Today’s fight against racism is not as much a large-scale fight against overt and symbolic foes like Nazis or the KKK as it is an every-day fight against people’s ingrown bigotry and ignorance – against the every-day “micro-aggressions” through which people express their bigotry. This point is illustrated perfectly by young U.S. photographer Kiyun, who created a series of images of Fordham University students holding up placards with micro-aggressions that they’ve heard.
The micro-aggression, originally coined academically in the 1970s, is a small behaviour, phrase or other action that exhibits a hostile or derogatory attitude towards a minority – or, in this case, towards racial minorities. The comments, attitudes and actions that Kiyun’s subjects have witnessed are just that – minor acts of social aggression that affirm those people’s bigotries against the subjects of Kiyun’s photos.
Kiyun’s project essentially underscores the importance of empathy and communication. Even when we don’t think that we’re offending someone, others may not see it that way.
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