South-Central Section - 51st Annual Meeting - 2017

Paper No. 28-10
Presentation Time: 4:50 PM


BOSS, Stephen K., Department of Geosciences, University of Arkansas, 216 GEAR, Fayetteville, AR 72701,

“Microaggression” is a term coined in the 1970’s but popularized by Dr. Derald Wing Sue, Professor of Psychology at Columbia University. According to Sue, microaggressions are “…brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people who are not members of the dominant culture.” Microaggression theory suggests that microaggressions are an ever-present ‘hum’ in the background of social interactions. Their origins are complex but deeply embedded in the dominant culture, so much so that members of the dominant culture are generally unaware of their manifestation in everyday language, actions, and behaviors. Nonetheless, a significant body of research indicates daily exposure to microaggressions has long-lasting, negative impacts on self-esteem, trust, social health, and general well-being of people and perpetuates their exclusion from society. In this presentation, I propose that a culture of geology exists that is populated with an extensive array of microaggressions. Further, I describe microaggressions I have observed at national conferences for geoscientists. Some of these microaggressions will be obvious once illustrated. Others are extraordinarily subtle, so much so that many audience members of the dominant culture will likely insist that no reasonable person would recognize them as slights or acts of bias – a claim which itself is a microaggression. My objective is to initiate discourse on the spectrum and complexity of microaggressive incidents in geosciences. The prevalence of these mostly inadvertent, sometimes imperceptible actions results in permanent feelings of ‘otherness’ among people of color or other underrepresented groups in geosciences and may significantly deter efforts to promote broader participation and inclusion of diverse cultural backgrounds in our discipline.