Scholar to talk Sept. 16 on impact of racial microaggressions in higher ed

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Derald Wing Sue, professor of psychology and education at Columbia University, brings personal experience to his extensive knowledge and expertise about racial microaggression and its insidious, damaging effects.

“All through my life I’ve experienced everyday slights, indignities, insults and putdowns made to people of color, sometimes by well-intentioned individuals who are unaware of their biases,” said Sue, a pioneer in multicultural counseling and education. “At first I didn’t understand what they were, and so I began to explore what was happening.

“I knew there was something else going on, because often when these people were confronted by their biases they would deny it, they weren’t consciously aware of what they were doing,” he said. “As a result, I began to explore the meaning of microaggression in terms of racism and anti-racism, and it became my lifelong work.”

Sue will present a talk, “Microaggressions and Marginality: Manifestation, Dynamics, and Impact,” from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16, in the Presidents Hall of the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on Penn State's University Park campus.

Sue’s talk will reflect his most recent research on how everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs or insults -- whether intentional or unintentional -- have a powerful impact upon the psychological well-being of marginalized groups and affect their standard of living by creating inequities in education, employment and health care. His presentation will focus specifically on microaggressions in higher education, and will be followed by a question-and-answer period.

“After we released our study in 2007 on the taxonomy of microaggressions, it became the most highly-cited research article in the field,” said Sue, “and people began to expand the conversation to include the subject in terms of gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion, disability and more -- to apply the concept across the board and look at the harm it does to these individuals and how it effects their daily lives.

“The dilemma is that these covert forms of biases occur in almost every setting -- by fellow students, by teachers, employers, hiring managers, neighbors, colleagues, healthcare professionals and more,” he said. “As long as people are unaware that they are delivering unconscious biases and living in a false reality of how things are, they can do great harm to others, even if their motives are well-intentioned.”

Sue’s research on microaggressions has been heralded as one of the most important recent developments in studying racism, sexism and heterosexism.

For those who are not located at University Park, the session will be available via Polycom. If you wish to participate in this event remotely, contact Mike Blanco at

Following the talk will be the annual joint reception of the Senior Faculty Mentor and the Forum on Black Affairs, to welcome new and returning faculty of color and African American faculty and staff. Contact Eileen Williams at for more information about the reception.

Derald Wing Sue’s visit is part of Penn State’s Office of Educational Equity’s ongoing series on Best Practices in Diversity and is co-sponsored by the following units: Forum on Black Affairs; Assistant Dean for Multicultural Programs in the College of Education; Office of Diversity Enhancement Programs in the College of Health and Human Development; College of Information Sciences and Technology;  Commission for Women; Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Equity; Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity; Department of Psychology and the BRIDGE Diversity Alliance; Diversity Enhancement Programs in the Smeal College of Business; Multicultural Equity Programs in the College of the Liberal Arts; Office of Graduate Educational Equity Programs; Office of Multicultural Affairs in the College of Agricultural Sciences; Paul Robeson Cultural Center; Presidential Leadership Academy; Schreyer Honors College; Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence ; University Libraries Diversity Committee; and University Office of Global Programs.

Last Updated January 09, 2015