• Naomi Desai

A Lesson on Microaggressions


I haven't been dealing with microaggressions my entire life. Growing up in the Silicon Valley, my middle and high school were 80% Asian. White people were the minority.


Pratt is the opposite of this. I’m usually one of few people of color in my classes. While I was one of many Asian people in the Bay Area, I’m now tokenized here. Just last semester, in my ceramics class, I was making ceramic flowers when my white professor came by and told me that they had a student from India who’d made Diwali lanterns before.


How did my professor know I was Indian or that I even celebrated Diwali? What did that have to do with the project I was working on? The most annoying thing was that she was right. My parents are immigrants from India and we do celebrate Diwali. The problem is that she just assumed these things based on my skin color and last name.


This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me at Pratt. I had to explain to a professor what AAPI stood for, despite how many attacks against the AAPI community have happened in New York recently. One of my classmates, who has known me for a year now, switched up my name with the only other brown person in the class. These are textbook examples of microaggressions.


It’s not my job to educate you on my culture, and it's not your place to assume that I'm even part of a specific culture. I don’t want to explain to you what Diwali is, or explain the food my mom makes for me when I go home. So many white people think they’re woke because they act like racism is something to avoid in terms of being a good person. Eliminating racism doesn’t work like that. It’s a constant evaluation of whether you’re being inclusive or not. It involves thinking critically about whether what you’re saying is racist all the time.

Most of the classes we take in art school are taught within a white, eurocentric perspective. As faculty and students, we need to try harder to open up the conversation to artists of color. Only two female artists of color were mentioned in my Themes in Art and Culture class. All the books I bought for my Typography and Information class are written by white people. All of my studio professors are white men. This is not by choice, but because Pratt hires an overwhelming amount of white professors.


If Pratt isn’t going to incorporate people of color into the curriculum, then as students, we need to prove their importance in the field of art and design. Other people of color need to step up too. There are so few of us who use our voices to advocate for each other. We need to work together to create a shared culture of respect and equality on campus and beyond.


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Art by Dizzy Starfie