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"Do You Live in a Teepee?" Aboriginal Students' Experiences With Racial Microaggressions in Canada


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The purpose of the current qualitative investigation was to examine Aboriginal undergraduates' (N = 6) experiences with racial microaggressions at a leading Canadian university. The research team analyzed focus group data using a modified consensual qualitative research approach (Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997). The authors identified 5 distinct themes that represented Aboriginal students' experiences with racial microaggressions on campus: (a) encountering expectations of primitiveness, (b) enduring unconstrained voyeurism, (c) withstanding jealous accusations, (d) experiencing curricular elimination or misrepresentation, and (e) living with day-to-day cultural and social isolation. Some themes were similar to previous research, whereas others were novel to the current investigation. Implications for future research and campus interventions are discussed.
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“Do You Live in a Teepee?” Aboriginal Students’ Experiences With
Racial Microaggressions in Canada
D Anthony Clark
Arizona State University Sela Kleiman
University of Toronto
Lisa B. Spanierman
Arizona State University Paige Isaac and
Gauthamie Poolokasingham
McGill University
The purpose of the current qualitative investigation was to examine Aboriginal under-
graduates’ (N6) experiences with racial microaggressions at a leading Canadian
university. The research team analyzed focus group data using a modified consensual
qualitative research approach (Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997). The authors iden-
tified 5 distinct themes that represented Aboriginal students’ experiences with racial
microaggressions on campus: (a) encountering expectations of primitiveness, (b) en-
during unconstrained voyeurism, (c) withstanding jealous accusations, (d) experienc-
ing curricular elimination or misrepresentation, and (e) living with day-to-day cultural
and social isolation. Some themes were similar to previous research, whereas others
were novel to the current investigation. Implications for future research and campus
interventions are discussed.
Keywords: racial microaggressions, everyday racism, Aboriginal peoples in Canada, diversity in
higher education, student diversity attitudes
More than 1.1 million persons in Canada
self-identified as Aboriginal in 2006, which
constituted approximately 3% of the 31.6 mil-
lion people counted in the census.
them racial discrimination is a widely shared
experience. The Toronto-based Environics In-
stitute’s Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study
(2010), for instance, found that 9 of 10 Aborig-
inal participants living in cities reported that
non-Aboriginals behaved unfairly or negatively
toward them. Of these 2,614 interviewees, 70%
reported having been teased or insulted for be-
ing Aboriginal. “If there is a single urban Ab-
original experience,” researchers concluded
from the over 2,000 interviews, “it is the shared
perception among First Nations peoples, Métis
and Inuit, across cities, that they are stereotyped
negatively” (p. 6). Canada today has not es-
caped settler colonialism, an historical and vio-
lent process of racialization in which Western
European settlers labored to displace indige-
nous populations (Veracini, 2013).
One of the key institutions that perpetuates
the racialization of Aboriginal peoples is edu-
cation (Grande, 2004). Rooted in an enduring,
destructive 19th- and 20th-century history of
Statistics Canada (2006) considers persons as Aborigi-
nal who self-identify as First Nation/North American In-
dian, Métis, or Inuit; as a Treaty or registered Indian under
the terms of the Indian Act (1985); and as members of an
Indian band or First Nation.
D Anthony Clark, Faculty of Interdisciplinary and Lib-
eral Studies, Arizona State University; Sela Kleiman, Ap-
plied Psychology and Human Development, University of
Toronto, ON, Canada; Lisa B. Spanierman, Faculty of
Counseling and Counseling Psychology, Arizona State Uni-
versity; Paige Issac, First Peoples’ House, and Gauthamie
Poolokasingham, Department of Educational and Counsel-
ling Psychology, McGill University, Montréal, QC, Canada.
We are grateful to the First Peoples’ House for their
generous support of the study. This research was funded in
part by the McGill University Office of Deputy Provost
(Student Life and Learning) and Social Equity and Diversity
Education (SEDE) Office.
Correspondence concerning this article should be ad-
dressed to D Anthony Clark, Faculty of Interdisciplinary &
Liberal Studies, Arizona State University, UASB, 400 East
Orange Street, Tempe, AZ 85287. E-mail: d.anthony
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
Journal of Diversity in Higher Education © 2014 National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education
2014, Vol. 7, No. 2, 112–125 1938-8926/14/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0036573
residential schools, contemporary higher educa-
tion policy in Canada remains largely focused
on assimilating Aboriginal individuals (Neega-
nagwedgin, 2005,2013;Stonechild, 2006). Ca-
nada’s residential schools never were designed
to prepare Aboriginal young people for univer-
sity; thus, less than 10% of Aboriginal individ-
uals in Canada have a university credential,
compared with 26.5% of non-Aboriginal Cana-
dians (Statistics Canada, 2011). Although Ab-
original communities recover in their own ways
from legacies of residential school violence
(Corntassel, Chaw-win-is, & T’lakwadzi,
2009), Aboriginal faculty and students on the
ground in Canada’s universities continue to ex-
perience racial discrimination (Fleras, 2012;
Neeganagwedgin, 2013).
Racial Microaggressions Theory
Contemporary forms of racial discrimination
oftentimes are subtle and unintentional (Neville,
Spanierman, & Lewis, 2012); thus, in Canada,
where multiculturalism fosters a color-blind
discourse and an idealization of Canadian soci-
ety as free of racism (Henry & Tator, 2009;
Jiwani, 2006;Warry, 2009), a racial microag-
gressions framework provides an especially
promising means for interpreting racial discrim-
ination reported by Aboriginal undergraduates.
Sue et al. (2007b) defined racial microaggres-
sions as brief and commonplace verbal, behav-
ioral, and environmental indignities with detri-
mental cumulative psychological effects on
people of color. Racial microaggressions most
often are unintentional and indirect and often-
times invisible to perpetrators. As Sue, Capodi-
lupo, and Holder (2008) explained, “Racial mi-
croaggressions are similar to unconscious
racism, but they are broader, describe a dynamic
interplay between perpetrator and recipient, and
focus primarily on their everyday active mani-
festations” (p. 329). Sue and colleagues’ (2007)
racial microaggressions framework comprises a
tripartite model that includes microinsults, mi-
croinvalidations, and microassaults. Microin-
sults manifest in subtle communication that
conveys insensitive and demeaning ideas about
visible minorities
and Aboriginal peoples. Mi-
croinvalidations negate and minimize visible
minorities and Aboriginal persons’ thoughts,
feelings, and lived experiences. Microassaults
are overt manifestations of racial microaggres-
sions that are intended to harm visible minority
or Aboriginal targets (Sue et al., 2007b). Less
explored in empirical research, environmental
microaggressions comprise a fourth category
that refers to macrolevel expressions that are
systemic in nature (e.g., institutional policy; Sue
et al., 2007b).
Researchers have examined racial microaggres-
sions among racialized communities in North
America, but to our knowledge only two studies
have been conducted in Canada. One study, for
example, among international students at an On-
tario university found they did indeed experience
various forms of racial microaggressions, such as
exclusion from campus life (Houshmand, Spani-
erman, & Tafarodi, in press). The second study
among Canadian and U.S. mental health profes-
sionals from diverse racial and ethnic back-
grounds found eight primary coping themes and
strategies used by participants, including self-care
and confrontation (Hernández, Carranza, &
Almeida, 2010). Most empirical investigation of
racial microaggressions has focused on under-
standing the experiences of Black (Constantine,
2007;Donovan, Galban, Grace, Bennett, & Fel-
icie, 2012;Solórzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000;Sue
et al., 2008) and Asian American (Lin, 2010;Sue,
Bucceri, Lin, Nadal, & Torino, 2007a) individuals
in the United States. There is a dearth of research
among American Indians and Aboriginal persons,
as well as Canadians generally.
