AUNT JEMIMA, BAND-AIDS, and THE SIMPSONS: Learning About Micro-Aggressions


BLACK LIVES MATTER is a significant slogan for me. It reminds me that I have much to learn. As a white person, I have been struggling to walk in the shoes of black-and-brown people to learn about the many ways in which daily life reminds them that they don’t matter.  I have noticed these things through what are called micro-aggressions.

               I don’t know what a dictionary calls them, but I think of them as constant, daily, in-your-face reminders that I lack importance. As a woman, I’ve experienced many micro-aggressions. Wolf-whistles. Mom shaming. The uber-word mankind.

               But I’m still a white woman, and that provides me with a measure of  power.

Not so with Blacks.

It’s humiliating for a wolf-whistle to underscore your vulnerability for merely walking down a street. It must be similarly humiliating to reach for a box of pancake mix in the supermarket and be faced  with the image of a Mammy-face in kerchief. If you’re Black, Aunt Jemima likely doesn’t say “pancakes.” Maybe she brings up the humiliation of slave quarters and minstrel shows.

And what about Band-Aids? Another micro-aggression. When we cut ourselves, whether we are Black or white, we all bleed red. But when reaching for Band-Aids, Blacks have had to wrap a cut or scratch in reminders that they’re not the race worth marketing to.

The Simpsons, that long-standing popular cartoon, has recently recognized its micro-aggressions through the Indian character of Apu. Apu is stereotyped as foolish, bumbling, and employed at a convenience store.   The producers of the show have now acknowledged the insensitivity of having Apu’s voice recorded by a white actor impersonating an Indian to perpetuate those stereotypes.


If you’re a white person like me, struggling to be more sensitive, what can you do to combat these micro-aggressions? Honoring language from the Black community, I’d say: strive to be WOKE.



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