Scripting Raced and Gendered Myths of (Un)belonging

Rachel Kuo


Oppression shows up in ‘ambiguous and nebulous’ forms that are more difficult to pinpoint and acknowledge.[1] Derald Wing Sue defines racial microaggressions as ‘brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group’.[2] These interactions take shape in everyday interactions concealed by benevolent intentions. Often also called “everyday racism” and “everyday sexism”, the prevalence of microaggressions extend and maintain ongoing social injustices as they are tied to larger systemic disparities and violations of human rights. In the United States, despite multicultural metaphors of melting pots and salad bowls, the culture of middle class whiteness still dominates what is perceived as “normal”. Such normalisation is quietly sustained through banal instantiations that police the boundaries of whiteness. These daily exclusions are part of our cultural narratives of gender and race. Below, I reflect on two commonly heard phrases from my own life, ‘Where are you really from?’ and ‘You’re so exotic’, and how they reinforce racial, gender, and cultural assumptions that are also linked to history and policy.

[1] Derald Wing Sue et al, ‘Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice’ (2007) 62(4) American Psychologist 271, 273.

[2] Ibid.

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