When Assistant Professor of Sociology Charisse Levchak began writing her dissertation in 2011, there was no shortage of cultural and political material to examine.
“With the election of President Obama and more presence of people of color in the media and pop culture, people called this a post-racial world,” says Levchak. “But those who experience racism directly had other things to say.”
Levchak, who earned her PhD in Sociology, MA in Sociology, and Master of Social Work from the University of Iowa, says these experiences can be as subtle as “not looking a person of color in the eyes, staring straight through someone, or failing to give credit to people of color for their ideas and contributions.”
When Levchak encountered the concept of microaggressions, she says, “I knew that I was onto something because it perfectly describes the covert racist experiences that I’ve become all too familiar with both personally and vicariously.”
Her research inspired her dissertation, which examined racist and sexist microaggressions on college campuses. In her recent book, “Microaggressions and Modern Racism: Endurance and Evolution,” Levchak follows up on that research and expands on it to include racist microaggressions and macroaggressions in the workplace and in pop culture and the media.
“People believe that representation in these areas means that racism is dead,” she explains. “But again, we know that this isn’t true…representation really does matter. It’s a first step in creating an inclusive society, but it’s not enough. You have to retain [people of color].”
That retention includes proper support for targets of microaggressions. When microaggressions occur, Levchak notes, “The onus is often put on the target or ally to challenge the offense. We have to look at policies and procedures to protect targets and allies when they do stand up and name these issues. We are looking at this here at CCSU.”
She cites President Toro’s efforts to examine the campus culture as a step in the right direction — among them the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct, Bullying, and Campus Climate she convened on May 21, 2018.
“She’s making sure that there’s representation. There are incredible students and faculty members who are passionate about these issues,” Levchak says. “That tells me that there is willingness to have these difficult conversations and address these issues. We have leadership that is committed. I couldn’t do this work otherwise.”
Levchak is a member of a multi-racial family. She says she hopes her work will support interracial solidarity on a micro and macro level.
“It’s become a personal mission to elevate the voices of people who’ve been wronged,” she says. “I want people to have conversations about microaggressions in order to have a more comprehensive discussion about solutions.”
Levchak recently held her first discussion on “Microaggressions and Modern Racism: Endurance and Evolution” at the CCSU Bookstore for an episode of the cable access program “Central Authors.”
Levchak says, “I think a college campus is a perfect place to have my first book talk because if we can start securing places within society where we’re serious about creating solutions, I think we can be a model for other places in society.”
“Central Authors” airs across 20 cable outlets throughout Connecticut. Check local listings for air dates.