What are Microagressions?


°Microaggressions are insensitive comments, or generalized rude behavior. They’re the kinds of remarks, questions, or actions that are painful because they have to do with a person’s membership in a group that’s discriminated against or subject to stereotypes. The thing with microaggressions is that they happen casually, frequently, and often without any harm intended, in everyday life. There are so many examples of microaggressions, it would take years to get through every possible scenario.

One day, during my freshman year, I was in class and one of my peers had gotten back from a trip overseas. She proceeded to put her arm next to mine on the desk. She then said, “ I’m almost as dark as you.” At that moment, I was shocked. I wasn’t sure how to feel. I laughed it off and went about the rest of my day not thinking twice about it. When I got home I was reflecting on my day, and realized that it made me extremely uncomfortable. I was upset about it. I didn’t confront my classmate. I decided to just leave it alone.

What to do if you encounter A Microaggression  

Microaggressions can have a heavy impact. That is a big reason to speak up if someone says something to you that makes you uncomfortable. If you don’t tell the person how you feel, their actions won’t change. If someone says something racist to you, don’t question yourself. Your feelings are valid. If it hurt you, it hurt you. 

How to Confront 

There are many ways you can go about confronting a person in a non-combative way. If speaking up isn’t something you want to do, that is okay. You can simply let it go. That is many peoples default reaction. You can also decide to respond immediately. It can be extremely difficult to say something right at that moment because you are flustered by many different emotions.

It is important to be careful with your words and tone when confronting a person about their words and actions. If you come at them angrily, they are more than likely to become defensive and not want to hear you out. We also have to remember that many people can’t and won’t understand that what they said was racist, homophobic, or sexist. So don’t be surprised if you’re unable to help them see their mistakes or the impact that they had on you. 

You can also respond later. If you want, you can talk with that person in a more private setting. This option provides you with the opportunity to gather all your thoughts and feelings before talking to the person. You can explain why and what they said was wrong.

The Differences Between Discrimination and Microaggressions 

The main difference between microaggressions and overt discrimination is that people who commit microaggressions might not even be aware of them. Microaggressions are typically smaller incidents that are done without bad intentions. Discrimination is the complete opposite. These actions are done with bad intent. They tend to single out a specific type of person.  Let’s take a look at some microaggressions that are common for the black community to experience.

A common microaggression that black men talk about is being followed around in stores. They are presumed to be shoplifting. Another stereotype with black men is that they don’t have father figures. People will make jokes such as “Did your dad go to get milk?” Implying that their dad left them and never came back.

Black women are constantly asked condescending questions. Such as: “How long is your real hair?”, “Can I touch your hair?, It’s just so different.” or “How do you get it like that?” When you ask people things like this don’t be surprised If they get defensive. It’s simply nobody’s business but theirs. Black girls also often hear “You’re pretty for a black girl.” This isn’t a compliment. In fact, it is extremely insulting.

In the end, it’s important for all of us to be aware of our words and actions.

Here are the steps on what to do if you encounter a microaggression.

1. Stay Calm.
Don’t react in a hostile manner. Try to keep your emotions intact. Remember to breathe as some people may not even notice that what they said may have offended you.

2. Don’t question your emotions.
Remember, if someone says something that offends you, you have every right to be upset.

3. Don’t feel pressured to say something in that exact time or place.
Confronting people can be difficult in any given situation. If you feel prepared or ready to talk to the person(s) in a private setting after the situation occurred that is perfectly fine. For others, they may need to sit with their feelings for a while and figure out what to say. That is perfectly okay too. Either way, maintain composure, try to be understanding of the person as they may be defensive or not understand that what they said was wrong.

4. If it has a big effect on you, talk to a trusted friend or adult.
This situation is difficult for a lot of people to deal with. These comments can have big life changing effects. One way to help with the damage is to talk to someone. Talk to someone who may understand what you’re going through, for me that person is my mom or grandma. Find someone who can relate and help you through what may be a difficult time.