Wait, was that a microaggression?

Dec 20, 2021

Wait, was that a microaggression?

I just discovered a new online encyclopedia of microaggressions. It lists specific examples of microaggressions and debriefs why they are harmful. Check out Micropedia here. I found it to be very interesting and useful.

Micropedia lists microaggressions pertaining to race, gender, disability, and more. Along with the microaggression, the site provides the underlying message, or as we call it in our Disarming Microaggressions course, the hidden message that the statement carries.

For example, You’re so articulate. From the site: “This comment usually comes from a white person. It assumes a racialized person would be less capable and articulate. It is often meant as a compliment. However, it is offensive to be surprised that a racialized individual is articulate and well-spoken. These expectations are often based on stereotypes. They can cause a racialized person to doubt themselves.”

I would suggest that the hidden message carried by “you’re so articulate” could also be, “you are an exception, most people like you are not articulate, so it’s a surprise that you spoke well.”

A recent article in Fast Company highlights the Micropedia site here, and introduces the team behind it, led by Stephanie Yung, head of design at the creative agency Zulu Alpha Kilo. Yung believes the Micropedia could be used by people who have been the target of a microaggression and are seeking validation of what happened. Speaking with bystanders and allies to get confirmation and validation would be best, but a good second option is to use the site to read and confirm what was experienced.

I think the most important audience for the site is people who are concerned that they are unintentionally saying things that are offensive and want to educate themselves. From my work with Dr. Sue, I know that he teaches that bystanders and allies must educate themselves to be more alert about microaggressions they hear, as well as things they may say themselves. As he says, we are all prone to committing microaggressions because we have all been conditioned by a white-dominant culture in which non-white people are out of the norm, and so automatic assumptions and biases about People of Color are deeply embedded in people’s unconscious. As Toni Morrison has written, “In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”

In a recent conversation, Dr. Sue wanted me to understand that he still commits microaggressions in the classroom. He uses them with the group to process and develops comebacks and ways to speak up. If Dr. Sue, one of the leading experts in microaggressions still makes microaggressions, I think it’s safe to say that we all need to admit that each of us are also prone to say things and we do… Let’s get over ourselves and acknowledge we’ve all been conditioned and have work to do – to explore who and what we are as racial and cultural beings in this society (more on this from Dr. Sue soon!).

As part of your DEI journey, I suggest bookmarking the Micropedia site and exploring the various microaggressions that are written up there.

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