Lived experience as a person of colour has taught me that the most powerful feature of the micro aggression is ones inability to prove it. This is perhaps because the micro aggression is delivered with such precise subtlety as it slowly dismantles your professional world. Or because it presents as barrier after barrier, hidden behind a cloak of pseudo selective professionalism which only seems to apply to your ‘sort’. Or perhaps because of the assumed knowledge and biases that accompany it draw everlasting conclusions on who you are, what you stand for, and what you are (in)capable of as a person of colour.

It is tough negotiating these counter narratives in the academie as a person of colour. It leads to a negotiation where you are in a permanent state of hyper conciousness of how you might appear or be perceived. Paranoid that should you dare to express your opinions, ideas, or thoughts, that you might be adding to the existing bundle of negative assumptions that already appear to exist about you.

Time and time again I have encountered colleagues of colour who have shared their traumas of the micro aggression – and time and time again, I have been left wondering what the impacts of these experiences must be on the mental health of the individuals that encounter them.

It is one thing to speak collectively to an equalities agenda but quite another to put this in to practice. The latter requires challenging reflexivity and the ability to individually and collectively assess our place in the narrative. To ask ourselves whether we consciously/subconsciously challenge or compound the problems?

Which begs the question, is this state of reflexivity a likely investment for those that benefit from the current state? So what next for those that are victim to these subtle and sometimes not so subtle aggressions?


Micro-aggressions in the Academie

Time is a wonderful phenomena as it’s passing allows a healing felt impossible at the time of trauma. The trauma I refer to here is the build up to my submission.

After three days straight of working on my thesis with a total of five hours sleep across 72 hours, not knowing if I would, could, should continue writing … I finally managed to get my thesis to as near complete as it will ever be at this stage.

The binders I had spoken to had indicated a 1 day turn around with two separate quotes on binding, with printing and without. Yet in my haze of anxiety and general brain death I hadn’t processed this information.

Predictably, the final submission required the print and bind option and needing two soft copies, this amounted to a phenomenal cost that could have purchased me the latest iPad. Still, I promptly emailed the thesis across in a haze of surrealism and relief.

The emails that followed to and fro between myself and the binders thereafter were short of ridiculous. I finally managed to get a correctly formatted copy to them by their deadline of 12pm, but this was not without angst, despair, and some silent tears. Things I’ve learnt from this experience:

1. Never assume! I had assumed that the university thesis guidelines were in line with WORD default formats. This was not the case! Check, check, and check again! A tip to avoid dramas like mine would be to ensure that the initial draft of your thesis follows the correct format from the onset with no room for error.

2. Try and leave enough time so that you can print your thesis out yourself. Getting the binders to do it may buy you some more time but is ghastly in cost.

3. If opting for the binders to print, be mindful that they use specific software that counts colour and black and white pages. These counts will nearly always be much higher than your own estimations. For example,  I had counted 6 colour pages. I was informed that there were 46!!! – because apparently grayscale also counts as “colour”… if only this was the case in life!

On reflection, the self set deadline of three days before actual submission worked well for me. This not only eased my anxiety in the long run but gave me some wiggle room for if I really needed it. I treated this self set deadline as genuine and therefore didn’t need to use the leeway in the end. A good tip is to ensure that you’re not working on your thesis right to the final day. It’s too risky and binders aren’t always as reliable as we would like them to be. Give yourself some breathing space and aim for a couple of days in advance.

I hope you found these reflections/tips helpful and whatever stage you’re at, good luck!





PhD Binding … dilemmas and reflections