It appears that being shy could now be part of the ever-widening and ill-defined ranger of “micro aggressions.” Oxford’s Equality and Diversity Unit has issued a statement to student that avoiding eye contact or “not speaking directly to people” could be deemed a “racial microaggression.” Such a failure to maintain eye contact is cited as a possible cause for “mental ill-health”.
Even when the lack of eye contact or directness is due to shyness or “entirely well-meaning,” “this is of little consequence if a possible effect of their words or actions is to suggest to people that they may fulfil a negative stereotype, or do not belong”.
The school warned that such “micro-aggressions” are :subtle everyday racism” and “can appear trivial. But repeated micro-aggressions can be tiring and alienating (and can lead to mental ill health).
Even asking someone about their origins is a potential microaggression for the subtle racist: “Racial micro-aggressions might include not making eye contact or speaking directly to people; not believing someone is British (‘Where are you from? No, I mean originally …’); ‘jokes’ drawing attention to someone’s difference, their accent or nationality.”
The concern is that schools are fostering a type of hyper sensitivity where every perceived slight are forms of racism. Now even failing to make eye contact can be listed among a person’s microaggressions, a term that was already maddeningly ill-defined.