Micro aggression:a passive act of abrasive intentions and undertones.
Prejudice has not been eliminated from contemporary society, overt prejudice has. Long gone are the days of blunt statements denouncing minorities or signs of exclusion. Present are invitations strategically placed and worded to include a small few and discard the potential of participation of others. Present are words of venom shielded with a smile, derogatory intentions masked with a laugh. Present is the same prejudice of the past in an aged, but still very racist society that has changed the demeanor but not the intent.
1.“ So I’ll be issuing you a class that begins at 8 am. I just want to make sure you’ll be able to make it on time.”
This is an actual statement from a former employer. This statement followed previous scheduling (by the same employer) of 8-3 on a Saturday, of which I was never late. While some may say this is a general query, I find it hard to believe that my age and minority faction didn’t make my former employer question my ability to perform to an early schedule.
2. “Was going to college like an option for you? For me it was always known that I’d go to college, and then some form of graduate or professional school.”
Now,I initially felt that this remark was just sheer arrogance. However, the consistency of hearing this roll off the tongue of those outside the black diaspora (to me and others of my origin) revealed this statement to be of malicious intent. This statement is a micro aggression because it implies that blacks are less intellectually or educationally motivated than whites. This statement also conveniently overlooks the oppression and discrimination black face in the plight of obtaining an education, which is readily available for their white counterparts. This statement also displays an ignorance to the foundation of which higher education. Westernized higher education was established on the idea of exclusion, the included continue to further exclude those without privilege in micro aggressions like these.
3. “You know who really had it bad? The Native Americans”
This micro aggression is harmful for two reasons.
A. “Had it bad” is a large understatement for the theft and genocide faced by Native Americans. To downplay what European greed and entitlement did to the true Americans is inappropriate and a testament to ignorance and a lack of character.
B. This statement usually follows a discussion of the disenfranchisement of blacks, as if to counter the horror of American slavery with the feat of Native Americans. Perhaps a more appropriate engagement of these two minority factions would be an evaluation of the common cause of both tragedies…
4. “I’d really like you to meet my friend.”
One hundred percent of the time, this desire to meet your friend is not because we both like the color blue, or like indie books, but because we are both black. While you may think you’re being helpful, but you’re not. Black folks don’t need help meeting other black folks and certainly not from people outside the black diaspora who reduce the culture of blackness to a color.
This is a micro aggression because it operates under the premise that all lack people like one another or seek companionship based on this prospective companion being black.
5. “You’re/their spouse is white/Latino/Indian/Samoan/Asian? The baby will be SOO cute/have good hair.”
This is a micro aggression stated by those within and without the black diaspora.Like all micro aggression this comment appears to mean well, but has an insulting undertone. The innuendo, whether intentional or not, suggests that black genes aren’t beautiful on their own. This statement interestingly implies that blackness is at it’s best when watered down or paired with a race or ethnicity outside of the black diaspora. Interestingly, I’ve never heard this remark upon hearing two blacks with no western attributes (fair skin, light eyes, long hair) are expecting.
Now perhaps is this is the most understated of all micro aggressions. I have seen and experienced the bodies of black women stared at like a misplaced piece of furniture in an otherwise perfect room.
Upon going to get a pedicure one afternoon a woman stared at my purse for the duration of my services. Upon my departure she she asked where I have gotten my purse. After issuing my response she rendered an unmistakably condescending laugh and said “ I thought it was a $5000.”
6.(insert ambition here) is really competitive
This was another one that I never associated with being a micro aggression. My realization came as my ambitions became larger and this statement was inserted with the cruel intention of thwarting my dreams. This “it’s really competitive remark” became a consistent statement from those outside of the black diaspora, as if to really mean that blacks aren’t proper competition.
7.Being issued a check before you’ve finished your meal.
This really says that we think you’re going to run out on the check, so before you can,I’m going to issue you your payment as a nudge to “do the right thing”
This is a micro aggression that also reflects poor etiquette with regard to proper treatment to those who patronize a business. This gesture simply suggests that you discriminate against those who foster your livihood, making anyone who displays this behavior undeserving of business. The dollars
8. Can I help you?
This micro aggression translates to: I think you might steal so I just want to let you know that you are seen. Thus, there is no true intention to service you, but a hope that you’ll see yourself out.
9. Can I start you a fitting room?
This micro aggression translates to: I’ve lost count of the items that you have in your hand and wish for self assurance that you haven’t stolen anything
I was blissfully unaware of this reality until I had the tumultuous experience of working retail. Here, we were asked plenty of times to “check up” on clients or “start a fitting room.” In hindsight my manager used my blackness to shield her own prejudice, as all the clients I was asked to “check up on” or “start a fitting room for” were also black.
10. “Are you all the way black? You’re not that dark.”
“Your hair isn’t nappy, you don’t have black hair.”
“If I wasn’t looking at you, I wouldn’t think you were African American.”
The previous three quotes illustrate the micro aggressions through exceptionalism. Often, blacks are only regarded as beautiful, intelligent a remarkable if they are “less” black. The fallacy of exceptionalism appeals to black whose insecurity thrives on the approval or whites and others outside the black diaspora. This is a micro aggressions that often go without notice or confrontation because they appear to be a compliment. However, a true compliment of a part does not discredit the whole, thus praising blacks for their lack of blackness is a dig at blackness and therefore not a compliment.
So beware of the poison that lies behind the smile, or the seemingly kind delivery of a micro aggression. And if you read any of these, and see a description of your actions then remember that they key in micromanaging Micro aggressions is simple- know that you are making them.
What micro aggressions have you experienced?