Burning crosses and segregated bathrooms may be a thing of the past in the U.S., but as a new photo project shows, the ferocious racism of yesteryear has been replaced with a more subtle, casual form of bigotry that is alive and well.
New York photographer Kiyun Kim asked her friends at Fordham University to pose for her holding up signs displaying racist comments they have encountered in their day-to-day interactions.
Kim, a 20-year-old art student at Fordham, created the project titled 'Racial Microaggression' to shine a light on some of the more understated instances of close-mindedness.
Politically incorrect: New York photographer Kiyun Kim asked her friends at Fordham University to pose for her holding posters displaying racially charged comments they have encountered
Term of art: Kim titled her series of photos 'Racial Microagression' - a term that was first coined four decades ago to describe subtle behaviors and remarks that are hostile or offensive to minorities
According to The Huffington Post, the term ‘racial microaggression’ was coined in 1970 by psychiatrist Dr. Chester Pierce to describe subtle remarks or actions that exhibit a hostile or disparaging attitude towards members of racial minorities.
As part of her project, Kim, who is Korean-American, asked her friends to write down some of the common slights they have suffered, from rude remarks about their complexion or hair, to assumptions about their national origin.
Kim’s powerful images show that bigotry does not necessarily come from a place of hatred: sometimes people simply blurt things out without thinking and fail to consider how their words might be perceived by others.
Rude: Some of Kim's Asian-American friends have encountered poorly phrased questions about their appearance and origins
The project shows that bigotry doesn't always come from a place of hatred but rather from a lack of sensitivity
What may be intended as a compliment could come across as a racially charged insult, like in the case of an African-American student who was told: 'You're really pretty... for a dark skin girl.'
The insensitive remarks featured in the project run the gamut from poorly phrased questions about one's background to backhanded complements and thoughtless comments.
For example, a black student wrote that some people think it's weird that she enjoys the music of country singer Carrie Underwood; another young woman of color was once asked why she speaks like a white person, while a young Asian woman was asked if she can see as much as 'white people' because of her eyes.
The election of Barack Obama as America's first black president in 2008 prompted premature declarations of victory over bigotry in the U.S., but as Kim's project shows, we do not live in a post-racial society.
The goal of Kim's series of photos, originally featured on her Tumblr account, is to get people thinking about the way they interact with others and to encourage them to be more sensitive about the language they use.
Change we can believe in: The goal of Kim's series of photos was to get people thinking about the way they interact with others