “Advancing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Strategies for Business and Education” will take place from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the college’s Cultural and Performing Arts Center. The event is free to the public.

Cuesta College strives to welcome and support its students just as they are. In fact, it’s right there in the very first line of our mission statement: “Cuesta College is an inclusive institution that inspires a diverse student population to achieve their educational goals.” This community forum exemplifies the college’s dedication to fulfilling its mission to our community.

We believe diversity is one of California’s strengths. The largest ethnic group in California is now the Latino/a population, making up 39 percent of our state’s population.

Cuesta College reflects this diversity. In 2016, the college was designated a Hispanic Serving Institution. The college also maintains an official designation as a No Place for Hate® College, recognizing our commitment to a positive educational and work environment. And Cuesta College is designated as a Military Friendly® School due to its robust support services offered to our servicemen and women.

Cuesta College is actively committed to bringing schools, businesses, and community groups together to engage in discussions designed to build and sustain a more diverse community and workforce. Our county can only benefit from a more qualified and innovative workforce that truly reflects the values of inclusion and equity.

We hope you will join us on Aug. 17 as we work together toward building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community.

Que Dang is Cuesta College’s director of Student Equity and Success Centers. Deborah Wulff is assistant superintendent/vice president of academic affairs.

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