Recent scholarship has identified racial micro-
aggressions perpetrated toward American Indians
in the United States. In an empirical study, for
example, Clark, Spanierman, Reed, Soble, and
Cabana (2011) documented perpetrator microag-
gressive expressions targeting American Indians
in response to a university’s decision to discon-
tinue its racialized athletic mascot. They identified
seven themes that extended Sue et al.’s (2007b)
tripartite framework. Some themes, such as deny-
ing racism, were consistent with earlier research,
whereas other unique themes emerged such as
waging stereotype attacks. In an edited collection
on racial microaggressions, Hill, Kim, and Wil-
liams (2010) conceptualized microaggressive
themes that likely would arise from research with
American Indian targets. Consistent across both
Defined by the Employment Equity Act as “persons,
other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in
race or non-White in colour” (2005, c. 44, p. 22).
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publications: White individuals drew upon misin-
formation about American Indian people and re-
lied on stereotypes in their relationships with
them. Because empirical research has not yet ex-
amined American Indian and Aboriginal perspec-
tives, such investigation not only is warranted but
necessary to provide support for Hill et al.’s con-
Rationale and Purpose of the Present
In the current study, we investigate the experi-
ences of Aboriginal undergraduates at an urban
Canadian university. Specifically, we sought to
determine how racial microaggressive acts di-
rected against Aboriginal students were similar to
and different from previous scholarship in the
United States that focused on American Indians
(Clark et al., 2011;Hill et al., 2010). Understand-
ing the views of Aboriginal individuals, from their
own perspectives, is critical for two reasons. First,
because higher education allegedly is one means
for combating social inequalities (see Wilson &
Macdonald, 2010), determining how to create
campus environments free of racial bias and ha-
rassment is critical. Second, documenting Aborig-
inal student encounters with racial microaggres-
sions has potential to inform campus interventions
and direct resources in ways that promote socially
just and positive learning experiences for all stu-
To this end, we conducted a focus group
investigation among Aboriginal undergraduates
using a modified version of the consensual qual-
itative research method (CQR; Hill, 2012;Hill
et al., 2005;Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997)
to understand their experiences with racial mi-
croaggressions. A qualitative approach in gen-
eral, and CQR in particular, offer a rigorous,
systematic, and appropriate method of investi-
gating understudied multicultural phenomena
(Morrow, Rakhsha, & Castaneda, 2001;Pon-
terotto, 2010). We used focus groups to unearth
thick descriptions of complex experiences
(Geertz, 1973). Sue, Lin, Torino, Capodilupo,
and Rivera (2009), for instance, have demon-
strated the utility of focus groups for discussing
racial issues. We anticipated that participant
interaction would prompt reflection, recollec-
tion, and elaboration of relevant experiences in
ways that individual interviews would not.
Participants and Recruitment
Six self-identified Aboriginal undergraduates
(4 women and 2 men) participated in one of two
focus groups.
Although six is less than the
optimal sample size for CQR (i.e., 8–15, see
Hill et al., 2005) there are several reasons why
our sample is appropriate for this study. First,
Aboriginal students are grossly underrepre-
sented in Canada’s predominantly White uni-
versities (i.e., roughly 0.046% of 26,349 under-
graduates in 2012–2013 at a research-intensive
Canadian university), which severely limits the
pool of potential participants. Second, because
of their small number and limited power on
campus, there are few places and spaces in
which to recruit Aboriginal students. We are
confident that we would not have recruited any
participants without the trust and assistance of
the Aboriginal student affairs professional who
partnered in the study. Third, and relatedly, the
Tri-Council Policy Statement on the Canadian
Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences
and Engineering Research Council of Canada,
and Social Sciences and Humanities Research
Council of Canada (2010) declared that Aborig-
inal peoples in Canada demonstrate reasonable
mistrust of research that originates outside of
their communities. This mistrust is rooted in a
long history of exploitation by White research-
ers in North America. Thus, they may be wary
of participating in research. To protect their
anonymity and enhance trust, we asked partic-
ipants for self-selected pseudonyms and we in-
clude only select demographic data in Table 1.
The primary research team consisted of four
people: a bicultural male faculty member in an
interdisciplinary studies program who studies the
sociology and politics of race and indigeneity, a
White Jewish male master’s student in counseling
psychology, a White Jewish female associate pro-
fessor of counseling psychology who focuses on
racial attitudes, and an Aboriginal female student
affairs administrator with strong ties to the Ab-
original campus community. A South-Asian fe-
Because of scheduling conflicts, we could not find a
time that would accommodate all six students.
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male master’s student in counseling psychology
served as the external auditor and fifth author. The
faculty investigators have extensive knowledge of
racial microaggressions and racism; both have
conducted prior CQR investigations. The graduate
student team members earlier had completed
courses in multicultural psychology focusing on
race and racism. Each received specific training on
the CQR method and several hours dedicated to
facilitating focus groups. As is prescribed when
conducting qualitative research with a critical-
ideological paradigm (Kincheloe & McLaren,
2000;Ponterotto, 2010), we openly discussed our
antiracist biases and knowledge of stereotypes tar-
geting Aboriginal peoples. We also discussed our
expectations of the various racial microaggres-
sions that participants might report. As suggested
by Hill et al. (2005), we also discussed power
dynamics in our relationship based on factors such
as our different educational attainment, races, and
genders to encourage different points of view that
we all might hear, share, and understand.
Data Sources
Demographic form. Participants com-
pleted a brief demographic form, which asked
them to provide information such as gender and
student status. We included only those partici-
pants who self-identified as Aboriginal people
and Canadian citizens, and were enrolled in an
undergraduate degree program.
Focus group protocol. Focus groups fol-
lowed a semistructured format with predevel-
oped questions and follow-up probes. Overall,
the purpose of these questions was to ascertain
participants’: (a) feelings about the general
campus climate; (b) sense of belonging on cam-
pus; and (c) experiences with racial stereotypes
and discrimination on campus. When appropri-
ate, facilitators requested that participants clar-
ify comments with specific examples.
To comply with the Canadian Tri-Council’s
Policy Statement on Research Involving the
First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples of Can-
ada (2010), the Aboriginal student affairs ad-
ministrator recruited participants and was pres-
ent for both focus groups. An Aboriginal elder
also attended one of the focus groups. Having
an Aboriginal staff member and elder in the
room enhanced participants’ trust of the re-
search process, served as a check for the ethical
conduct of the study, and increased the non-
Aboriginal primary facilitators’ confidence that
they led the focus groups in a culturally sensi-
tive manner. In both focus groups, the primary
facilitator took the lead role in asking questions
and follow-up probes. An Iranian-Canadian fe-
male graduate student who was not part of the
primary research team served as primary facil-
itator for the first focus group (n4). The fifth
author of this article was the primary facilitator
for the second focus group (n2). Both sec-
ondary facilitators were Aboriginal women.
