The Learning Lab - Responding to Microaggressions
Updated: Oct 12, 2022
Although very polarised, people are finally engaging in real conversations about race, justice, diversity, equality, and inclusion. In these conversations, there are incidents in which someone accidentally (or purposely) makes an offensive statement or gesture or asks an insensitive question that isolates a specific demographic. These actions are called microaggressions.
Microaggressions are defined as verbal, behavioural, or environmental actions (whether intentional or unintentional) that communicate hostility toward oppressed or targeted groups, including people of colour, women, LGBTQ persons, disabled people, and religious minorities.
Types of microaggressions
Microassaults are overt forms of discrimination in which actors deliberately behave in discriminatory ways. They may think that their actions are not noticed or harmful. For example, when someone says, “That’s so gay!” to connote that something is weird, the person is aware of the words that they choose; however, they may not realise that using such language is considered offensive.
Microinsults are statements or behaviours in which individuals unconsciously communicate discriminatory messages to members of target groups. For example, a person might tell an Asian American that they “speak good English”, implying that Asian Americans do not speak good English. This instance can be especially upsetting to Asian Americans who do not speak any other language besides English.
Microinvalidations are verbal statements that deny, negate, or undermine the realities of members of target groups. For example, when a person tells a person of colour that racism does not exist, that person is invalidating and denying the person of colour’s racial reality.
To understand the range of these incidents, it's important to learn the different forms of microaggressions, how they can play out in everyday life and how you can mitigate them when they arise. So please use this fact sheet to help you with your why.
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