This morning’s post was about well intended questions and comments that I have been asked – and from the comments, MANY people relate. These questions and comments are called micro-aggressions.
“The everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that people of color, women, LGBT populations or those who are marginalized experiences in their day-to-day interactions with people.” Derald has written two books on micro-aggressions, and there are countless other resources explaining and exemplifying micro-aggressions available. Just google!
Micro-aggressions can be wearing, especially if they happen regularly and also if you can see and name them, but more privileged people cannot.
Responding to micro-aggressions can be tricky. Sometimes you don’t want to inflame the situation. Other times you just want to alert the person to how rude and tiring they are.
I tend to have a list of responses that I rattle off on autopilot. “I was born like this”, or “it’s a skin condition” or “no” are frequent statements that I follow a micro-aggression with.
Sure, education helps curb ignorance. But you don’t have to educate all the time. You’re not someone’s teachable moment. You are allowed to walk away, or even express how rude or hurtful or unthinking micro-aggressions are. I sometimes reply firmly by putting it back on the other person – “that’s very rude, would you like to be asked that too?” And that makes them realise just how inappropriate their question or comment is.
For allies, it’s important not to minimise micro-aggressions – like by playing devils advocate. Saying “I didn’t hear it like that”, or “maybe you’re being too sensitive”, or “they meant well”) are not helpful statements, and show just how privileged you are by not being on the receiving end of micro-aggressions regularly. This isn’t good ally behaviour. Take notice of what they look like, and don’t be a bystander. Call it out if appropriate – by quietly talking to the person dishing out the micro-aggression, and also sharing posts like this one and the previous one, so your friends, family and colleagues can identify what micro-aggressions look like and their impacts too.
Has this post helped you or made you think? Will you use it in your workplace or school? Please consider buying me a drink.
I have written more on micro-aggressions in my memoir, Say Hello. Buy it here.