One was a graduate student and not part of
primary research team. The other was an admin-
istrator for an Aboriginal student service center
and fourth author of this article. Secondary fa-
cilitators also asked follow-up probes, though
their main function was to take note of nonver-
Table 1
Participant Demographic Information
pseudonym Ethnic
identification Year in
school Parent/guardian education level
Turquoise Mohawk/Mi’kmaq 2 Master’s degree
Blue Shirt Mohawk 3 Some college/university
Daisy Cree & Métis 2 Doctoral or professional degree
Billie Nye Cree First Nations 2 Some college/university
Lauren Cree 2 Bachelor’s degree
Aeris Mohawk 2 High school diploma or
Parent with highest educational attainment. Students in the first two rows (Turquoise and
Blue Shirt) participated in one focus group, whereas those in the bottom four rows
participated in another. To protect participants’ anonymity, we are unable to report gender
and major area of study.
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bal behavior and group dynamics that audio
recording equipment was unable to cull. At var-
ious points throughout the focus groups, the
primary facilitator checked in with participants
to ensure accurate understanding of their views
(Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Each focus group
lasted approximately 90 minutes and was audio-
recorded and later transcribed verbatim. Each
participant received $20 as compensation for
their time.
The research team analyzed the data in six
steps. First, three team members indepen-
dently reviewed both transcripts and identi-
fied broad domains and core ideas (i.e., sum-
maries of domains). Second, the researchers
compared and discussed their respective anal-
yses until achieving consensus; this unfolded
over multiple meetings. Third, the first and
second authors identified illustrative quota-
tions and developed definitions from this data
for each domain. Fourth, the first and second
author developed a results table that repre-
sented a comprehensive preliminary account
of the analysis. Fifth, the third author con-
ducted an internal audit. Specifically, she re-
viewed the focus group transcripts and results
table to provide feedback on the initial anal-
ysis. As a consequence of the internal audit,
the first and second authors collapsed do-
mains, clarified domain definitions, and
streamlined participant quotations. Finally,
the fifth author conducted an additional audit.
She, too, reviewed the transcripts and analy-
sis, suggesting minor modifications.
Establishing trustworthiness. As recom-
mended by Hill et al. (2005), the following
steps were taken to ensure trustworthiness of
data: (a) direct participant quotations were
featured; (b) auditors ensured that the first and
second authors remained faithful to partici-
pants’ words thus minimizing bias and group-
think; (c) domains and core ideas gleaned
from the data in the present investigation
were triangulated with those found in relevant
works (Clark et al., 2011;Hill et al., 2010);
(d) researcher biases and power dynamics
were discussed openly; and (e) domain and
core idea development went through multiple
iterations and revisions. In lieu of stability
checks (i.e., additional interviews to explore
whether new themes emerged; Hill et al.,
2005), we presented our findings to relevant
campus constituencies (e.g., Aboriginal Af-
fairs Working Group on institutional pro-
grams and services) to determine whether we
attained theoretical saturation. In these pre-
sentations, audience members expressed
agreement that the themes were consistent
with their own experiences. They did not
identify additional themes.
Five themes emerged that reflected Aborigi-
nal students’ experiences with racial microag-
gressions on campus. In what follows we define
each theme and provide illustrative quotations.
The first two themes (i.e., encountering expec-
tations of primitiveness and enduring uncon-
strained voyeurism) fit within Sue et al.’s
(2007b) category of microinsults. Three addi-
tional themes (i.e., withstanding jealous accu-
sations, experiencing curricular elimination or
misrepresentation and living with day-to-day
cultural and social isolation) represent Sue, Ca-
podilupo, and colleagues’ category of microin-
validations; living with day-to-day cultural and
social isolation also exemplifies Sue, Capodi-
lupo, et al.’s category of environmental micro-
aggressions (see Table 2).
Theme 1: Encountering Expectations of
This theme elucidates those incidents when
Aboriginal students felt as if non-Aboriginals
on campus thought that Aboriginal identity was
incompatible with a modern consumer culture
and technologically complex society. Five of
six participants shared their experiences with
non-Aboriginal peers who seemed to believe
that Aboriginal culture was stuck in the past.
Blue Shirt reported the commonplace question
from his non-Aboriginal peers who asked “Do
you guys live in teepees still?” He shared both
his fantasy response and what he typically said
And it’s like [I’m thinking] “Really?” [But instead
answer] “No we don’t.”...Ifinditamazing to be in
2012 and you have to explain that “No. There’s not a
community of just teepees on the other side of the
water.”...Like if someone, like I said, I get that
sometimes where it’s, “Don’t you live in teepees?” and
instead of being defensive and saying, “No. Are you
dumb?” or something, I’ll just be like “No. We don’t
live in teepees.”
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Turquoise described a typical scenario for
expectations of primitiveness: “People assume
[that] because I’m Native I live in rural isolated
areas [and] travel really far every day to get
back and forth from school even though it’s just
a metro and a bus.” These experiences reflect
participants’ assessment that their non-Aborig-
inal peers neither expected them to be integrated
into Canadian society nor able to draw effec-
tively upon commonplace consumer products
and services. Participants reported that their
non-Aboriginal peers sometimes seemed
stunned when they faced information incompat-
ible with their stereotypes about Aboriginal per-
sons. For instance, Blue Shirt interpreted that
his peers were surprised when they found out
that he was an Aboriginal person studying at
university and asked him “Whoa, how did you
make it in?”
Linked to expectations of primitiveness, Ab-
original students reported experiencing sponta-
neous mockery and cultural appropriation by
non-Aboriginal students and faculty. In some
cases their sense of being caricatured followed
from having just identified themselves as Ab-
original. Billie Nye, for example, reported that a
standard “response is like the typical [patting
hand over mouth] ‘Woo, woo, woo’ and [they]
start [that] dancing around kind of thing. Like,
that’s a typical thing that I’ll get.” Lauren sim-
ilarly shared a general sense that her non-
Aboriginal peers connected with Aboriginal
identity only at a superficial, stereotypical level:
[T]hey ask about, like, just different aspects that they
know like dream catcher, I don’t know, like, things that
they don’t know because they’re not really educated in
my background or Aboriginal people’s backgrounds.
So they just ask questions about, like, just like spiritual
Turquoise described a specific incident in lec-
ture on a stormy day when a professor “was
making jokes about Natives doing rain dances.”
Having felt insulted and demeaned by this ex-
perience, she reported feeling uncomfortable
with the idea of asking the professor questions
during class.
Theme 2: Enduring Unconstrained
Aboriginal students reported case after case
of non-Aboriginal strangers prying, poking and
Table 2
Racial Microaggressions Experienced by Aboriginal Undergraduates
Theme Definition
Microinsult Encountering expectations of
primitiveness • Assumes Aboriginal identity is incompatible
with a modern consumer and technologically
sophisticated society.
• Subjects Aboriginal identity to mockery and
spontaneous cultural appropriation.
Enduring unconstrained
voyeurism • Involves poking, prying and prodding about
Aboriginal identity.
• Works from false assumptions that link
phenotype and/or name with ethnic identity.
Microinvalidation Withstanding jealous accusations • Works from misinformation about Canadian
history and contemporary federal law.
• Declares that Aboriginal people have unfair
advantages in Canadian tax law and
educational funding.
Experiencing curricular
elimination or
• Excludes or trivializes Aboriginal concerns and
issues as irrelevant to disciplines across the
university — from science to the social
sciences and humanities.
