Microaggressions: More than Just Race
Microaggression is an action of verbal intentional or unintentional derogatory insults that are usually directed toward any group that might be marginalized.
Microaggression has been criticized for many years for its lack of scientific basis, complete reliance on the opinions formed through the subjective point of views of the attacking persons, and the promotion of the term “psychological and emotional fragility” which means that the person lacks the resources needed to successfully manage their internal state.
Microagressions are an everyday occurrence and can come out on the surface through verbal or non-verbal ways, usually enforcing a hostile or derogatory message through a particular action.
The common goal of every microaggression is to demean or invalidate the target group, either on a personal or group level and show them that they cannot fit in or do not belong within the group.
In the further writing of the text, you will learn more about the concept of microaggressions, its history, and fights against it. Further in the text, you will learn about the types of microaggression and what victim trait is each type of them focusing on.
You will also learn about some ways to deal with and handle the microaggression that you are a target of.
At the end of the article, you will find a questionnaire you can use to check whether you have been a target of an insidious microaggression or have made a comment or a joke that can be perceived as a microaggression towards someone yourself.
WHAT IS MICROAGGRESSION
As previously stated, microaggression is any act, verbal or non-verbal, which has a goal of demeaning or insulting a particular person or a group of people that share a certain trait.
Microaggression is typically seen as a form of being covertly racist, whether the remark in question is intentional, unintentional, or started as a joke.
The microaggression is limited only to the slight acts of marginalizing a group, as opposed to macroaggression, which is seen as a more extreme and mostly physical act against certain groups.
One of the largest problems in microaggression is that it is a way of asserting dominance over the marginalized group by positioning the attacker’s culture or background as superior or dominant over the target’s culture or background.
The term “microaggression” was coined in the early 1970s by a professor of psychiatry and education at Harvard University, Chester M. Pierce.
Microaggression started as an effort to name the racial tensions of the post World War II United States of America.
The African-Americans were constantly attacked both verbally and physically and were constantly in danger due to the rise of a number of extreme groups that targeted not only the African-Americans but also people of other descent.
The most prominent figures that fought against the racial microaggressions that have plagued America since the ’50s are Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
Martin Luther King was known for his fight for the civil rights of all African-Americans through nonviolent boycotts and rallies. Unfortunately. Martin Luther King was assassinated during the Poor People’s Campaign, a peaceful rally planned to be set in Washington D.C.
Born Malcolm Little, later changed to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz due to him converting to Islam religion, widely known as Malcolm X. He fought for black supremacy and racial integration and rejected the notion of the civil rights movement.
Even though nowadays it might seem that their fight for equality was in vain due to the troubles not only African-Americans but also other minorities persist through, a giant leap in civil rights was made, nonetheless.
There are different types of microaggression that are based on the group that the target is belonging to.
In further writing of the text, the most prominent types of microaggression will be addressed along with the explanation of each and every one of them.
The type that is the most widespread globally.
This type of microaggression is mostly caused by the aggressor having a deep dislike toward people of different racial backgrounds. Some psychologists have concluded that there is a strong link between racism and racial microaggression.
In recent studies conducted by a team of social psychologists, the results have shown that many white people unconsciously act in a racist manner, especially in ambiguous situations.
One of the examples from the aforementioned study is a story about a white flight attendant politely asking two plane passengers, who happened to be black, to move to the back of the plane in order to distribute weight evenly so that the plane would be better balanced and to make the trip more pleasant.
There are two ways to look at the situation.
The first way is that it was simply nothing of a serious matter, as the flight attendant was pleasant and well-mannered while asking a favor of them so that the plane trip would go as smoothly as possible.
On the other hand, this was similar to the racial segregation laws in the United States during the 19th century, particularly the part where African-Americans were forced to sit at the back of the busses, and the flight attendant’s action proved that it was due to racial bias.
Usually, microaggressions can vary in terms of the weight of the insult. It can be an assault in the way of deliberately showing a target person a swastika to deliberately serving a white person before the target person.
It can be a simple action that is insensitive and linked to the background of the person or an invalidating statement that can psychologically demean the target person.
All in all, racial microaggression is one of the most devastating ones, especially in countries where there was a history of injustice towards people of different descent, like the United States.
Even though sexism may not be on the rise as it was during the last century, there are still microaggressions that target the other gender.
Although rare, there are microaggressions against the male population but micro attacks on females are more prominent, through a variety of subtle or non-subtle actions.
Through the microaggressions aimed at gender, usually the target is made to feel inferior to the aggressor, assigned the role that is specific to the gender, and the most widespread one, the target is sexually objectified.
Gender microaggressions are one of the biggest problems that occur in workplaces.
