Microaggressions

If someone said something irritating to you once in a while, you’d probably brush it off and, quite likely, forget it. But if you repeatedly hear comments that seem harmless enough on the surface, but still bug you, eventually you might find yourself irritated to the point that you snap at the next person who says it.

Imagine you have red hair and people comment on it every single day. Some comments are true compliments, ‘I love your hair,’ while others might feel like a backhanded comment… Like if you get angry at a justifiable reason but your co-worker said, “Ooohhh… they don’t realize they just ticked-off a redhead!” indicating that your anger isn’t justified but a result of a fiery temperament due to your red hair. Anyone else would have been equally as angry at the offense but your red hair “causes your anger.” Some days you’d probably like to go about your business without having the color of your hair pointed out but simply because it’s not the more common shades of brown or blonde… it draws attention and, frequently, people make comments that you have to respond to.

I’m pretty sure I’m guilty of saying these kinds of things teasingly to close friends… hmmmm…

Let me go a step further… let’s say you’ve had a really rotten day and your kids were not getting along that morning. You get to work late and as you walk in, you spill coffee on your shirt. You are frustrated and just want to get to work when a chipper co-worker makes an off-the-wall comment about you having a red-headed temper and you flip your lid, say something harsh, which seems to prove your co-worker’s point that redheads are hot-tempered. (Though in the above scenario, anyone would have come in the office just as irritable.)

That co-worker wasn’t the source of your anger, but that comment was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the microaggression that broke the camel’s back.

Microaggressions are like that… they’re like straw. Individually they’re not all that heavy but over the course of a lifetime the weight of them adds up and the recipient has to continuously decide if they are going to bite their tongue or address it.

Because I know for sure I’ve done this before I feel pretty confident sharing this as something white people could stand to learn.

If theses microaggressions seem petty to you there’s a good chance you’re white… (and don’t have red hair). Please take the word of my friend, Zoe. They sting. The cut to the core and have an impact on a person’s self image.

Zoe is a 20-year-old who created this piece of art as an example of what she has personally experienced. The response she received after posting it surprised her. She has given permission for me to share it with you. What a shame that at only 20 years old she’s already weary from hearing these statements.

Some people have said similar things to me about Anna.
“At least she’s half-white.”
“She got the good hair.”
“She’s not really black, though.”
“Where’s she from? She’s so exotic.”
(Totally, 100% American, by the way.) And I’ll be incredibly vulnerable… Because our journey to racial justice and awareness started when we adopted Anna, these comments didn’t sound all that insulting to us. Especially this one. She did look exotic to me as an infant. I’m white. My first four babies were white. I grew up in a mostly white community. When people commented and asked where she was from, I got why they were asking. As I’ve researched not only the experiences she’ll have as a Black person but also as an adapted person, I’ve learned that this specific question is, indeed, a Microaggressions for adoptees as well.

They are tired of hearing that question!

It is, yet another reminder that others don’t see them as belonging where they are at the moment. They stand out and look like they don’t belong:
* in that family.
* in that place.

About Microaggressions:

“One thing is that they are in a sense ambiguous, so that the recipient is apt to feel vaguely insulted, but since the words look and sound complimentary, on the surface (they’re most often positive), she can’t rightly feel insulted and doesn’t know how to respond,” Robin Lakoff, Professor Emerita of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, told Business Insider.

Marguerite Ward and Rachel Premack  Jun 3, 2020, 9:24 PM

This video explains fairly well how Microaggressions build.

To get an idea of how strange and awkward microaggressions sound like on the receiving end, here they are spoken to white people. (Only watch if you have a sense of humor.)

Ask yourself this question:
Which question do I sometimes ask people in an attempt to be friendly but may come across in a negative way?


Your intent does not determine your impact.

Resources:
* What is a microaggression? 14 things people think are fine to say at work — but are actually racist, sexist, or offensive
* Google this: “intent vs. impact”



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Previous posts in this series:
Intro: #OnceYouSeeRacism
1. Build your “talking about racism” muscles. – {general racism}
2. The Dangers of the Colorblind Mentality – (color blind mentality}
3. Be Color Brave, Not Color Blind {color blind mentality}
4. See and Honor Color {color blind mentality; “the talk”}
5. What is an Ally? {allyship}
6. Allyship – digging deeper {allyship}
7. What Privilege? {white privilege}
8. Nobody is mad at you for being white. Nobody. {white privilege}
9. What “White Privilege” is and is not. {white privilege}
10. Juneteenth… {freedom, history}
11. Erasing History… {freedom, history}
12. Jim Crow Laws {freedom, history}
13. Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man – Emmanuel Acho
14. Systemic Racism and Bob the Tomato {systemic racism; education; lending}
15. Mortality and Black Skin {systemic racism; health care}
16. Redlining {systemic racism; housing}
17. Bootstraps and the GI Bill {systemic racism; military benefits}
18. This is Us and Why We Should Celebrate Black History Month {microaggressions, Black History Month}
19. You are here {microaggressions}

About Jennifer

"Yes, they're all mine." The answer to the question I hear most often.
This entry was posted in #OnceYouSeeRacism, Racism/Race Issues. Bookmark the permalink.

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