• Assumes that Aboriginal students are cultural
educators responsible to non-Aboriginals who
desire explanation and clarification.
Environmental Living with day-to-day cultural
and social isolation Prompted by a dearth of Aboriginal people on
• Marked by Aboriginal students’ attempts to
blend in with dominant group members.
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prodding them about their identity, which was
akin to an entitled sense of voyeurism. For
example, Aeris shared the following exchange,
which he represented as commonplace:
For myself, they ask like “What nationality are you?”
. . . They are “Oh, are you Greek? Oh, are you East
Asian? Are you, you know, like Roman or like Italian?
They’ll go through the whole list and then they’ll
finally actually arrive on Native American.”
Half of the participants reported encounters
with non-Aboriginal peers who impulsively and
imprudently categorized their ethnic and racial
identity. Participants experienced these interac-
tions as obnoxious and disrespectful rather than
as innocuous banter. Blue Shirt and Turquoise,
for example, shared analogous encounters with
strangers who tried to connect with them by
asking, “Hola. ¿Habla español?” Blue Shirt re-
ported that non-Aboriginals confronted him re-
peatedly with the same greeting and question
assuming he was a Spanish speaker. Elaborating
on how he responded in these situations, he
stated, “[And] I’m like, ‘No, I’m Native.’ I’ve
been introduced as that more often than ‘Hi.
How are you?’ and ‘What’s your name?’” Sim-
ilarly, Turquoise explained:
People assume that I don’t speak English, that I speak
Spanish first, so they’ll themselves say “Hola.”
[W]hen people find out that I’m not from Central or
South America, [when] they find out that I’m Native
American, they often assume that I’m from the North
and [that I must] have a harder time understanding
what people are saying or what we are discussing.
As testimony from Blue Shirt and Turquoise
suggests, non-Aboriginals may rely upon false
assumptions about phenotype (e.g., skin color
or facial features) and an individual’s first lan-
guage to situate, order, or categorize the Ab-
original individuals whom they are meeting for
the first time at university.
Extending the concept of unconstrained voy-
eurism, Aboriginal students also reported facing
what they experienced as contempt and mock-
ery during professional interactions with non-
Aboriginal staff members. Aeris described the
following encounter with a receptionist:
My last name is [Colonizer: real name removed to
maintain confidentiality]....Myfirst name is really
long and foreign[-sounding] so [this staff member]
sort of says, like, “What nationality is that?” So, I have
to tell her and then she goes “Oh isn’t that funny
because your last name, like, you know, contradicts
that.” And, I’m like [thinking] “Oh, you bitch.”
Consistent with misinformed assumptions
based on phenotypic observations, this example
of unconstrained voyeurism suggests that
names, too, may mark Aboriginal persons as
“foreign” – as not Canadian—and, thus, per-
haps even deserving of ridicule and disrespect
from staff.
Thus, in a context of unconstrained voyeur-
ism Aboriginal students reported multiple expe-
riences with feeling slighted, insulted and dis-
paraged by strangers. Expressing her reluctance
to continue subjecting herself to these kinds of
indignities, Turquoise declared her wish to
a million questions and...getting called out. And it’s
probably easier just to be neutral and just not always
be, you know, I guess, I don’t want to say “Super
Native,” but like always talking about Native issues or
where I come from.
Theme 3: Withstanding Jealous
In this theme Aboriginal students reported
that their non-Aboriginal peers minimized their
academic achievements and seemed to covet
hard-won public benefits. More specifically,
five participants reported jealous accusations
tied to misinformation about education funding
and tax benefits for qualified Aboriginal indi-
viduals in Canada. As Billie Nye noted, “I feel
like they’re degrading me because they feel like
I’m coming to a place and I’m not earning
myself here because I’m not paying for it and
they like [say], ‘Oh, this is free to you.’” She
elaborated, “People actually get really jealous
of what we get [such as] government paying for
our school.” Turquoise described how she con-
stantly felt compelled to defend and justify her
It is annoying because it’s like a broken record. You
have to keep repeating yourself over and over and over
to new people about the same issue because they
always bring up the same exact problem they have with
Native people: not paying taxes.
Reflections that fall within this theme bear a
common thread: Aboriginal students believed
their peers accused them of receiving unearned
benefits and unfair advantages as a conse-
quence. Participants understood jealous accusa-
tions as originating in racial stereotypes. Daisy
expressed this view clearly when she reported,
“I think that’s just, like, kind of a stereotype,
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like, almost that we have this huge privilege and
stuff. That idea like ‘Oh, you’re going here for
Theme 4: Experiencing Curricular
Elimination or Misrepresentation
This theme draws attention to a view shared
among three of the six participants that Aborig-
inal issues were altogether overlooked, only su-
perficially addressed, or grossly distorted in the
curricula they encountered across disciplines.
For example, Daisy experienced curricular
elimination in all of her science courses:
I’ve never had, like, any issue with like [the] Aborig-
inal population addressed, like, at all. And it’s kind of
weird, too, because, like, I’m in, like, a biomedical
health like program and, like, Aboriginal health is,
like, huge in Canada and we never address, like, those
issues...[W]e talk about things that are, like, diseases
and stuff and a lot of them are, like, really relevant to
Aboriginal health but it’s never really addressed...
[W]e do get a lot of examples brought up in our classes
about illnesses and diseases and kind of who they
affect but I think they’re a lot, they’re just, I’ve never
had them related to Aboriginal health.
Daisy also noted the cursory manner in which
she experienced Aboriginal issues addressed in
nonscience lectures when she stated:
I’m taking a sociology course right now...andwe
talked pretty briefly about, like, Aboriginal health and
I was kind of disappointed that we didn’t, like, it was
like one lecture. I felt like [the professor] just kind of,
like, lacked. It was like rushed and I think she just
didn’t go, like, she didn’t address it enough consider-
ing it’s such a big thing in Canada and it’s a class
about health in Canada. Like I felt like it was just
brushed over.
Other participants noted similar experiences
in the humanities and social sciences. For in-
stance, Blue Shirt discussed how he felt Aborig-
inal peoples were misrepresented in a Canadian
history course:
I’m sitting there [in class] and they’re telling me about
Natives and I’m like, “That doesn’t sound right.” And,
it sounds a little weird to be taught by, like, I hate to
say this, but like a White person. I don’t want some-
body who’s White to tell us how we lived, you know?
‘Cause I’m sure they’re experts and they know what
they’re talking about but it just seems that sometimes
the information isn’t from what we know is correct and
it’s like, it seems more like a miseducation of the
others. Like, I know what’s correct because I live it,
you know. I’ve learned it from when I was born, but
you have people who I find in my classes who are being
miseducated on various issues.
Blue Shirt was not alone in his misgivings.
Several participants reported not trusting non-
Aboriginal professors’ sensitivity to Aboriginal
individuals’ lived experiences.
Along with mistrust, another feature of with-
standing curricular elimination and misrepre-
sentation places Aboriginal undergraduates in
the uncomfortable position of cultural expert.
This role emerged spontaneously both in and
outside of classrooms. Turquoise, for instance,
explained how teaching assistants facilitated
discussions of Aboriginal issues by focusing
everyone else’s attention entirely on her. Con-
sequently, outside of class, she described en-
countering non-Aboriginal students from these
same courses who approached her with, “‘Hey,
you’re the Native girl in class, right? I’ve never
met a Native person before.’ And they ask a
million questions and, I don’t know, it happens
a lot.” As Turquoise’s testimony suggests, in the
absence of adequate curricular representation,
uninformed non-Aboriginal teaching assistants
and peers alike deferred to Aboriginal students
on Aboriginal issues, effectively redefining the
role of Aboriginal students in the classroom to
suit their needs.