There are plenty of ways that female workers are attacked by a microaggressive statement by their male colleagues.
To name a few, the infamously dubbed “mansplaining is when a male colleague oversimplifies a subject to their female counterpart.
Another example is the double standards, when a male colleague is chosen for a project over the female worker for various reasons, one of which could be that male workers are expected to be aggressive, while female workers are expected to be gentle, so if a project requires one or the other, a choice will be made based on the “established” gender roles.
Microaggressions aimed at gender are also present in sports. There was a case in 2018, where Serena Williams, one of the most recognized female athletes, was issued a code violation during a US Open Finals match.
She later stated that the violations threw her balance off and was the cause for her match loss, and added that many male players had done the same as her during a match, but had never gotten a code violation.
Another common occurrence of gender microaggression in sports is when the female athletes are compared only to their male counterparts, or when the female athlete is valued more by her attractiveness than the sports skills she possesses.
Another form of the microaggression aimed at gender is the gender-specific roles.
The gender-specific role is recognized when a person refuses to do a certain job, mostly because it is usually done by the opposite sex. An example would be the refusal of a man to wash the dishes because it should be done by a woman.
Finally, this kind of microaggression is widespread mostly due to the refusal of some people to go with the trends and let go of the old ways of interacting with women, but as the awareness of it has been raising, the occurrence of gender microaggression, especially at a workplace, is slowly declining.
MICROAGGRESSIONS AIMED AT SEXUALITIES
Microaggression aimed at the sexualities of other people meaning that they are attacked due to their sexual orientation.
The aggressors, similar to the microaggressions of racial nature, are said to possess underlying homophobic tendencies.
Some microaggressions aimed at sexualities are the target being pressured to change their sexual orientation, expecting them to be promiscuous, and in the cases of bisexuals, the belief that they are unable to have monogamous relationships.
This kind of microaggression is not exclusively aimed at members of the LGBT community.
More often than not, they are aimed at people who are known to have had a larger number of partners and are labeled promiscuous by the aggressors, as well. In this case, the remark would be that the aggressor often expects to have a one-night stand with the target.
In conclusion, there is a lot of cases of homophobic people harassing members of the LGBT community, either through microaggressions or through more physical means, but nowadays as the members of LGBT have been getting more rights, the more severe attacks dwindled, microaggressions, however, remained…
POLITICAL OR IDEOLOGICAL MICROAGGRESSIONS
Microaggressions aimed at people who have different ideologies or are members of different parties are very widespread.
In many countries, there is bias towards ordinary citizens who are members of different political parties, or who simply favor different political parties.
Although the ones aimed at different ideologies are more relevant today, as some people choose to stay politically neutral, they have to have an ideology they find the most suiting for them.
The three most prominent, in the United States particularly, are liberalism, socialism, and conservatism.
Liberalism is mostly focused on liberty, equality, support of individual rights, democracy, gender, and racial equality, among many other things.
Socialism, even though being frowned upon in the United States due to it being linked with the Communist countries of the past, has seen a rise in popularity. Their belief is that of equality and that society as a whole should own the means of production and that the workers should self-manage.
Conservatism is focused solely on tradition, authority, and property rights.
There are countless microaggressions among the members of these groups throwing at each other. Socialism is the one that gets the most of these microaggressions due to the hatred directed at communists during the Cold War.
The fear has been ingrained in the very essence of the average American that the Socialists cannot even get to their point before it being shot down by other groups.
Conservatism and Liberalism, being the exact opposites in some way, have the most microaggressions directed at each other.
Mostly liberal members critique the conservatives for their traditional values and refusal to keep up with the ever-changing trends, while the Conservatives criticize the Liberals for their ability to go beyond reason and logic in order to morally and in any other way support a certain group or belief.
The microaggression of this type is pretty common everywhere, because of the wide range of these two ideologies, every person falls under one of these two largest ideologies.
Religious microaggressions have been in sharp ascent, particularly in the United States from the early 2000s.
There is still a sense of awareness toward the Muslim population of the United States to that measure that every Muslim is being treated as a possible threat.
While Americans do throw an occasional comment and a joke that is offensive to the Muslim people, there is also another group that is, for the lack of a better word, bullying another group.
That is the atheists versus theists. There is a surge of atheists’ condescending nature towards the religious people, either online or in real life.
From the citations of Bible verses one to another to the simple “wow, you are really nice for a Christian or an atheist, these are all points of microaggression that happens daily.
Even in some other countries, there is animosity felt between different religious groups.
An example would be the animosity between the people of the Jewish congregation and Muslim people.
