Self-love, confidence, and preservation: These were the main points of author and television host Touré’s discussion in Kane Hall on Tuesday, a forum put on by the graduate school and the UW Alumni Association.
These are solutions to microaggressions, “parts of a shield,” he called them.
Microaggressions are ways of perpetuating difference, forcing marginalization, and indicating superiority. They happen in everyday interactions, Touré said.
One of the examples he used was a room full of white people asking why there’s no white history month during preparations for a show about Black History Month, during Black History Month itself.
The solution to racism and microaggressions, he insisted, is not choosing to be “color blind,” as if people could magically lose their sight and their subsequent prejudices and definitions based on that sight.
“We have to be aware that [race] exists,” Touré said. “Because we won’t fall for the myth that it stopped when Obama was president.”
At the same time, he reminded people that being “over-aware” of race can take away any possibility of joy.
The solution, Touré repeated, is being aware of your own self-worth while not concerning yourself in fixing the ignorance of other people; that’s a problem someone else has, it is not yours.
There were some disagreements with this notion in the audience. One attendee asked how it’s possible for things to change if ignorance isn’t addressed and if people don’t make it their job to educate others.
“You don’t need to educate the other people in the conversation,” Touré said. “Every time they put their foot in their mouth, you are not there to liberate them.”
He called the act of educating someone else on ignorance entirely external, in that there is no self-growth when someone tries to correct another, and it can be emotionally and mentally taxing for the educator.
“Their ignorance is their problem,” Touré said.
There was a quick reminder from the journalist that these issues are not strictly about race, but also about intersections.
UW alumnus Justin Clark came into the lecture expecting more talk about the nature of living a life full of microaggressions.
“I thought the self-preservation part was interesting,” Clark said. “I think it’s feasible for some. For black men, like myself and Touré, who’ve, quote unquote, ‘made it,’ we can think about that in ways others can’t.”
A UW alumna, Victoria Bishop, said it’s important to attend events like this one to learn how to better oneself.
The key for Touré, it seems, is the blunt refusal to be damaged by microaggressions.
“It’s not just an external ignoring of offensive people, but an internal zen,” he said. “Because you’re strong enough to know your worth and your value.”
Touré referenced Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his supporters. Microaggressions are the end result of macroaggressions, and Trump’s followers rely on macroaggressions, he said.
Trump’s followers function, Touré said, on “the key belief that white people are losing out in this country.”
He then argued Trump supporters’ identities function in the mode of superiority, and to lose that superiority is extremely painful.
“They’re not really speaking of [minorities and people of color],” he said, “but of an idea of you.”
That idea loses any sense of individuality, he explained, and is exactly why that rhetoric hurts and frustrates.
Touré’s ultimate solution may not be the most impactful for combating prejudice broadly, but it’s one that can help individuals daily.
Trust in yourself and know your own worth, Touré said, so much so that another person’s perception of that worth doesn’t even make you stutter.