Theme 5: Living With Day-to-Day Cultural
and Social Isolation
Enduring the consequences of systemic iso-
lation on campus is an experience reported by
two of the six Aboriginal participants in this
study. Although we do not have access to de-
mographic data (i.e., as far as we know it does
not exist), which might provide a clearer under-
standing of the campus racial and ethnic profile,
drawing from the testimony of the participants
suggests that there are few Aboriginal under-
graduates at the university where the data were
collected (Lund & Carr, 2010). As Blue Shirt
stated, “I thought that I was, like, the only
Native person here. I don’t see them anywhere.”
In a context of living with day-to-day cultural
and social isolation, other participants described
why they do not identify on campus as Aborig-
inal. Turquoise, for instance, explained, “I don’t
share my ethnicity on purpose because I just
want to feel like I fit in.” She characterized
herself as “the only Native” in the majority of
her classes; consequently, she explained, “So,
out of like 200 people, I’ll be in class all day
and not really [be] connecting 100%.” She iden-
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tified the consequence as “negative, because,
like, I’ve never been the person to not openly
always discuss my ethnicity. And now I’m
keeping it quiet. So, it has affected the way I do
interact with it.”
The current study extends racial microag-
gressions research by considering the perspec-
tives of Aboriginal students at a research-
intensive Canadian university. Among the
several advantages racial microaggressions the-
ory offers is its focus on subtle racist acts that
often go unnoticed by perpetrators (Sue et al.,
2007b). According to Citizenship and Immigra-
tion Canada (2012), “The Canadian experience
has shown that multiculturalism encourages ra-
cial and ethnic harmony and cross-cultural un-
derstanding.” The current study suggests Ab-
original undergraduates share a more
complicated lived experience with multicultur-
alism in Canada. Thus, bringing greater aware-
ness to subtle forms of racial discrimination
targeting Aboriginal people may provide one
means for elucidating the ways in which non-
Aboriginals unknowingly dismantle harmony
and understanding in Canada.
As expected, certain themes in the current
study are consistent with earlier research. Our
withstanding jealous accusations theme, for in-
stance, captures what Hill and colleagues
(2010) characterized as the “myth of meritoc-
racy [perpetrated by] people of dominant cul-
ture [who] believe that marginalized peoples
receive undeserved rewards due to their race or
ethnicity” (p. 111). Withstanding jealous accu-
sations in our investigation describes those mi-
croaggressive acts that derive from misinforma-
tion about Canadian history and contemporary
law and policy. This theme also captures claims
by non-Aboriginals that Aboriginal persons re-
ceive undeserved tax breaks and educational
funding that place their non-Aboriginal peers at
a disadvantage.
The encountering expectations of primitive-
ness theme in the current investigation is similar
to Clark et al.’s (2011) waging stereotype at-
tack. In their study of racial microaggressive
acts perpetrated against American Indians at a
U.S. public university, Clark and colleagues
found evidence of perpetrators who knowingly
waged stereotype attacks directed at American
Indian targets who were characterized as either
primitive or unmeritoriously wealthy (e.g., the
“casino Indian” stereotype; see Spilde, 2004).
Noting a widely shared speculation that Aborig-
inal identity is incompatible with a modern so-
ciety and, accordingly, subject to spontaneous
cultural appropriation and mockery, encounter-
ing expectations of primitiveness in the present
study names those microaggressive acts
wherein non-Aboriginal Canadians used carica-
tured representations of Aboriginal people such
as dream catchers and teepees as proxies for
actual human beings and their living cultures.
Thus, the current investigation links target ac-
counts with perpetrator expressions; what
comes into view is evidence of unique micro-
aggressive acts linked to the notion that Aborig-
inal peoples are extinct or disappearing, a phe-
nomenon that does not target other racialized
Living with day-to-day cultural and social
isolation is a third theme in the current investi-
gation that is analogous with findings in earlier
work concerned with racial discrimination. Al-
though not drawing from racial microaggres-
sions theory, Perry (2009) found normative vi-
olence takes form as threat or “malevolent
gaze” (p. 409) targeting American Indian stu-
dents contributed to their withdrawal from un-
welcoming campuses. At least two studies
framed with racial microaggressions theory
have findings similar to Perry and our living
with day-to-day cultural and social isolation
theme. Houshmand et al. (in press), for exam-
ple, identified an excluded and avoided theme
expressed as microinvalidations, microinsults,
and microassaults. In their study, East and
South Asian undergraduates reported experi-
ences with White peers that ranged from being
passively ignored in academic and social spaces
to being ostracized by White individuals who
wanted to bar them from Canada altogether.
Rather than capturing racial microaggressions
that occur in interpersonal exchanges, the living
with day-to-day cultural and social isolation
theme in the present study instead names feel-
ings of loneliness that arise out of institutional-
ized racism manifest throughout campus insti-
tutions (i.e., environmental microaggression).
The absence of Aboriginal peer companionship
reported by participants in the current investi-
gation likely is an effect of the economic and
political practices of racialized social systems
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(Bonilla-Silva, 1997) or systems of racial dom-
ination (Bonilla-Silva, 2003). Residing in cam-
pus admissions policies, residence life, curri-
cula, and lack of Aboriginal faculty, this finding
is consistent with Sue and colleagues’ (2007)
conceptualization of environmental microag-
At the same time that results from the current
study support findings in earlier racial microag-
gressions investigations, they also extend previ-
ous research in several important ways. The
enduring unconstrained voyeurism theme, for
instance, names the energy-sapping role that
Aboriginal undergraduates assume to disabuse
non-Aboriginals of commonly held assump-
tions about their persons based on their physical
appearance, names, languages, and cultures.
Accordingly, this theme also characterizes the
energy-saving practice among the perpetrators
of racial microaggressive acts of drawing upon
erroneous group stereotypes and working from
an orientation of social dominance (Clark et al.,
2011;Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle,
1994) during interpersonal interactions on cam-
pus. Thus objectified, Aboriginal undergradu-
ates may end up speciously targeted as peculiar
and anomalous.
Experiencing curricular elimination or mis-
representation is another novel theme in micro-
aggressions research. Although not drawing
upon racial microaggressions theory, Te Hen-
nepe (1993) found similar experiences among
First Nations students in anthropology courses
and Burk (2007) did the same for American
Indian students in communications classrooms.
Aboriginal participants in the current study re-
ported that issues important to Aboriginal com-
munities were overlooked, underrepresented, or
misrepresented across various disciplines. Ac-
cordingly, participants felt irrelevant across the
university’s curricula or excluded from and
trivialized by course subject matter. Although
participants conveyed willingness to share in-
formation about their cultures and identities,
they also expressed reluctance to take on the
institutional role of cultural educators responsi-
ble to non-Aboriginals seeking explanation and
clarification. They singled out graduate teaching
assistants as particularly problematic in putting
them on the spot or pressuring them into this
role, a phenomenon that has been identified as
problematic in the scholarly literature (Rooney,
Flores, & Mercier, 1998). Drawing from Burk’s
literature review, growing the numbers of Ab-
original faculty may influence curricular
choices and, as a consequence, positively ad-
dress this problem.
