Ali James presents her hypothesis to her audience. KARENFLORES/COURTESY
By Karen Flores, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Alixandria James partnered with the school of education to talk about the impact of Racial Battle Fatigue on people of color at predominantly white institutions and how it can contribute to different stress-related diseases on Thursday, February 23.
James is a public health major with a concentration in healthcare administration and a management minor. She began her research in 2021 and officially began this research project when she became a Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center (LWGRC) summer research fellow.
“I’ve always been interested in campus climate work and microaggressions and discrimination. I’ve been doing that type of research since I was a sophomore in 2021 and I officially started doing this research project around last May,” explained James.
James’ correlational hypothesis consisted of three parts: different races experience varying microaggression frequency, microaggression frequency will be correlated with RBF (Racial Battle Fatigue) score and multiple minority identities will worsen RBF symptoms, increasing the RBF score.
The research was centered around a survey sent out to students asking them questions ranging from microaggression frequency to which symptoms of RBF they felt when facing microaggressions. It was found that the survey participants were primarily white, female and between the ages of 18-24.
In the PowerPoint presentation created by James, one of the conclusions found after analyzing the data was that “compared to white individuals, the frequency at which racial/ ethnic minorities are recipients of microaggressions is significantly higher.” James also found that “different ethnicities are recipients of microaggressions at different frequencies.”
James’ initial hypothesis on the correlation between RBF score and microaggression frequency was proven right when she found that “the strongest correlation between microaggression frequency and RBF score was present in ‘Black” participants.” James pointed out different areas within her research that would need further investigation and also pointed out that “small sample sizes may have impacted the magnitude of specific correlations.”
The presentation ended with James listing a number of resources in which students could report instances of microaggressions and discrimination on campus, and was followed by a Q&A session.
One of the main reasons why James decided to conduct this research on microaggressions is because of her experiences being in a predominantly white school as a minority.
“I’ve gone to predominantly white schools like my entire life,” explained James. “People would make a lot of backhanded compliments like, ‘Oh, you’re so smart for a black person’ or ‘Are you sure you’re not white’. You could tell the person meant well and wasn’t being racist, but it still always made me feel excluded like why can’t black people be smart? It wasn’t until college when I started to look into it that I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m not the only person that feels like this.’ This is a real issue.”
Emily Gianni, a junior childhood/special education and English major, said that the presentation informed her about the different ways in which students could report incidents of microaggressions or discrimination anonymously which is a very helpful thing to know.
“I definitely learned that you can report different people anonymously online, through a website,” said Gianni. “I think that is something that most teachers should be spreading and not a lot of teachers are spreading that. She also gives a bunch of resources for other people to go and contact, especially around campus as it’s not like a widely known source of information.”
Karen Nicholson, Ph.D., the dean of the school of education and health, attended the presentation and said she is a big advocate of the Jasper Summer Research Program. She emphasized that the program allows students like James to teach and involve their peers in work they are genuinely interested in. She encourages students to take part in research as they continue to learn.
“I would like to see more students doing research,” expressed Nicholson. “I would like to see more forums like this where we bring people together. This brought people together in ways because it’s a topic that concerns all of us. It’s different when it comes to students. It’s not like you’re getting lectured by one of your professors or something. I think student research has that level of authenticity, that that makes us stop and think and know that you as students can make a difference.”
James hopes that students understand the importance of educating themselves as a way to make sure we can communicate with others respectfully and in a way that allows for understanding.
“I think the biggest takeaway with microaggressions is that it’s very quick to not do research on them or not properly address them because we like to say, ‘Oh, well, the person didn’t mean it, and they didn’t do better,” said James. “But it’s not about what the person meant. It’s about how the person feels. We can educate ourselves and then if we can and feel comfortable educating other people, we should. We are entitled to be here as students, and we’re entitled to feel safe and not being or feeling repressed is definitely a form of safety.”
To access information about reporting instances of discrimination or bias related to protected classes, go to the Bias Education and Response webpage on the Manhattan College website.