Microaggressions: the Community Killers

By Simone Facey '15 and Alan Shih '16

Simone Facey '15

Simone Facey '15

Alan Shih '16

Alan Shih '16

One of my most vivid memories of being subjected to a microaggression occurred during a debate with classmates in 10th grade honors history class. The topic was whether or not state buildings should be allowed to fly the Confederate flag. I remember making a comment and being surprised that the overwhelming response was, “Wow, you are so well spoken.” My classmates obviously meant this as a complement. However, I was disappointed to know they assumed I wouldn’t be well-spoken.

Microaggressions are everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership [race, sexual orientation, gender, etc.]. Microaggressions serve to depersonalize individuals of a particular group and perpetuate a societal system that grants unfair advantages to certain groups based on characteristics they are born with.

We have all likely been on the receiving end of a microaggression. Likewise, we have all probably made a few. Many of us dismiss these comments as commonplace and acceptable. Often times, the desire to avoid conflict results in missed opportunities to learn about why some interactions may be viewed as prejudiced. Below are a few short examples of microaggressive comments and behaviors experienced by Boothies:

"Let's be honest, being bi is only a pit stop on the way to gay.”

“You drive really well for a woman.”

“I’ve never considered dating an Asian, and you’re the first one I’ve considered.”

We got to talking about how people’s jobs had brought them all over the world, and how this person had visited Japan. He mentioned how he’d made the terrible faux pas of not removing his shoes before entering a home. The group reacted with polite amusement… then he turned to me, smiled, and said, “But of course, you would never make that mistake.”

A black man notices that a woman flinches and clutches her bag as she sees him in the elevator she's about to enter, and is painfully reminded of racial stereotypes.

A group of faculty members are sitting down for an unusual weekend meeting. The chair thanks everyone for showing up on their day off, and adds "I'm glad your wives let you get away for a few hours.”

A microaggressive statement can exist even when the intended subject is not present; it is any statement that perpetuates a stereotype in your mind and the minds of others. We hope to have Boothies be more aware of statements that stereotype and depersonalize. Doing so will help us see each other as individuals and make us more cohesive as a group.

Alan is a former special education teacher. He is interested in learning about the impact stereotypes have on underrepresented groups in business and about the best ways to help others break out of stereotypical thinking.

Simone is a graduating MPP and MBA student. She enjoys debating social issues to the point of making others uncomfortable, but more informed.