The M&M Project (microagressions and microaffirmations Project) made its first appearance on campus last year with the theme: race, ethnicity and culture. This campus photography project started with the objective to raise awareness about micro-aggressions while also promoting the adoption of micro-affirmations.
The official definition of a microaggression according to the M&M Project panel is “Everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional [that] communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized membership.” This definition was written by Dr. Derald Wing Sue.
“One of the things about microaggressions is, the effect is cumulative and also negative,” Dr. Michael Miyawaki said. “It can have negative consequences in terms of ones psychological as well as physiological well-being. It can have harmful effects in one’s sense of belonging and one’s performance inside the classroom.”
Microaffirmations are defined as “small gestures of inclusion and caring, and graceful acts of listening.” Microaffirmations are acts that acknowledge and validate one’s identity and experiences as well as foster an environment of inclusion and support. This idea is a less developed one; it is a newer ideal.
“The vision of this project is through raising awareness about microaggressions and promoting the adoption of microaffirmations, we’re also hoping to foster a more welcoming, understanding and inclusive campus community,” Dr. Miyawaki said.
In this project, students stand holding up a sign that either lists a micro-aggression or micro-affirmation. This project is posted on a website, where students have the opportunity to further explain the story behind this photograph. Photographers from campus are the ones capturing these photos.
“As far as last year, we had 90 students participate in this project. In addition to having their pictures taken, maybe 40 or so students also shared a story behind their pictures,” Dr. Miyawaki said.
The project began two years prior, when the Associated College of the South (ACS) announced funding for a project dealing with a list of topics, including microaggressions. Instead of simply focusing on microaggressions, microaffirmations was added to expand the project and differentiate it from similar projects at other colleges. This year, the theme will be gender and sexuality.
“We had our photoshoots last spring and during the photoshoots, there were several students who asked about other sorts of themes or whether they could share a micro-aggression or micro-affirmation associated with other sorts of identities including gender and sexuality,” Dr. Miyawaki.
Students like John Tran felt that last year, many students were not fully aware of the project and its impact. Now, in the second year of the program, Tran has noticed a little bit of a difference in students being more careful in what they say.
“I feel the M&M Project gave minority students a chance to voice some experiences they have had being a minority,” Tran said. “While I cannot speak for other students, I can say that it has allowed me also hear other perspectives from other students. We all are minorities but our experiences differ from each other.”
The M&M Project hopes to continue to give students a platform to share their experiences.
“It allows minority students a chance to talk about their experiences and connect with students who are willing to listen,” Tran said.