Microaggressions are statements, actions, or incidents regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority. In other words, microaggressions occur when people unknowingly acknowledge stereotypes. For example, asking someone of a different race “Where are you really from?” or “What are you?” may seem innocent, but it’s not. To the questioner, it appears that they are asking what the minority’s ancestral history may be, but to the answerer, this question implies that they aren’t really from America. Microaggressions are insulting and can quickly turn a calm situation into one that provokes violence. In order to handle them effectively, take some of the tips below into consideration.
Stay calm and assess the situation.
Breathe and think. Moving to immediately fight the microaggressor or yelling at them can make you seem like the assailant. This is not to say that you should walk away from the situation either. Both of those options have the potential to hurt you and possibly someone in the future. When hearing a microaggression, confront the speaker of it calmly but assertively. Find out why this occurred.
Learn to educate.
Do not shut them down. Aim to educate them on why what they said was insulting. It will help them watch what they say and leave you with a good feeling that you’ve helped not only them but other people they will encounter from that same situation. It also helps to disempower microaggressors everywhere. This takes the power back by essentially taking away one of their soldiers in battle.
Clarification is key.
Microaggressions are more often than not unintentional and are usually a product of a person’s upbringing. Ask them to clarify the meaning of what they said. They may just want to ask you about your past, or they may have been so nervous that they may not have asked their question correctly.
Find what works for you.
Following the suggested tips may not be the most effective for everyone, but use them and customize them. If you need to do your own thing in dealing with microaggressions, do so, but never rage against the machine. This is a battle of strategy, not fists. The power of microaggressions can only be taken away through the education of those who micro-aggress. For those who micro-aggress, don’t let a potential friend become an enemy just because you want to know their ancestral history.
To a black female: “You’re cute for a dark-skinned girl.”
To a Hispanic person: “You don’t speak Spanish?”
To a black male: “You don’t act like other black people.”
To an Asian person: ” So . . .you’re Chinese right?”
To a black person: “Why do you sound White?”
Written by: Bryce Ethridge