Many students may have noticed the tables in the SLTC this semester, where students were encouraged to take photos displaying micro-aggressions and micro-affirmations that they’ve heard before. The photo shoot was part of a larger movement called the M & M Project, which is led by Dr. Micheal Miyawaki, Assistant Professor of Sociology.
“The M&M Project is a photography project aimed at raising awareness about micro-aggressions and promoting the campus adoption of micro-affirmations. The project involves students holding up written signs of their encounters with these micro-behaviors, and having their pictures taken,” Dr. Miyawaki said.
A micro-aggression can be defined as a statement, action or incident that includes an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group. On the other hand, a micro-affirmation can be defined as a statement, action or incident that signals inclusion, representation, and the validation of experiences. Micro-behaviors can manifest in numerous ways and affect many different identities. However, the M & M Project focuses on race, ethnicity, and culture this year as a theme.
Dr. Miyawaki was inspired to bring the M & M Project to life at Hendrix after coming across photos online of students at Fordham University holding up written signs of their experiences with racial micro-aggressions. He shared these photos with the students in his race and ethnicity course, which generated much fruitful discussion among them.
“I later learned that there were other colleges that did similar photography projects on racial micro-aggressions. I thought that it would be a neat to bring the idea to Hendrix but with a twist, the twist being that the project would focus on both micro-aggressions and micro-affirmations,” Dr. Miyawaki said.
After much consulting with Dr. Leslie Templeton, Dr. Dionne Jackson, Dominique Kelleybrew, Kesha Baoua, and colleagues in the Sociology/Anthropology department, Dr. Miyawaki applied for a grant for the M & M Project from the Associated Colleges of the South. He was delighted to receive funding from them for the project.
The photos of students sharing their experiences with micro-aggressions and micro-affirmations will be used to develop a website over the summer. On the website, Dr. Miyawaki will invite some students to further elaborate on their experiences with the statements featured in the photos. In the fall of this year, the website will be used to launch an awareness campaign about micro-aggressions and micro-affirmations.
“By raising awareness about microaggressions and how these gestures and remarks can be offensive, hurtful, and marginalizing, perhaps students, faculty, and staff may become more “woke” to what we say and do in our everyday interactions,” Dr. Miyawaki said. “By the same token, if we learn about and encourage the campus-wide adoption of microaffirmations, then maybe this can help towards fostering an even more positive, inclusive, and supportive environment at Hendrix.”
The ultimate goal of the project is to further cultivate a more inclusive, welcoming, and understanding community at Hendrix College.