Let’s say there are two friends — one Caucasian, the other African-American—who are going for a late-night walk around town. This was something they often did, so it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Just as they are about to make their way back home, they hear a police siren, and next thing you know, the cop pulls up beside them and asked them some questions.
However, the police officer was more focused on speaking with the African-American friend and went as far as to question why he was with his Caucasian friend.
When the boys asked the officer why he had been questioning them, the officer replied, “I was simply following up on a lead and your friend (the African- American one) fit the description”. Both boys were filled with anger but were not bold enough to express it. The boys felt as though they were singled out, so the Caucasian boy politely said he hadn’t heard the word of any complaints or issues in the area. When he expresses these feelings to the officer, he indignantly denied any form of bias and stated that he is just doing his job. The officer proceeded to be on his way. So…were the boys being overly sensitive, or was the cop being racist?
This scenario is an example of racial microaggression. There are several types of microaggressions, such as-
There are intentional and meant to degrade someone based on various factors. (hair, race, gender, etc.)
These can be intentional or unintentional. It can also be verbal and non-verbal. An example of this will be asking someone if their hair is real.
Similar to micro insults, these can be intentional or unintentional. These comments can be used to alienate a person.
Now that you understand the different types, microaggressions, it should be easier to define.
What is a microaggression?
According to Psychology Today, “A microaggression is a subtle, often unintentional, form of prejudice. Rather than an overt declaration of racism or sexism, a microaggression often takes the shape of an offhanded comment, and inadvertently painful joke, or a pointed insult.”
How does microaggression differ from discrimination?
Microaggression and discrimination can often be confused. A key indicator between microaggressions and expressed discrimination is that microaggressions are discriminatory. They don’t necessarily have to be hateful but can be. Discrimination is more clear-cut. The person is aware of what they are saying because it is coming from a place of prejudice.
Believe it or not, there are plenty of micro-aggressive phrases that can be heard daily.
Here are some examples:
“So what ARE you?” insinuating……
“You don’t act black.”
“You’re so articulate” or “you speak so proper,” which is just another way of saying you sound white but in a polite way even though you can sound like a color.
How to respond to microaggressions?
To respond and become more conscious of microaggressions and avoid having them, one can explore their biases, reflect on the connotations a remark might have, review common examples, and interact with people from different communities.
How can I be more aware?
Microaggressions are not limited to the black community. It can be seen and used in different communities. Microaggression is hurtful. To minimize the use of micro-aggressive phrases, try to confront your own bias. Yes, it may be uncomfortable, but it can help aid in character development. Some ways to do that could be reading up on the latest trends and history, listening to podcasts, or simply thinking before you speak. Of course, this isn’t something that can happen overnight, but the more aware you become, the easier it gets.