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Ever get that unsettling feeling after you have said something that didn’t sit right with your audience? Or experienced a time when you just said something and received a strong reaction that you didn’t intend?

Enter microagressions. A microaggression is an intentional or unintentional comment or action, usually slight or subtle, that conveys negativity towards a marginalized person, group, or culture. The term ‘microaggression’ includes ‘micro’ to make it clear that these instances, as individual events, are not severe but that the repeated impact is exponentially cumulative and deeply damaging. It’s no secret that there is a lot going on in our world right now and the last thing we want to do is cause further trauma or harm. Let’s get clear on microaggressions and how we can work toward improvement.

Here Are Some Examples of Microaggressions:

  • A majority person comments to a minority person “You’re so articulate” or “You talk so well.”
    • The underlying message is that the majority person had low expectations of the minority person and expected them to be less capable.
  • A majority person confuses the names of minority persons.
    • The underlying message is that minority people are interchangeable or not worth investing in knowing at the individual level. Similarly, expecting a minority person to take a nickname simply because their given name is difficult for a majority person to pronounce.
  • A majority person asks, “Where are you from?”
    • The underlying message is that a minority person cannot be American or is not perceived as truly belonging to their country.
  • A majority person asks, “Why do you wear that?”
    • The underlying message is that a Jewish, Sikh, Muslim or other religion’s clothing is inappropriate, unprofessional, or distracting in the learning environment.

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