06 Jan 2015

Microaggressions at Princeton

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Newby Parton is a freshman at Princeton. Coming from an old-fashioned region of the country, he habitually pronounces wh-, in the Gothic manner, as hw-. He consequently came in for a bit of mockery at school.

The light of Ivy League learning falling upon Mr. Parton’s provincial mind, he was thus led to editorialize agin’ these kind of cussed aggravatin’ microaggressions. So he was.

Each time I grow a bit more self-conscious. Very few people like to have their speech mocked.

Now, I am sure the others never mean their offense. Therefore, I will play along and let them have their laugh. You wouldn’t know it from my columns, but I avoid confrontation when I can. Besides, this is not very important to me. I am a male and I am white, so I get less than my fair share of discrimination. I am ashamed to say that I have complained when I have had such fortune, but I must confess that I did. A friend of mine whom I quite like had put me through the “Cool Whip” routine, so I waited awhile and texted her this: “Making fun of regional speech is a microaggression.”

Again, I am ashamed of that text. But I learned a lot from her response. “Better put that on TM,” she said, referring to the Tiger Microaggressions page notorious for posting inoffensive “aggressions.” There came no apology or retraction. She really did not understand that she had caused any offense, even after I had plainly told her so. That is fine with me, and I don’t blame her one bit. If I were her, I am afraid I would not have understood either.

I mean it when I say I am afraid. I am afraid that I have spent eighteen years not understanding when I have said something offensive. I am afraid that I have unwittingly hurt the feelings of people so accustomed to microaggression that they did not bother to speak up. I am afraid that I would not have taken those people seriously if they had made a stand. And I am afraid I will do it all again. I am afraid because microaggressions aren’t harmless — there’s research to show that they cause anxiety and binge drinking among the minority students who are targeted.

The whole thing.

Somehow when I reflect on all this, it occurs to me that Owen Johnson‘s Tennessee Shad must inevitably have encountered mockery at the hands of Yankees for his regional accent at Lawrenceville School a bit over a century ago. But the Shad would have responded by whipping the asses of his tormentors (and simultaneously carefully purging his own speech of provincial features), instead of whining about it and promising to be PC holier-than-thou himself in the college newspaper.

Membership in the community of fashion elite these days inevitably seems to require a certificate of gelding accompanying the college application.

Via Katherine Timpf.

3 Feedbacks on "Microaggressions at Princeton"


Served in the Army with a lot of Tennessee boys back in the 60’s. They were a tough bunch. Don’t remember any of them worrying about how they talked or anyone else being dumb enough to make an issue of it. Maybe this bloke moved there from somewhere else.


Do I sense a note of mockery to his masculinity in her reply or did I just read into it? Either way he surely won’t be courting the young lass any time soon.

Andrew B

Two thoughts–First, that this is what we get when we reward weakness and cowardice combined with smug self-satisfaction. Second, I am sure that none of the Princeton wits would dare to make fun of a black classmate with a strong regional accent. Wonder why that is…


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