TEAM Westport Teen Essay Contest Targets Micro-Aggressions

You might not see it in Westport. But the US is fast moving toward becoming a “minority majority” nation. The Census Bureau says that Americans identifying as “white” only will be in the minority by 2042. Since 2014, most students in this country are part of the formerly minority “of color.”

Meanwhile, the number of racial, religious, ethnic and gender identity bias incidents is increasing.

That’s the background for this year’s TEAM Westport Teen Essay Contest. The town’s diversity committee — in conjunction with the Westport Library — asks students to explore the concept of micro-aggressions towards marginalized groups.

This prompt says:

As defined by Derald Wing Sue,micro-aggressions are “the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults — whether intentional or unintentional — that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their membership in marginalized groups.” 

 For example, an African American is told, “When I look at you, I don’t see color.” An Asian-American — born and raised in this country – is told, “You speak very good English.” A person of color accepted at an Ivy League school is told, “You must be grateful for affirmative action.” 

In 1000 words or fewer, describe your experiences witnessing, delivering, and/or receiving micro-aggressions focused on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and describe the likely impact that such statements have upon the recipients. Consider steps that you believe organizations, schools, and/or individuals could take to greatly reduce or eliminate such behavior. In particular, what can students do to address incidents of micro-aggressions when they occur — whether as initiator, recipient or witness?

The contest is open to students in grades 9 through 12 who attend Staples High or another school in Westport, or reside in Westport and attend school elsewhere.


Applications and more information about the contest are available here. Essays are due February 28. Winners will be announced at the Saugatuck Church on April 3. Subject to the volume and caliber of entries received, and the discretion of the judges, up to 3 prizes will be awarded: $1,000 (first place), $750 (second) and $500 (third).

Individuals or organizations who would like to help sponsor the contest can contribute via the website, or by emailing

14 responses to “TEAM Westport Teen Essay Contest Targets Micro-Aggressions

  1. David Stalling

    My personal favorite: “But you don’t act gay.” An important and challenging topic. Dan, I hope you will consider posting some of the winning essays; i’d love to read them. Thanks.

  2. To tell a foreigner that he/she speaks good English is a hell of a lot different from telling a person he/she must be grateful for affirmative action. One is a COMPLIMENT for Christ’s sake and one is, clearly, an insult.
    The ridiculous threat of “political correctness” is turning our vibrant and colorful language into the exchange of bland pablum like verbosity.

    • Dan, those comments about speaking good English are often directed at people who were born in the US — and sometimes, their families have lived here for generations. Re-read the story. The micro-aggression comes because of the assumption that every Asian-American was born overseas.

  3. Jon Champagne

    This is such nonsense, this victim mentality is creating a generation of kids with no coping or survival skills. There will always be people who say things that make you uncomfortable, deal we it. Micro aggression is just another silly term invented by the left, PC culture is out of control.

  4. How about this one…
    “Check your white privilege at the door”..
    Is that a mico – aggression or just a welcome sign?

  5. Point well taken, Dan, regarding comment made to Asians born here…had not thought of that…certainly, saying “you speak good english” to such a citizen would be silly, but just as silly would be a feeling of insult on the part of the Asian receiving such a comment….the worst it could be would be a LOGICAL error since MOST Asians in America WERE NOT BORN HERE.

    • I was surprised to hear that most Asians in the US were not born here. As best I can determine, that’s true. According to Pew Research, today 59% of the U.S. Asian population was born in another country. That share rises to 73% among adult Asians. Yet, when and how Asian immigrants arrived in the U.S. varies, For example, only 27% of Japanese, who began arriving in the 19th century as plantation workers in what is now the state of Hawaii, are immigrants. By contrast, many Bhutanese arrived recently as refugees, and nearly all (92%) are foreign born.

  6. William Strittmatter

    I’be often wondered whether it was a micro aggression when my mother told her friends (in front of me) “He’s a lot smarter than he looks”. It sort of seems like a shot at the “attractiveness challenged”.

    By the way, with two Mexican grandparents, I qualify as a Hispanic minority so I wonder was it also a hate speech micro aggression? Then again, those Mexican grandparents were my mother’s parents so maybe all of this was allowable intra-cultural back and forth?

    I’m pretty sure it was a micro aggression though when, after the audience laughed after I botched a joke on stage in 7th grade, my friend Lester whiteboysplained to me “They weren’t laughing with you, they were laughing at you”.

    Yeah, those incidents obviously scarred me for life. Luckily, I survived.

    Notwithstanding the above, I actually get the point. I do wonder, however, it has been taken it to an irrational extreme. A world without adjectives and adverbs (and probably some nouns and pronouns) would be depressing.

  7. Josiah Tarrant

    I am thankful to TEAM Westport for always encouraging these difficult conversations about important issues. For those of us white people who want to say micro-agressions don’t happen or that people of color or other marginalized people should just deal with it, maybe we should ask what are we so afraid of? Maybe we should talk less and listen more, and learn something. It’s not so scary to recognize we are part of the problem, when, with a little bit of effort we can become part of the solution. I look forward to reading the entries! Go Westport high school students, you got this!

  8. Isn’t saying “white privilege” a “micro-aggression”? Isn’t this “contest” marginalizing those of the color white? Or is white not a color anymore? All American citizens have the same opportunity. It is what they make of it through effort and persistence (on their own, with the love and support from their parents, and others in the community like teachers, neighbors, ministers, etc.) that will determine what they become in life. Giving preferences to anyone and teaching/promoting that certain people are “marginalized” is the wrong course. Disband the Diversity Committee.

  9. Brian,
    I asked the same question earlier…
    Apparently, if you are white, you cant claim any micro aggressions tossed your way (not even macro aggressions) because you were born with a certain skin color so you are privileged.
    The exception to this is if you can put yourself into some sub category of white to separate yourself from the norm (whatever the norm is) so then you can be considered marginalized (whatever marginalized is)
    The truth is we are all different and yet we are all the same… and apparently, for people to really understand this, it is best that they embrace there own separate identity, boil it down to a marginalized status, then put themselves into a victimized group and lump those doing the victimizing into a group.
    And if you think that somehow the term “Check your White Privilege At The Door” communicates a hostile, derogatory, or negative messages targeted towards you based solely upon your membership in a group….then obviously you are white and privileged..
    Yes, it’s your fault.

  10. Looking forward to reading these essays. I often get the “Your English is very good” which I find a bit odd as being an American board certified physician one definitely should expect more from your physician than just good English. I do think as an immigrant you acquire a thick skin and also tend to be less judgmental as there are times when people are genuinely interested and curious about where I am from. However I have been asked by a patient “ Are you a citizen? Now that one I wonder? Was that just curiosity?