To conclude, religion is a thing that should better the state of minds of people, however, there are plenty of people who force their own belief onto others.
The consequences of such events are the animosity between the groups, aided by the microaggressions and snide remarks.
All of that psychologically hurts the people of either side or group.
Ethnic microaggressions are the enforcement of the stereotypes of different nations of the world. You must have been in a situation where someone mentions that they know a Russian who can outdrink them in a blink of an eye or a German who works like a machine.
These types of microaggressions can be defined as a reinforcement of the stereotypical representation of different nations.
Even if based on the behavior of the majority, it is impossible for the whole nation to be a representative or to simply have the stereotypical characteristics.
Have in mind though, the national stereotypes are relatively accurate to some extent but it cannot be applied to the nation holistically.
Typical microaggression examples of the ethnical stereotyping are making a comment about a person of Asian descent about how he or she should be good at math, or a commenting on a person of Indian descent how they should be adept at technology and writing code for programs.
In conclusion, this type of microaggression can be found at a workplace due to some stereotypical opinions of different nations that are linked with working skills, like the aforementioned Asian and Indian people.
Now, it’s important to draw the line between microaggression and a simple joke. An ethnicity-based joke is disinterested in terms of gaining power over the recipient, while microaggression always tends to submit, repress or marginalize the other.
This one is an extremely common occurrence in some places. Microaggressions based on the professions of the target and the aggressor.
There are different types of work in the world and no matter how insignificant or significant a job might sound, we are all tiny cogs that make the world and society prosper and move forward.
The significance of a job is in the eye of the beholder, a subjective view, unrestricted opinion.
Having said that, there is a great number of people that overestimate their contribution to the world and comment about another person and their job condescendingly.
There is a lifelong battle of attrition between doctors and nurses.
Of course, it all depends on the temperament of the doctor and the nurse, but it still sometimes comes to a simple microaggressive stance or comment about the doctor being in charge of the situation, shutting down the nurses’ contribution or effort to help a bit more than usual.
The simple sentence like “please do what you are here for, I have graduated Medical school, so I know what I am doing” that can really break the person psychologically and belittle them.
There is a battle of refusal to understand each other between the traditional blue-collar jobs and the newly established branch of programming.
Even though both branches are needed to make life easier for all of us, there is this animosity between them.
The more traditional would often cite the overreliance on the technology of the latter, while the programmers would quip about the more traditional blue-collar workers being a product of the time that refuses to modernize.
In conclusion, microaggression like this, as silly as the reason for it sounds, exists and is a part of the mundane world.
MICROAGGRESSION AMONG THE FINANCIALLY DIFFERENT GROUPS
This microaggression exists, especially in countries with a high curve between the more financially stable and lower class.
The gist here is that usually works both ways, the elitist and snobbish approach to the lesser fortunate and vice versa usually goes to deep hatred and may cause serious confrontations.
The thing is that in every country there is a large difference in financial stability among the people. That is why the microaggression pokes are a common thing.
It is not only a problem in the streets or the richer parts of a city but also a huge problem in classrooms, and it is not exclusively limited to the microaggression of the financially different groups but also microaggression caused by other reasons, be it ethnic difference or a religiously different point of view.
In the case of the finances, children nowadays tend to behave with cruelty to their peers, particularly if the targets of the microaggression are not fulfilling the aggressor’s own rich gauge.
That is why there are problems because in schools who do not offer school uniforms, there is a obvious distinction between the kids who are not at liberty to spend a lot of money on expensive clothing items due to various reasons, as opposed to the children whose parents are more on the “financially powerful” side of the spectrum and can afford it.
Finally, this is a huge problem, as a microaggression that can lead to a more physical altercation that can cause a problem for the whole society.
MICROAGGRESSION BASED ON AGE
This one is particularly new but spread remarkably quickly. The term “ageism” refers to any discrimination directed towards people of a certain age.
Even though it can be used to direct frustrations toward younger generations by denying the young ones certain rights, voting for example, due to their youth and inexperience, it is mostly used against older people.
The examples of microaggression statements that are directed toward older people would be joking about them being tech-illiterate, suggesting they are out of touch, among many other things.
The ageism theme came into the spotlight this November when a young politician talked about climate change while her older colleague was heckling her while not taking her seriously.
Microaggression quips are prevalent in the workplace, especially if an older person is in a subordinate position to the younger person. There are many opinions that the older person would not belong in a workplace where younger colleagues predominantly work.
A few research results have shown that most men that have passed their “work prime” are discriminated against, while women workers past their “work prime” are discriminated against to a slightly lesser extent in a “gender ageism” combination.
Of course, there are a lot of situations of the older people attacking younger with microaggressive stances.