Limitations of the Present Study
Although offering a means for understanding
Aboriginal undergraduates’ experiences with
racial discrimination on campus, our approach
does elicit several limitations. Although the re-
search team invited all Aboriginal undergradu-
ates on campus to take part in the focus groups,
the team acknowledges that the participants
who selected to share their experiences may
neither be representative of individual Aborigi-
nal communities nor the Aboriginal population
as a whole for at least two reasons. First, the
participants were not representative of Aborig-
inal peoples overall, at least as determined by
their parents’ educational attainment (see Table
1). Although the educational attainment of their
parents varied, the group is overrepresented at
the higher end of educational attainment in Can-
ada where Aboriginal individuals lag behind the
non-Aboriginal population (Mendelson, 2006;
Wilson & Macdonald, 2010). A second limita-
tion to the representative character of our sam-
ple may be bound up with the extent to which
they were enmeshed in their Aboriginal com-
munities, which has been correlated positively
with community efficacy and perception of rac-
ism (Adams, Fryberg, Garcia, & Delgado-
Torres, 2006). Thus, future research might draw
upon measures to determine Indigenous identity
as a psychological resource for well-being (see
Alfred & Corntassel, 2005).
An additional limitation pertains to the un-
dergraduate nature of the sample. The transfer-
ability of the study’s findings could be enhanced
by conducting focus groups with additional Ab-
original constituent groups in the wider campus
community (e.g., graduate students, faculty, and
staff) to gain a more comprehensive understand-
ing of the issues suggested by the undergradu-
ates in the current investigation.
Because of the different scheduling needs of
the participants in the study, the research team
was unable to hold one focus group with all six
participants. This may reflect a third limitation
in that we may have lost some of the advantage
offered by the social nature of participants ex-
changing experiences in a single focus group in
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which they build upon each other’s various in-
sights and disagreements (Krueger & Casey,
Directions for Future Research
Including Aboriginal individuals in racial
justice research (Lawrence & Due, 2005) and
distinguishing Aboriginal peoples from other
racialized communities in Canada both are nec-
essary. From the current study we offer two
recommendations. First, partnership is crucial.
Without a partnership between non-Aboriginal
faculty and students and Aboriginal staff, we
could not have conducted our research. We an-
ticipate this would be the case in future re-
search. Second, future research with Aboriginal
participants should distinguish Aboriginal peo-
ples from other racialized minority communi-
ties in ways that do not eclipse their sovereignty
struggles and the effects of settler colonialism
(Hill et al., 2010).
Racial microaggressions theory provides an
import tool for racial justice research. On the
basis of our findings environmental microag-
gressions are significant in the lives of Aborig-
inal undergraduates. Future research might ex-
amine environmental microaggressions more
closely. Moreover, microaggressions research-
ers might draw from Essed’s (1990,2002) the-
ory of everyday racism and Bonilla-Silva’s
(1997,2003) theory of structural racism to elu-
cidate the dynamic interplay among individuals
and institutions.
Research that addresses how Aboriginal in-
dividuals and their allies respond to racial dis-
crimination on campus is important. Future in-
vestigations could focus on interpreting how
Aboriginal persons on campus most effectively
cope with individual and environmental micro-
aggressive acts (e.g., the psychology of indige-
nous identity; Adams et al., 2006). It also might
seek out the means through which people un-
derstand interpersonal and structural racism
similarly across racial groups. For instance,
Salter (2008) found a positive association be-
tween historical knowledge and perceptions of
racism in Hurricane Katrina-related events, sug-
gesting that the institutional reproduction of
cultural memory (e.g., formal history curricula)
may play a pivotal role in how people perceive
racism regardless of race. Examining students’
perceptions of Canadian residential schools and
survivors’ stories might offer similar insights in
Implications for Campus Interventions
Generations of Aboriginal people have strug-
gled to assert their identities amid a pervasive
sense that they are perceived negatively by non-
Aboriginals. Aboriginal students at an urban
Canadian university reported ongoing experi-
ences with what they believed were negative
perceptions of them held by faculty and gradu-
ate teaching assistants, their non-Aboriginal
peers, and university staff. In the frame of racial
microaggressions theory, these self-reported ex-
periences suggest a systemic climate of racial
bias, which requires immediate and longer-term
campus interventions. We address these issues
in three areas: faculty development, student af-
fairs and human resources, and academic pro-
Campus teaching and learning services could
enhance instructors’ cultural competence. Spe-
cifically, these campus services could direct at-
tention toward discussion groups, seminars, and
workshops for instructors who seek direction on
how to more effectively engage with Aboriginal
students in their courses and faculties. To initi-
ate longer-term institutional changes in a sys-
temic climate of racial bias that allows racial
microaggressive acts (e.g., faculty joking in
class about “rain dances”), formal support for
teaching in Canada’s multicultural classrooms
that include Aboriginal undergraduates could be
mandated for all non-Aboriginal graduate
teaching assistants and new assistant professors
during their first year.
Higher education administrators might use
strategic planning to address racial discrimina-
tion in student affairs and human resources.
Providing resources for Aboriginal students and
other similarly racialized campus constituent
groups to more forcefully respond to daily racial
microaggressions is perhaps most important in
the short and long-term. In the current study,
participants unanimously and passionately re-
ported that the Aboriginal student service center
was a strong source of support in an otherwise
isolating environment (for an example of em-
pirical research with similar findings among
American Indian students see Pewewardy &
Frey, 2004). Although these student affairs
units must be supported and expanded, univer-
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This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
sities should go further to modify existing stu-
dent codes of conduct and employee workplace
rules to address the perpetrators of racial micro-
aggressive acts proactively. Along with govern-
ing appropriate behavior on campus, mandatory
training for racial bias and harassment is essen-
tial. Safe learning and workplace policies, for
instance, should address racial harassment
along with security services and environmental
hazards. Universities also could implement cul-
tural awareness workshops as part of new stu-
dent orientations and intergroup dialogues so
that White students have opportunities to think
about how they may inadvertently perpetrate
racial microaggressions.
Finally, strategic planning could be deployed
with an eye toward making Canada’s universi-
ties relevant to Aboriginal communities and en-
hance the likelihood Aboriginal peoples are
vested in their efforts. University administrators
must forge partnerships with Aboriginal com-
munities to determine where faculty lines and
resources are needed. In the shorter term, inter-
institutional initiatives could fund visiting fac-
ulty programs through which Aboriginal schol-
ars in established academic units could assist
efforts to launch new academic programming
where it does not yet exist. Campus resources
also could be allocated for building Aboriginal
graduate student cohorts and hiring postdoctoral
fellows who could form the next generation of
Aboriginal scholars. In sum, with the necessary
will to combat misinformation and create the
campus conditions that disrupt racial hegemony
perpetrated through higher education curricula,
Canada’s universities could more substantively
evidence their recognition of and commitment
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Received March 12, 2013
Revision received August 28, 2013
Accepted January 2, 2014
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... Thus, we refer to this theme as encountering expectations of intelligence in stereotypical domains. Researchers identified a related theme called encountering expectations of primitiveness that is unique to findings among Indigenous peoples in Canada who were asked if they lived in teepees (Clark et al., 2014). Although not directly addressing targets' intelligence, the assumptions of primeval culture and lack of technological sophistication is comparable. ...
