OMG OMG OMG
I just had a Eureka! moment.
I am not alone.
What I have been experiencing all day, every day, has a NAME!
It’s not all in my head.
I’m allowed to feel hurt and upset and offended.
Wiki defined it as: ‘brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial or sexist slights and insults’
These messages may be sent verbally or nonverbally (e.g clutching one’s purse more tightly )
Examples of microagression:
1. ‘You speak really good English’
2. ‘I’m not racist, I have many black friends.’
3. ‘I don’t think of you as Black. You are just a normal person to me.’
4. ‘You’re Muslim? Really? Its good to know there are nice Muslim people out there.’
The most common implied messages are:
“You do not belong,” “You are abnormal,” “You are intellectually inferior,” “You cannot be trusted,” and “You are all the same.”
There are many more real-life examples here.
Oh em gee! I finally have a name for this phenomenon!
Usually when someone makes a subtle, random, thoughtless comment in reference to my race or gender, I ignore it.
I FEEL hurt. And upset. And ashamed. And angry.
Also terribly confused.
I feel like my emotions are not legitimate. Maybe I am being over-sensitive.
Moreover, because the slight is so subtle, it is easy to make yourself ignore it. Easy to pretend it didn’t happen rather than confront it.
Columbia University psychologist Derald Wing Sue, PhD says that: ‘While the person may feel insulted, she is not sure exactly why, and the perpetrator doesn’t acknowledge that anything has happened because he is not aware he has been offensive.’
A 2007 paper published in American Psychologist (Vol. 2, No. 4) has outlined some definitions:
Microinsults: Verbal and nonverbal communications that subtly convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person’s racial heritage or identity. An example is an employee who asks a colleague of color how she got her job, implying she may have landed it through an affirmative action or quota system.
Microinvalidations: Communications that subtly exclude, negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of color. For instance, white people often ask Asian-Americans where they were born, conveying the message that they are perpetual foreigners in their own land.
Lately at work, I have been getting comments in reference to my age. And my gender. A. Lot.
‘Young lady, you have done reeeeeeeeeeeeally well!’
Emphasis on the ‘young’. Emphasis on ‘really’
If you heard the tone with which that ‘compliment’ was delivered you would realize it wasn’t one.
What was implied was: You are young, and a junior and a woman. Learn your place. You are doing well. But don’t get ahead of yourself.
It’s annoying that people get away with their prejudices so lightly.
We let people walk all over us, and we don’t even realize they are doing it!
This is an example posted by someone on Microagression.tumblr.com
“But you’d know about that, wouldn’t you? Asian parents and overachievement and their focus on studies?” Professor to me, one of two Asian students in my psychology class in Australia in 2010. Made me feel angry. I am not the Appointed Spokesperson.
Ummm, sadly, I have been guilty of that one.
I have always assumed that Asians have a better work ethic when it comes to school work. And usually achieve really good grades. Granted, this is from my experience as a teacher at a primary school in China (I volunteered for two months) BUT, it doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s a generalization, and may make others feel ‘boxed’
Another example that really gets me is:
I am a doctor and was helping my white colleague apply a bandage to a patient’s face when the tape caught on my glove for a moment. ”Look at that,” she joked to the patient, “I almost taped you to Dr. —-. You would’ve been running around with a small Asian woman stuck to you.” Not only did she undermine my dignity in the patient’s eyes, but I was shocked that she felt the need to figure my race into this – not to mention that I’m 5’6” in work shoes and of proportionate weight.
Okay, I must admit I chekad (laughed) a bit initially after reading that last one. BUT in a professional environment, how mean and hurtful and belittling is that comment?!
Usually, people who make such statements, are oblivious to the fact that they have offended you!
Calling them up on the perceived insult, usually results in embarrassment on both sides.
Responses are usually along the lines of:
‘Stop being so sensitive.’
‘Chill out, you know we love you.’
‘You have no sense of humour, it was a joke!’
It was not a joke. It was offensive. Stop doing it!
On a similar vein, there is a really old clinical biochemist/professor at work who used the ‘N’ word at a meeting.
He said ‘Negro’ rather than ‘Nigger’
But I still find the word ‘Negro’ offensive.
He was using it in a scientific/academic way though. So the whole room full of multi-racial medical professionals, let it slide.
Is it okay to use the word ‘Negro’? I don’t know. In America, I know for sure it would be frowned upon. But over the pond in the U.K, people seem to use it freely.
Maybe we are all just being over-sensitive.
But maybe, racism is alive and kicking.
Camouflaged behind sickly-sweet smiles, and sugar-coated insults.
I am Muslim.
I am brown-skinned.
I am a woman.
Kindly take your aggression. Micro or otherwise elsewhere.
That is all.
- Is Race-Based Bullying the “Elephant in the Room?” (blogher.com)
- Unmasking Microagressions
- Halle Berry Takes The “One-Drop Rule” From Tragedy to Farce (psychologytoday.com)