Daniel Solorzano has a thing for elevators.
As a professor of social science and comparative education in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA, Solorzano’s self-professed love for elevator spaces was a surprising aspect of his Tuesday lecture on racial microaggressions, entitled “Using the Critical Race Tool of Racial Microaggressions to Examine Everyday Racism.” Yet, by the end of his seminar, audience members found themselves united in a newfound understanding of his original statement:
“In the context of racial microaggressions, elevators are revelatory spaces that uncover the most basic issues of race.”
In his 12 years of research on the topic of racial microaggressions, Solorzano has used elevator spaces to uncover the root of racism in both the larger world context and the education sector. Inspired by the work of Harvard professor of education and psychiatry, Chester M. Pierce, Solorzano first defined the term microaggression as “a form of systematic everyday racism used to keep those at the racial margins in their place.” A 30-second elevator ride shared by people of different ethnic backgrounds, Solorzano said, can reveal the extensive history of these microaggressions and their presence in our world today.
Co-sponsored by the Center for Black Studies Research, the Center for New Racial Studies and the Department of Asian American Studies, Solorzano’s discussion stood as part of the MultiCultural Center’s Race Matters Series and took place at the MCC Lounge. There, audience members remained silent as Solorzano showed a 60-second clip portraying a white woman who tightly clutches her purse as a black man enters the elevator. According to Solorzano, the scene poses an instance of racism in a society that claims to be racially equal.
Solorzano argued that individuals can even lodge racist ideas into the minds of youth through subtle acts involving racial microaggressions, which occur every day.
For example, Solorzano said, commentary between friends such as “I don’t think of you as a Mexican” or “How does your race feel about this recent current event?” reveal everyday racial microaggressions. He also said certain signage around campus and even tortilla throwing at soccer games fall under this category.
Among the effects that occur as a result of racial microaggressions, Solorzano put self-doubt on the list of the struggles that members of a racial minority may face. First-year pre-psychology major Natalie Hernandez said she admits that self-doubt presents a significant road block, especially when starting her first-year journey at UCSB.
“To me, it seems like success is so often linked to race that even though I know I can pass my classes and am genuinely motivated to be a major in my field, sometimes I feel like I can’t because I’m Latina,” Hernandez said. “And I recognize within a split-second of thinking it how stupid it is, but I definitely still feel that doubt.”
In his lecture, Solorzano also provided a series of solutions to racial microaggressions, including the idea that faculty at universities should actively promote different ethnic studies classes. Educating others about the diversity of race is the first step toward eliminating these racial microaggressions, according to Solorzano. Furthermore, he said bystanders to instances of racist microaggressions can hold an “arsenal of responses” to address microaggressions.
On the same note, Ruth Quintanilla, newly elected Multicultural Awareness Chair (MAC) representative, said she remains optimistic when it comes to addressing racist attitudes or occurrences on campus.
“I joined MAC because I wanted to be a part of the solution, and after listening to Solorzano’s lecture, I am even more convinced that UCSB as a whole can make a difference,” Quintanilla said.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of Thursday October 17th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.