It’s little things we might say or do and don’t think twice about, but ‘little things’ can be offensive to others; that’s why Missouri State students raised awareness of microaggressions ‘harmful effects through interactive theatre’ on Wednesday afternoon in the Plaster Student Union theater.
Microaggressions are brief, everyday things that people say which can be offensive or degrading to someone based on their group membership.
An example of a microaggression is using the term “you people” when talking to someone different than you, referring to that person’s group, whether it be their race, gender identity, worldview, religion or something similar.
The goal of the event, Shattering Silences: Giving Voice, was to raise awareness of microaggressions and show how people can prevent them.
The Division for Diversity and Inclusion, Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning, as well as the Theatre and Dance Department were the event’s sponsors.
Dr. Carol J. Maples is the director of the Giving Voice interactive theatre troupe. She said microaggressions may be a comment, a word that has made it into our vernacular or saying “It’s just a joke,” after degrading someone.
“If we’re not the target, we may not even notice, ” Maples, a professor in the Theatre and Dance Department said. “But for those that endure these things, day after day after day, it’s like constant dripping water –– and that can wear away the toughest stone.”
Giving Voice is a nationally recognized group composed of Missouri State students taking THE 497: Topics course. Since 2010, the group has performed for the MSU faculty, student teachers, businesses and community organizations.
“Giving Voice strives to literally give voice to those who, for whatever reason, feel they cannot speak up for themselves,” Maples said.
Giving Voice members conduct their own research on microaggressions and write scripts based on the events that have happened on campus and in the community.
The event itself was divided into three sections. The first part of the event was the Giving Voice students playing out the scene.
Five Giving Voice members portrayed students deciding on a topic for their cultural competence group project. Each person offended or degraded the other four in some way during the scene.
The second part of the event involved the audience. People would ask the five characters about what occurred in the scene and why they said some of the things they said.
In the third part of the event, the actors replayed the scene, but the audience was allowed to pause the action and intervene.
If something offensive or degrading was said, the scene would stop and an audience member would play a teacher or student and tell the offender why the phrase was bad.
This part gave the audience the power to practice intervention for when microaggressions happen in real life, instead of standing by and letting them happen.
“I hope the audience becomes a little more aware about what they’re saying and what they’re hearing and how they can intervene to help make the world a better place,” one of the members of Giving Voice said in a group interview.
Another Giving Voice member said “I hope it gives them courage to speak up and speak out and explore seeing and being a part of other things like this.”