Those are mostly because the world the older generation grew up in was more stable than today’s, with many solutions to problems being “storming through it and toughening up” while the younger generation simply cannot apply those schools of thought to today’s world and problems.
The gap right there is what causes the animosity and constant microaggression being thrown around the groups, particularly after the event in the New Zealand parliament that has been mentioned in the text.
In conclusion, microaggressions based on ageism was not as prevalent or talked about before the parliament accident happened.
If you want to look at it from a different perspective, while the circumstances were not a pleasant as they should have been, at least it brought light to the problem of ageism microaggression, which is increasingly happening daily, to light.
Even though not pleasant, microaggressions are prevalent in the workplace. In the further writing of this text, you will find a few ways of handling the microaggressive remarks that might get under your skin.
QUICK WAYS TO DEAL WITH MICROAGGRESSIONS
Ignore the Person
The path of the righteous. Simply ignore the person that bothers you.
It might sound childish, however, you are showing the person that their comments are not phasing you at all, in a way.
Maybe the person just threw it as a joke, but if they see you ignoring them, they might initiate a conversation with you and you can have a fresh start.
Giving them a minimum, or preferably no attention is a good way of just letting it go.
Be Kind to the Person
Even if the person has said something that really is borderline offensive to you, maybe having a verbal fight with them is not a good way to squash the stereotype that they have seen in you.
There are two great things that can come out of the kindness move:
First, one being that you will eventually learn that you should not let words harm you in any way.
Secondly, the person might be annoyed by your kindness, even though their initial cause might have been to get under your skin.
One of the major issues that might occur is your temperament. If you are a bit hot-headed and controlling your emotions and being kind proves to be a difficult task for you, there is an interesting article that might be a godsend for you, among many others.
Also remember that empathy is an important trait, particularly in the workplace, and you should do your best to develop it as much as you can.
Try to Flee the Scene
Actually, this one is the least confrontational one and is strongly advised if you are attacked by a person that you may not see ever again. Conserve your energy and just walk away.
However, if you are in a workplace, the most efficient way to just walk away is by saying that you have a lot of work to do or that you do not like to waste time on some trivial and arbitrary insults and walk to your office.
This might sound to you as a cowardly move, but in reality, it is a logical one. There are situations where you should always check with yourself whether there is a better way to resolve a situation or, in this case, an offensive, microaggressive remark that someone told you.
If you are constantly being harassed by the person, constantly being pecked by their remarks, the best thing is to just avoid them, move away from them and let them talk to the wind.
Talk to the Person
This should be your number one priority. Talk with them, resolve the situation in a civilized manner and that is it, basically.
Talk to them privately or on the spot, just after the comment and settle the matter. This is extremely important if the person that throws the remark is a colleague.
You should always try to be at best terms with your colleagues and promote a healthy work environment in order to have the best results.
QUESTIONAIRE – DETERMINE IF YOU’VE EVER BEEN A VICTIM OF MICROAGGRESSION
Before finishing the text, before you is a list of a few questions that you can answer on your own and check whether you have ever been a victim of a microaggression tactic or a perpetrator.
Have you ever been in a meeting and asked to sit in the back and quietly listen?
If this happened, then it was a general microaggression, the type is unimportant, it falls under basically every category.
Have you ever been an object of someone’s compliment that sounded strange?
This could be a coincidence but it also can be a gender-based microaggression.
Have you ever been told that you remind someone of a particular person?
This could be a coincidence but it also can be an ethnic microaggression.
Have you ever been denied a position at work due to them looking for a more or less experienced worker?
This is the most common occurrence in job interviews and falls under age microaggressions.
If the majority of these happened to you, then you have definitely been a victim of microaggressions. If some of these happened by your hand, then you were in the particular case, the microaggressor.
Microaggressions are, unfortunately, a common occurrence in the world nowadays. Though, some people know to cope better with the remarks, there are others who are not as resilient as others.
There are a lot more types of microaggressions, and most of them have an underlying message that helps you discover more about your attacker.
Them being a common occurrence, there is not a huge amount of time dedicated to abolishing or at least raising awareness of the psychological toll that microaggressive remarks and comments can have on some people.
The biggest problems are the wide array of the ways a microaggressive statement can be conveyed: either through words and comments or through the non-verbal ways by simply strangely looking at you or even physically in the form of shoulder tapping or hair touching.
These are all forms of microaggression.
All in all, microaggression is the thing that is not dying out, unfortunately, different types arise every day, and its “popularity” has surges almost weekly.
The only thing to hope for is an awareness raise of its negative effects that can sometimes bring even the emotionally stable to the brink of a breakdown.
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