Review: Everyday Racism exhibition at Glad Cafe

Credit: Karen Gordon

Sabina Dominguez

The exhibition that hopes to highlight the impact of microaggressions.

Everyday Racism is a series of 10 environmental portraits exploring instances of micro-acts of racism. This powerful project is the result of more than three years of collaboration between the photographer Karen Gordon and people from minority ethnic backgrounds in Glasgow and was displayed in The Glad Cafe in the city’s southside until the end of October.

The term “racial microaggression” refers to everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to people of colour by white people, who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them. When people hear the term “microaggressions”, they usually think they are just “little comments that hurt people’s feelings”. However, being repeatedly dismissed, alienated, insulted and invalidated reinforces differences in power and privilege, and perpetuates racism and discrimination. One of the most shocking photographs and stories was Daniel’s. When he walks along the street at night, that street empties. Donning a hoodie should not be associated with any particular intentions, other than forming a protective layer between the wearer’s head and a light breeze. However, when Daniel wears said article of clothing, sold by popular retailers worldwide, he instantly incites a range of reactions from dirty looks to clutched handbags. He calls this the quiet walk home, and as a result of this he always cycles places. 

The aim of the exhibition is twofold. Firstly, to show how complex micro-acts of racism can be, since they can be so subtle that neither the victim nor the preparator may entirely understand what is going on – which is especially toxic for people of colour. Secondly, to encourage white people to become mindful about races and racial microaggressions in order to promote tolerance, inclusion and understanding of different cultures within Glasgow. “Racial microaggressions make people feel as if they don’t belong, that they are abnormal or that they are untrustworthy” explains Rachel Maggiore, the exhibition director. Hence, the importance of making white people realise they are delivering microaggressions.

“Likewise, we should not forget the most powerful tool for social cohesion: education” says the activist Olivia Ndoti. In order to receive funding for tertiary education in Scotland a migrant, asylum seeker or refugee has to meet a complex set of conditions based on their residency, residential status and country of origin. Because of this, Olivia and many other migrants are excluded from education. This means that many people, who wish to develop their skills, so they are better equipped to contribute towards Scotland’s economic growth, are excluded from tertiary education due to economic barriers, a point emphasised by Olivia, whose full story can be found in the exhibition.

The exhibition launch was a celebration of diversity and culture within the community. The people were extremely friendly, the food was delicious, and the music was great. October marks the beginning of Black History Month in the UK, and Everyday Racism was the perfect way to celebrate it. 

Don’t worry if you missed it though, as the exhibition will be sticking around Glasgow for a while – travelling both to the Bee’s Knees Cafe and to GOMA for December 2019 and January 2020, respectively.


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