... We refer to this theme as experiencing invisibility and exclusion. In another study in Canada among Indigenous peoples, exclusion and invisibility manifested as living with day-to-day cultural and social isolation (Canel-Çınarbaş & Yohani, 2019;Clark et al., 2014). ...
... A related theme that emerged in this category is withstanding jealous accusations among Indigenous students in Canada (Canel-Çınarbaş & Yohani, 2019; Clark et al., 2014), or what researchers referred to as "reverse-racism hostility" among Black students (M. T. Williams et al., 2020). ...
In this article, we review the theoretical and empirical literature on racial microaggressions from 2007 to 2020 ( N = 138 articles). First, we refine racial microaggressions theory and update the definition to address mischaracterizations in the literature and clarify the term (i.e., “micro” refers to microlevel interactions rather than degree of harm). Next, we used four superordinate categories (i.e., pathologizing differences, denigrating and pigeonholing, excluding or rendering invisible, and perpetuating color-blind racial attitudes) in which to situate racial microaggression themes from the extant literature. Moreover, we consolidated and renamed existing themes to privilege targets’ perspectives (e.g., facing assumptions of inferior status and enduring exoticization). We then synthesized qualitative and quantitative research that shows harmful sequelae of racial microaggressions (i.e., psychological and physiological symptoms). Extending prior research on coping with gendered racial microaggressions, we describe empirical findings on collective, resistance, and self-protective strategies to mitigate the harmful impact of racial microaggressions. We conclude with directions for future research.
... Findings from racism research with Indigenous populations across Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand are strikingly similar, including low academic expectations of Indigenous students, the invisibility of Indigenous perspectives in school contexts, primitive stereotyping, and questioning peoples' Indigeneity in broader social contexts (Alansari et al., 2020;Clark et al., 2014;Masta, 2018;Moodie et al., 2019). This similarity suggests that, across the globe, Indigenous stereotypes are situated in similar colonial discourse (Brayboy, 2005), and not in the reality of vast diversity in cultural practices and experiences among (and within) Indigenous nations. ...
... Such covert forms also appear within racial microaggressions (Sue et al., 2007). Although previous research demonstrates the high frequency of covert racism among Indigenous adult populations (e.g., Clark et al., 2014;Masta, 2018), there is limited understanding of the impacts of covert racism on Indigenous adolescents. ...
Previous studies on the impacts of racism on adolescent development have largely overlooked Indigenous youth. We conducted a scoping review of the empirical literature on racism against Indigenous adolescents to determine the nature and scope of this research and to establish associations with developmental outcomes. Our literature search resulted in 32 studies with samples from the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Studies were limited to self‐reported experiences of racism and thus primarily focused on perceived discrimination. Quantitative studies found small to moderate effects of perceived discrimination on adolescent psychopathology and academic outcomes. Qualitative studies provided insight into structural forms of racism. We offer recommendations for future investigations into the impacts of overt and covert racism on Indigenous adolescents.
... Americans (Nadal et al., 2012), Black Americans (Sue et al., 2008a), and university students of Indigenous Canadian descent (Canel-Çınarbaş & Yohani, 2019;Clark, et al., 2014). Racial microaggressions were experienced by all minority groups studied, with both global themes and others which appeared 'race' specific. ...
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Unintentional racial microaggressions towards indigenous and minority peoples while injurious to recipients, are often not recognised by the perpetrator, and when challenged, are commonly met with defensiveness. The difference in racial realities exposed in these encounters can lead to breakdowns in recognition, and polarizing dynamics which perpetuate racial division. They also represent missed opportunities for greater understanding. In this dissertation, I use a vignette of events that occurred during a training course in psychotherapy as an entry point into considering the question, "what meaning may be made regarding unconscious racialisation from making, encountering and challenging unintentional racial microaggressions as a person of mixed 'race' in Aotearoa New Zealand". Through my subjective consideration of the intrapsychic, interpersonal and societal aspects of this phenomenon through heuristic inquiry, I contribute to the therapist's consideration of the mutual influence of unconscious racialisation on the therapeutic encounter. I explore the interplay of subjectivities within the racialised transference-countertransference matrix, and consider how reparational 'I and thou' engagement can be facilitated when unintentional racial microaggressions occur.
... 33 In a different study on micro-aggressions involving six participants, Indigenous students felt that there was often a misrepresentation of Indigeneity in the curriculum. 34 In another study with seven students, a theme of racial segregation emerged from the interviews. 35 Students in that study noted that when there is a distinct divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, it can lead to feelings of social isolation. ...
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Clinical learning activities involving Indigenous patient actors that specifically address the development of culturally safe care skills among medical students are important in order to improve health care for Indigenous people. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to strict physical distancing regulations and regional lockdowns that made the in-person delivery of Simulated Cultural Communication Scenarios (SCCS) with Indigenous patient actors impossible due to the disproportionate risk that public health emergencies pose for Indigenous communities. As the pandemic continued in 2021, we co-created a Virtual Visit approach to SCCS for the education of culturally safe care to pre-clerkship medical students. We report on student and tutor evaluation of these virtual sessions and contextualize our findings with our previous results delivering In-Person SCCSs. We found that Virtual Visit SCCS were highly effective in providing authentic exposure to and feedback from Indigenous patients. However, students rated their learning outcomes with Virtual Visit lower than the In-person approach to SCCS. We recommend formal training on interacting with patients in virtual care scenarios prior to Virtual Visit SCCS. We also found that exposure to SCCS with Indigenous animators has the potential to conjure up a diverse spectrum of sometimes unresolved negative feelings related to colonialism among students and tutors including discomfort, embarrassment, and anxiety. Our findings underscore the importance of resolving these sentiments within the safe environment of a classroom. To prepare Indigenous as well as non-Indigenous students and tutors adequately, it is important to acknowledge and critically deconstruct the embodiment of colonialism and Indigenous-settler relations when teaching physicians, as well as future physicians, preparedness for culturally safe care of Indigenous peoples.
... In the past, the literature has described classifications of microaggressions, such as microassaults or microinvalidations (Sue et al., 2007); however, it should be noted that researchers are currently interrogating the different outcomes among these classifications of microaggressions (Lui & Quezada, 2019). Regardless of form, microaggression research reveals these three themes: Microaggressions are a stressor on the recipient; interpersonal microaggressions are more strongly correlated with negative effects to the recipient; and Asian, Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans are more negatively affected by microaggressions than their White American counterparts (Clark et al., 2014;Johnston-Goodstar & VeLure Roholt, 2017;Lui & Quezada, 2019). For K-12 educators, considering microaggressions for all students is important, and for diverse racial and ethnic students and English-language learners (ELLs), this information is particularly salient. ...
The growth trajectory of ethnically and linguistically diverse individuals in the United States, particularly for youth, compels the education system to have urgent awareness of how diverse aspects of culture (e.g., Spanish-speaking, Black Latina student) are implicated in outcomes in American school systems. Students spend a significant amount of time in the school ecology, and this experience plays an important role in their well-being. Diverse ethnic, racial, and linguistic students face significant challenges and are placed at considerable risk by long-observed structural inequities evidenced in society and schools. Teachers must develop the capacity to be culturally sensitive, provide culturally responsive pedagogy, and regularly self-assess for biases implicated in positive academic outcomes for students in kindergarten through Grade 12. Research and practice have suggested that racism and discrimination in the form of racial microaggressions are observed daily in schools and classrooms. This article provides an overview of racial microaggressions in the school context and their damaging effects on students. We provide specific examples of microaggressions that may be observed in the U.S. classroom environment and how schools can serve as a positive intervention point to ameliorate racism, discrimination, and racial and language microaggressions. This comprehensive approach blends theory with practice to support the continued development of cultural humility, culturally sustaining pedagogy, and an equity-responsive climate.
