When Ruby Lewis starts teaching at Clark College in late January, her classroom is going to feel much different than a traditional one.
“You’re going to get to know people in this class quite deeply,” Lewis said.
That’s because Lewis will offer eight classes on microaggression training through the college. “Microaggressions,” a term added to Merriam-Webster in 2017, are “comments or actions that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally express a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority),” according to the dictionary.
The term has become more prevalent lately as awareness of different, subtle forms of discrimination have risen. Lewis’ training will seek to have class members share their biases, and learn to not push them onto others through microaggressions, which are harmful to people’s mental health. Lewis said experiencing microaggressions can hurt your self-confidence and lead to depression.
“It really hurts other people. It damages people,” said Lewis, who’s the secretary for the NAACP Vancouver Branch 1139.
The training will feature videos, hands-on activities, quizzes, an implicit biases test from Harvard and even microaggression “Monopoly” that Lewis has created for the class.
“It’s not a class where I sit up there and teach,” Lewis said. “I will teach certain stuff, and I do have a curriculum, but I also do a lot of hands-on activities and interactive activities. You have to be engaged in the class to pass it.”
All class members will have to sign a community agreement, which requires confidentiality. Lewis said the class is judgment-free, and at the beginning the class will cover how to listen and speak to others in a respectful manner.
You don’t have to be a Clark College student to take the course.
Rosanne Ponzetti, an economic and community development program manager with Clark College, said this is part of a number of classes at Clark College that are aimed at community building through tackling issues that effect Clark County, and also the U.S. Ponzetti will attend the classes, too, and help Lewis if she needs it.
“What’s cool about Ruby’s class is she’s knowledgeable about the facts, but she’s also taking people through a process to sit with your own biases, which is harder in some ways because people have to be open and willing to have some uncomfortable conversations,” Ponzetti said.
Lewis said she’s not concerned about people getting angry with each other in the class in a way that would be disruptive. That’s partially because of the community agreement, and also because Lewis said it’s hard to be mad at people who are looking to improve themselves and their community.
Lewis said she hopes people use their training as a tool of positive change.
“I’m a teacher, but I’m walking beside people as they take this journey,” Lewis said. “You can’t get mad because they’re looking at their own biases. I’m liking that. It only takes one person to create a change. If you’re in this class, then you’re wanting to make a change, and when you leave, you’ll have the necessary resources to create the change.”