For her final project for a 2013 art class, Fordham University student Kiyun Kim chose to tackle the issue of racial microaggressions. She wanted to start a needed conversation about a topic we too rarely discuss.
"The final had three parts and for one of them I had to 'create something honest.' I had been thinking about racial discrimination and oppression at that time so I thought it would be a great way to express the experiences people of color face," Kim told A Plus.
"So, what do you guys speak in Japan? Asian???"
Kim sent out a mass Facebook message to her friends asking if they would like to be involved.
"It was not a huge surprise to me that many others had had similar experiences as I had," Kim told A Plus.
She believes that people were so willing to participate "because it was a way to speak out about our experiences without having it invalidated."
"Just because I'm Mexican that doesn't mean I should be the automatic first choice for the role of Dora the Explorer in the high school skit."
" 'Can you read this?' — he showed me a Japanese character on his phone."
"You're not REALLY Asian."
Even though Kim put the photo series on her Tumblr for everyone to see a few years ago, her photo series, Racial Microaggressions, is still relevant today.
When the series was posted to Imgur, many users responded with their own experiences. "As a German I often get 'So, you like Hitler right?'" one user wrote. Another expressed disbelief at the idea that microaggressions could be so common, but then realized that they'd heard many of the same phrases before: "[It] surprises me that these things have been said, but when I think about it I have heard most of these when I was in high school."
"I hope people can realize through my photo series that even 'innocent' and 'well-intended' questions are still hurtful. And also realize why they can be hurtful," Kim told A Plus.
"You don't speak Spanish?"
"You're really pretty... For a dark skin girl."
"No, where are you REALLY from?"
"The limited representation of my race in your classroom does not make me the voice of all black people."
To see more of the Racial Microaggressions photo series, check out Kim's website.