... Asian women have also described situations in which they felt exoticized . These types of microaggressions were not described in Sue et al.'s (2007) original taxonomy but are represented in most of the validated measures of microaggressions and many qualitative studies as well (D. A. Clark et al., 2014;Endo, 2015;Minikel-Lacocque, 2013;Nadal, Griffin, et al., 2012;Nadal, Vigilia Escobar, et al., 2012;Suárez-Orozco et al., 2015). ...
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Harvard psychiatrist Chester Pierce’s conception of “subtle and stunning” daily racial offenses, or microaggressions, remains salient even 50 years after it was introduced. Microaggressions were defined further by Sue and colleagues in 2007, and this construct has found growing utility as the deleterious effects of microaggressions on the health of people of color continues to mount. Many studies seek to frame microaggressions in terms of a taxonomic analysis of offender behavior to inform the assessment of and interventions for the reduction of racial microaggressions. This article proposes an expansion and refinement of Sue et al.’s taxonomy to better inform such efforts. We conducted a review of published articles that focused on qualitative and quantitative findings of microaggressions taxonomies ( N = 32). Sixteen categories of racial microaggressions were identified, largely consistent with the original taxonomy of Sue et al. but expanded in several notable ways. Building on our prior research, other researchers supported such new categories as tokenism, connecting via stereotypes, exoticization and eroticization, and avoidance and distancing. The least studied categories included the denial of individual racism from Sue et al., and newer categories included reverse-racism hostility, connecting via stereotypes, and environmental attacks. A unified language of microaggressions may improve understanding and measurement of this important construct.
In this article, we explore the experiences of graduate students as researchers who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in the social sciences and humanities in Canada. This analysis is based on 22 semistructured qualitative interviews with BIPOC students and explores their experiences using critical race theory and an analysis of color-blind racism. The participants in our study narrate four dimensions of experience in relation to being researchers. (1) Supervision: Participants express positive relationships with supervisors who are intellectually open, engaged in critical scholarship, politically engaged, and who recognize the impact of larger forces on BIPOC students’ lives. (2) Funding: Participants describe unequal access to funding and to grant-writing skills development. (3) Self-tokenization: Some participants confront pressures to carry out voyeuristic, deficit-focused research on their own communities. (4) Responsibilities to community: Some participants want authentically to research their own communities, which entails additional responsibilities to avoid reproducing colonial and racist dynamics. Despite the ways in which racism and colonialism shape BIPOC students’ experiences as researchers, participants are clear that they are not victims of the university. Rather, they find meaning in knowledge creation and offer proactive recommendations on how to improve the experiences of BIPOC graduate student researchers.
Based on 22 semi-structured interviews, this article explores the experiences of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) graduate students in the social sciences and humanities at a medium-sized comprehensive university in Canada. This article explores how racialization and colonialism shape the experiences of BIPOC graduate students in the graduate-level classroom. BIPOC students may experience the classroom as a space of alterity, where they are made to feel alien and are pushed to represent their entire group; as a space of hostility where they encounter stereotypes and microaggressions; and, as a space in which they are burdened with emotionally-taxing pedagogical labour to educate peers and faculty on issues of race and colonialism. However, BIPOC students also engage in resistance, especially refusing the burdens associated with racism and colonialism and find strength in solidarity with other BIPOC students.
The pursuit of intergroup reconciliation often includes efforts to educate with the goal of fostering empathy. Yet little empirical evidence demonstrates whether and why greater knowledge might increase empathy. In this research, we investigated whether more critical historical knowledge about a harmed outgroup increases empathy for them, and we explored whether perceptions of privity, the extent to which a past harm continues to cause suffering today, account for this relationship. We tested these hypotheses in the context of non‐Indigenous Canadians' knowledge of Indian Residential Schools and attitudes about Indigenous Peoples across eight laboratory studies with 1242 non‐Indigenous undergraduate students at two Canadian universities. In two studies, participants completed a multiple‐choice measure of knowledge. In the remaining studies, we experimentally varied knowledge through brief educational interventions. All studies included measures of empathy, and five studies included measures of privity. Internal meta‐analyses indicated that participants with higher levels of critical historical knowledge felt more empathy for the outgroup because they could better see how past intergroup harms continue to cause suffering today. We discuss implications for social and political psychological theory and designing education for reconciliation interventions in Canada and elsewhere.
In this qualitative study, the authors examined responses to racial microaggressions among undergraduate Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) (N = 36) at a large Canadian university. To this end, we employed the consensual qualitative research method (CQR; Hill et al., 2005; Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997; Hill, 2012) among seven focus groups. Canadian undergraduate student participants, who self-identified as East Asian (n = 7), South Asian (n = 7), Arab (n = 9), Black (n = 7), and Indigenous (n = 6), expressed four strategic responses to racial microaggressions: using humor to mitigate tension, seeking community and solidarity for support, avoiding or withdrawing for protection and confronting perpetrators and challenging stereotypes. Findings demonstrated the dialectic between avoiding and confronting racial microaggressions, the nuanced role of using humor as a response strategy, and the importance of social support for BIPOC students. Findings are consistent with and extend current proposals of microinterventions. Social identity markers and power dynamics influenced students’ response strategies. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.
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This article reviews the current and emerging status of qualitative research in psychology. The particular value of diverse philosophical paradigms and varied inquiry approaches to the advancement of psychology generally, and multicultural psychology specifically, is emphasized. Three specific qualitative inquiry approaches anchored in diverse philosophical research paradigms are highlighted: consensual qualitative research, grounded theory, and participatory action research. The article concludes by highlighting important ethical considerations in multicultural qualitative research.
The mission statements and recruitment campaigns for modern Canadian universities promote diverse and enlightened communities. Racism in the Canadian University questions this idea by examining the ways in which the institutional culture of the academy privileges Whiteness and Anglo-Eurocentric ways of knowing. Often denied and dismissed in practice as well as policy, the various forms of racism still persist in the academy. This collection, informed by critical theory, personal experience, and empirical research, scrutinizes both historical and contemporary manifestations of racism in Canadian academic institutions, finding in these communities a deep rift between how racism is imagined and how it is lived. With equal emphasis on scholarship and personal perspectives, Racism in the Canadian University is an important look at how racial minority faculty and students continue to engage in a daily struggle for safe, inclusive spaces in classrooms and among peers, colleagues, and administrators.
This study was designed to examine the relationships among perceptions of racial climate, multicultural support services, and ethnic fraud among American Indian college students attending a predominantly White state university. Thirty American Indian undergraduate students responded to a 33-item survey that included questions about their demographic characteristics. Issues of ethnic fraud seemed to be the most interesting aspect of this study, an area of research that is often neglected in higher education. The analyses help to gauge the progress that higher education institutions have made toward providing access and equal opportunity for all Americans. Results reveal areas in the interaction between American Indian and non-Indian students in which institutional leadership can be exercised effectively to ensure a campus that values diversity.