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“What Are You?” And Other Casually Racist Slights–Visualized

We do not, in fact, live in a post-racial society. Despite such ecstatic proclamations to the contrary after Barack Obama was elected president five years ago, and recent declarations from the GOP, racism is still very much here. It doesn’t always manifest as prominently as in the trials of certain celebrity chefs, though. Way too many people casually commit offensive acts of racism on a regular basis, perhaps without even realizing it.

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Recently, 19-year-old Korean-American photographer Kiyun sought to raise awareness of some of the more quiet instances of racism found in every day life. She instructed her friends from Fordham University to write down on a sheet of cardboard the “microaggressions”–or common racial slights that don’t seem to stem from a place of hatred–which they experience with any regularity. The results will hopefully have a lot of people examining their own behaviors.


Some of the cardboard posters point to a problem with phrasing. Asking someone, “What are you?” for instance, is a rather tactless gambit of ethnicity investigation that could easily be put in a non-offensive way, or simply foregone. For other people, it seems the problem is impropriety or boundary issues. Surely, a resourceful person could find another way to manage their curiosity about the texture of an unfamiliar hairstyle without asking a person of color if you can cop a follicle-feel.

Other errors, however, are more egregious. No matter what race, gender, or religion is in question, telling a person who is your Other that they are not like other Others is always less a compliment than an admission of a grossly limited worldview.

Have a look through more of Kiyun’s photos in the slides above.

H/t to Bored Panda

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