5 Microaggressions You Might Be Committing Without Realizing It
"You must have been through some difficulties when you grew up."
The moment I heard a doctoral student say these words, I felt uncomfortable. I didn't know why at the time, but I knew that his statement didn't suit me well. It wasn't until I saw the term "microaggression" floating around (and saw the horror that some of my friends were looking at as I passed on the things he said) that I knew it was more common than I thought.
While recent events have prompted many to learn more about white privileges, including language, code switching, and the importance of All Lives Matter, this has also opened up a wider debate on how we can (or should) pay more attention to all implicit biases how we can react to it (if it is aimed at us). But first we have to break down what it means:
What is microaggression?
Microaggression is behavior or communication (spoken or unspoken) that leads to stereotypes and stigmatization of gender, race, orientation, religion or other marginalized groups. Microaggressions can be intentional or unintentional and demonstrate implicit bias, also known as unconscious stereotyping - like my professor's assumption based on my appearance. In any case, microaggressions make marginalized communities feel offended and uncomfortable.
The term was coined in the 1970s by Harvard professor Chester M. Pierce, and 30 years later Derald Wing Sue, psychologist and professor at Columbia University, expanded Pierce's theory: "The everyday trifles, outrages, defeats and insults of the colored, Women, LGBT people, or those who have marginalized experiences in their daily interactions with people. "From social media to Campaign I, Too, Am Harvard Student, many BIPOC have started to share their own personal stories about experiencing micro-aggression .
Are there different types of microaggressions?
There are three different types of micro-aggression: micro-attacks, micro-attacks and micro-invalidations.
Micro-attacks are by design and are used to demote someone based on race, gender, orientation, religion or identity. This term means that someone struggles to be derogatory or to show problematic behavior towards a marginalized group (i.e. blurring, signs, etc.).
Micro-insults can be intentional or unintentional. Whether non-verbal (ie a person clutching their handbag or crossing the street when they see a black person) or verbal (ie "Is this your real hair?" "Oh, you're gay? Do you know this person?" Or " You are so brave to come out tonight "for a person in a wheelchair), these are insensitive acts against a person's identity.
Micro-invalidations can also be intentional or unintentional. They are subtle, occasional bumps that alienate, exclude, and invalidate someone due to their race, gender, etc. The person focuses on how different they are, so that someone feels like an outsider (i.e. confused a BIPOC as a service worker, doctor) as a nurse, etc.) or basically illuminates a person's feelings with gas (ie, "Are you sure that that happened?).
Are micro aggressions really that bad?
Yes. They can have a significant impact, especially if you deal with them daily. The American Psycholgical Associations write that studies show that this can affect a person's mental health because they constantly feel degraded, disrespectful, or even uncomfortable when they come to work, school, or into their lives. These scenarios can affect your work performance, your ability to be your true self (which can lead to code switching), or even deafness to your surroundings.
5 Frequent microaggressions
An entire library (or a PDF like this) can be devoted to examples of microaggressions, but here are some common ones and why you should stop saying it.
"Wow, you speak English so well." This is not a compliment. They imply that every BIPOC is a foreigner and cannot be considered an American.
"You don't look [race / gender]." This is not only insulting, but also hurtful. Telling someone that they don't look like a particular race or that someone "doesn't look transgendered" means ignoring their identity and playing with assumptions about what society considers "acceptable" or "right".
"OK, but where are you really from?" When asked this question, I answer "New York". When people do research, I say "America". These are the facts, but what Karen really asks is where my parents / grandparents come from. It makes me feel like an outsider in my own country.
"Your name is difficult to pronounce. Can we name you something else? "If you can pronounce Daenerys Targaryen or Saoirse Ronan, you can honestly find a way to pronounce a BIPOC person's name. Just ask politely how it is pronounced. You don't have to point out that it is strange or unknown to you .
"When do you have children?" If the person has not demonstrated that they want to speak about it, why should they make an assumption that requires such a personal response and could have a negative impact on the work?
How should you react when someone says microaggression?
Questions for clarification. Have this person explain why they felt the need to say or do what they did. Ask questions like, "Why do you feel that way?" or "What do you mean by that?"
Bring up. It's not your job to educate someone, but if you want and want to, you can start a meaningful dialogue. Even if the person did not want to offend or insult you, it is important to point out that this was the case. Start the conversation with "When you say this, it is actually harmful / offensive because ____."
Document and report. If you've tried the previous steps and the microaggressions continue to be a place where you are often toxic - such as an office - the next step may be for someone to intervene. Don't be afraid to contact a supervisor, whether it's your manager, department head, or human resources, to let them know what's going on and how they can spread the situation.
How should you avoid micro-aggression?
It is important to note that most microaggressions are unintentional. Per Sue: “People who engage in micro-aggression are ordinary people who experience themselves as good, moral and decent individuals. Microaggressions occur because they are outside the level of conscious awareness of the perpetrator. "
We often fall back on our unconscious prejudices without realizing it. We start to connect different groups of people based on what we see in the media, learn from others (also known as family and friends) or accept based on an experience. Inspired by Sue's research, here are a few things to consider:
Less is more. Did your mother ever say, "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say everything?" Follow this mantra. If you think your question or compliment can offend someone, it is likely. Just think about your words before saying them out loud.
Break down your own prejudices. Where did you learn it from? Why is it so problematic? Be open to unpleasant conversations.
Listen. The best thing you can do is have someone explain how your words offended or offended them. Don't automatically become defensive or push someone's feelings aside because they have a certain attitude towards your actions. Recognize that your words can affect a person's life. So show some empathy for how he should feel.
Learn. Don't let an experience define a whole group of people - just like you don't want to be defined by this one microaggression. Find out about a person's culture or look for moments to interact with different people from all walks of life. Some questions can be a quick Google search to avoid making someone uncomfortable.
To apologize. A simple "apology" can be enough. It is even more effective to see how your words are put into action. If a similar situation occurs, use your new information to prevent it from occurring again.
Unfortunately, microaggressions won't go away overnight, but how we deal with these problems can leave a lasting impression. Individuals can take action, but institutions can consider issuing guidelines or even training to recognize our prejudices and find ways to respond at work, at school, or in any environment.
RELATED: How To Respond To Someone Saying "All Lives Matter"
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