“And Still We Rise…”: Microaggressions and Intersectionality in the Study Abroad Experiences of Black Women
Racial microaggressions are racial slights and subtle insults aimed at people of color. Such affronts, though often unintentional, have been documented to come at great psychic, emotional, and physical cost to the targeted individuals. The term microaggression is also applied to women or other groups in society who experience oppression. These insults have been documented in the context of education for years. Though it has been established that students of color often face racial microaggressions on their home campuses, this phenomenon has not been explored in the context of study abroad. How this experience is further complicated by the intersection of gender, race, and other aspects of social identities was the premise of the following study that utilized the Black feminist construct of intersectionality to explore the experiences of 19 African American women who studied abroad through community college programs in three regions: the Mediterranean, West Africa and the British Isles. Findings include experiences of microaggressions by U.S. peers, in-country hosts and in several instances, situations of sexual harassment. Implications and recommendations for study abroad practitioners include discussion of the diversity of community college students, the extension of campus climate to the study abroad program, and the urgent need for critically reflexive staff and faculty equipped to respond effectively to microaggressions.
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