Microaggressions

Microaggression: common verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile or negative slights to marginalized groups. Perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware that they engage in such interactions when they interact with minorities. (Fordham University)

Microaggressions are an incredibly important aspect of privilege and oppression that need to be addressed. Microaggressions focus more on the impact of the words or actions than the intent behind them, meaning that you could be very well intended but still be microaggressive.

The Microagressions Project is a website dedicated to collecting stories on this issue. I highly recommend reading it because the stories bring to light the different ways in which one might perpetuate oppression and privilege. There are plenty of ways in the US that are microaggressive that if you’re in a position of power/privilege or not a social critic might not seem like they perpetuate issues.

If someone from a marginalized community points out a microaggression that you say or do, the important thing is to not get defensive but instead focus on how to change your words and actions. The focus isn’t on you but instead on how others around you feel. The easy way out is to throw the issue back at the person bringing light to the issue.

Barbara Diamond, a lawyer in Portland, OR, created a film called Reveal Moments, which deals with racial microaggressions that have occurred to individuals. The trailer is the video above but her website will direct you to the ways in which to access the entire film. It’s not a particularly long film and is incredibly powerful in showing how what is said and done to others really matters.

With this all in mind, it’s very important to consider the way in which you speak and interact with others. While you might not see how something is offensive, it’s important to keep in mind that you are probably shielded by your privilege and position in the world. There are plenty of ways to carry out microaggressions (being “colorblind” is a big one) and instead of getting defensive when people point out your own privilege and microaggressions, learn from what you’re doing wrong.

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