The effects of microaggressions on academic performance & mental health:
As a woman of color, I have experienced microaggressions many times in my life– especially in the classroom. In my pursuit of higher education, I was in an upper division course where I was randomly assigned to a group to work on a project for the whole quarter. The group was 3 white women and myself, a Latina. In this group, I was spoken over and not included in conversations about the research logistics. This made me not want to go to class and experience these feelings, even though our attendance was graded. I hated the feeling of being isolated and still forced to go to a class I didn’t feel good enough for.
My first thought was that I was experiencing Imposter Syndrome, something that isn’t too new to how I’ve felt at UCSB during my past 4 years. However, as I reflected on my experiences in this group, I recognized that I may be dealing with Imposter Syndrome, but it was now intersected with systemic bias, racism, and microaggressions. In fact, it might not have been the Imposter Syndrome at all and it was actually the feeling of exclusion that exacerbated my self-doubt and left me feeling like my identity was a barrier in succeeding in this class. I remember thinking that if I was white, I might have been part of the group’s dynamic and I would go to class and get a better grade.
Excessive stress and depression caused by microaggressions can have detrimental effects on academic performance. Even if it doesn’t feel like a big deal at the moment, there is a compounding effect to microaggressions which impacts you throughout your life. Research shows that discrimination and microaggressions are warning signs for distress and suicide for BIPOC individuals. To improve student success, retention, and mental health, it is essential to reduce microaggressions and other forms of discrimination in order to create an environment that is welcoming and inclusive. Professors and TAs can work to be more intentional about grouping students together and understand that uncomfortable dynamics may arise between students if all parties are not anti-racist or aware of their microaggressions.
If you are a student of color and ever feel like you are experiencing a microaggression in academia:
- Annika, Mental Health Peer