Micro-what?: An Introduction to Microaggressions

Micro-what?: An Introduction to Microaggressions

Have you ever been in a situation where your other-ness was, intentionally or unintentionally, blatantly pointed out? Have you ever experienced someone else’s stupid joke or dismissive comment take up way too much space in your mind, long after they’ve said it and everyone else has altogether forgotten about it? Maybe you can’t pinpoint exactly what it was that was unsettling to you, but you know that in that moment you no longer felt welcome or comfortable in that situation.

Maybe you’ve experienced this scenario over and over and over in your life, and you’re sick and tired of it.

You’re not being overly sensitive, you’re not being too serious, and you are certainly not imagining it.

Some people believe we live in a society that is nearing perfection when it comes to eradicating discrimination and marginalization. For example: ever heard our society referred to as “post-racist”? Some people believe this false reality because flagrant acts of oppression are no longer openly tolerable in most spaces. By and large, most people will say that they aren’t racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, ableist, ageist, sizeist, etc. In a general sense, we all know these things are wrong.

However, that doesn’t mean that we as a society have progressed in our viewpoints. This means that oppressive acts have become more subtle, under-handed – “underground”, if you will. This, in essence, constitutes a microaggression.

The Microaggressions Project serves to create real representations of microaggressions in everyday life in order to increase awareness. It is a community and a safe space in which every person’s story is honored. Anyone can contribute to the project anonymously. I applaud and admire what The Microaggressions Project is doing to empower and educate others.

This is a place of honesty. Have I engaged in propagating microaggressions through my actions or speech at one point or another? Undoubtedly, I have. This is not a place of shame, though; shame stifles change and promotes stagnation. When I did or said those things, I didn’t know better. We have all been taught these hurtful lessons about power and privilege, but the most important thing is that we know that we can un-learn them, too. Now, it is on all of us to be more mindful and aware of our words and our actions so that we can create an accepting community for every single person in it.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons – Selena Wilke

– Kristen Martinez, M.Ed., Ed.S., LMHCA, NCC Therapist in Seattle

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