Microaggression and my Houston apologia

houston hermann park conservatoryAbove: my family at the Hermann Park Conservancy in Houston last year, not long after we moved here from Austin.

12,000+ views, 2,000+ Facebook shares, and 28 comments later, it’s still going strong… When I published it a week ago Sunday, I never imagined that my post “You’re from Houston? I’m so sorry” would have generated such a response.

When she shared it on her Facebook on Thursday, Houstonia magazine managing editor Katharine Shilcutt (and one of my editors there) wrote: “it’s always heartwarming to see non-natives become Houston apologists.”

Katharine, a Houston native, is a friend and one of the writers and editors I admire most on the food scene here. It was a thrill to discover that she enjoyed the post enough to share it with her legions of followers.

And today, the post was featured on the Houston Chronicle “Opportunity Urbanist” blog.

Honestly, I never intended the post as a panegyric.

I wrote and posted it on a flight back to Houston from California, where I had been visiting for my work in the wine trade and where I heard more than one person tell me, you’re from Houston? I’m so sorry.

I really meant it as a rebuke against microaggressors.

“Microaggressions,” write the authors of “Diversity in the Classroom” (a paper published by the office of Diversity & Faculty Development at UCLA, my alma mater), “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 marginalized group membership.”

In their list of examples, the very first is “Where are you from or where were you born?”

It’s worth checking out if you’re still unclear as to what a microaggresion is. You might be surprised by some of the examples.

The post certainly wasn’t intended as a denigration of Californians or San Franciscans, as many interpreted it to be.

Some of my best friends are Californians!

Seriously, I didn’t see it as a pissing contest between my native and adoptive states or between the coastal U.S. and American flyover country.

I simply hoped that it would make my handful of Sunday readers reflect on how we all should be — present company included — more sensitive when interacting with people we don’t know or who are different from us.

My blog is a weblog and diary of my own life, whether I’m writing about Italian wine or my daughters and their antics. Someday, I’ll scroll through my archive of 2015 posts and remember the way I felt that day when I boarded the plane in California. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the number-one purpose of my blog: to document my life for my own reflection and remembrance. I imagined this post would be clicked on by a dozen visitors and then quickly forgotten by everyone but me.

I was genuinely surprised by the chord (and nerve) it seemed to strike. I was also surprised that no one picked up on the allusion I made in the last line, you don’t look Houstonian at all!

It comes from the song “If You Could See Her from My Eyes” from the 1966 musical “Caberet” (check out the video below and wait for the punch line at the end of the number).

I really appreciate everyone’s support and solidarity and I encourage anyone interested to come visit us in Houston. I’ll buy the first round for any takers…

3 thoughts on “Microaggression and my Houston apologia

  1. Oh, Jeremy, I got the allusion! My favorite musical. Have seen it often, including on Broadway, at the Roundabout with Alan Cumming, in the original production. But Joel Grey is also great in the movie. One of the very few movies I own.
    I’ll be in Houston for a few days in late October…might just take you up on your offer

  2. You’ve told me on more than one occasion… “Blogs are about vanity…” I will always stand in solidarity with you — and you look like everywhere you have visited, lived, and were born. ;)
    Xo’s my brother!

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