University of Colorado Denver education luminary, Maria Uribe, PhD, recently published “Is There Something Wrong With Me?,” a children’s book aimed at instilling empathy around identity and belonging. Inspired by her work in public school leadership, coupled with the tragic death of George Floyd last summer, Uribe is hopeful her book will shine light on the impact microaggressions have on children, adults, and society.
Defined as a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group, microaggressions can be seen in the workplace, educational organizations, public settings, and even home life. Research has shown that although these actions may seem small and oftentimes innocent, they have a serious blow on psychological health, including an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and even lower productivity and problem-solving abilities.
“It is critical that individuals think carefully before sharing an opinion, and that they frame it in a way that doesn’t harm other people, which is what we oftentimes see happen in situations of microaggressions” Uribe said. “People come from different countries and cultures, which is why we need to be cognizant when we express our thinking; we need to make sure our opinion does not affect people’s origins of beliefs.”
In her latest book, Uribe takes true stories of microaggressions that have happened to children in different classrooms—many of which she collected and experienced herself. Showing images and telling stories of real-life microaggression examples, such as teachers giving Native American students “easier” assignments because of their implicitly lower expectations of them, the book aims to show racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination children may face.
“Small children, ages 3, 4, 5, and 6, are exposed to microaggressions all the time,” Uribe said. “They feel fragile without knowing the reason, and this is a gap in current literature and teachings.”
The book illuminates the daily microaggressions children experience, spotlighting this critical issue for increased societal awareness, but also provides ways to combat it in classroom and home settings. At the end of the book, Uribe includes suggestions for teachers and parents around reducing microaggressions and helping children who experience them.
“My grandchildren are white-passing and I am not,” Uribe said. “I have the Hispanic stereotype and people always think I am their babysitter, which sends two messages: Grandma doesn’t look like me, and babysitting is not an honorable job. My hope is that this book dismantles social bias, providing concrete examples and direction for educators and beyond.”
The book was published by Books del Sur and is now available in English and Spanish translation on Amazon.