We can all identify very obvious and straightforward attacks at our character. Bullying, harassment and straightforward hate are all things that can be intervened with personally, by staff or by someone else in the situation. However, microaggressions can be tougher to navigate. Microaggressions are defined as specific & hostile jabs at a person because of their background, upbringing or belief. Unlike bigotry, these off-hand comments can be harmful, and sometimes be passed off as humor. While some people believe these comments are harmless and brief, studies have shown that these sorts of comments have a significant negative effect on people’s sense of well being.
When people are the victim of microaggressions, their first step is processing the situation, asking questions like “did this really happen?” The next step comes when people decide whether or not they should respond to the aggression, and the final step is how they should go about handling the situation. In environments like the workplace or a university, the final step is often the most difficult to maneuver. When you want to be cordial and keep a professional attitude, wording a rebuttal while expressing your emotions can be difficult to balance. How you respond usually falls into three different categories; passive aggressively, assertively or proactively. There isn’t a “best” way to respond to microaggressions, alot of it revolves around how we were raised or the situation in which the microaggression happened.
After the situation has occurred, it is important for the victim to seek support. Seeking support is often done through practical means (human resources, staff at a university, etc.), but can also be one emotionally through a trusted person. A common way people gage microaggressions is filtering the situation through another person, and getting their opinion on how the situation should be dealt with. The key is expressing your feelings and telling the truth about the genuine hurt the situation has caused you.
What if you are on the other side of the coin and find yourself committing a microaggression? Although the effects can be dasterdous, the majority of people have commited a microaggression at some period in their social interactions. Sometimes we are aware of our actions, and sometimes it takes the person pointing it out for us to realize that we are at fault. If you think you have been a part of this type of aggression, own up to it! There’s no fault in being at wrong, the fault comes when the action is continuously repeated. Admitting your own mistake will create a sense of humility, and hopefully keep you from doing the same thing to that person & their social group as well as other people belonging to marginalized groups. When you are confronted with an action, the best thing to do is to listen to what they have to say and try not to be defensive. The worst thing to do is to invalidate someone’s hurt, and doing that is a microaggression upon itself.
The best remedy for microaggressions is education. The more aware people are of a term or generalization, the less likely they are to commit these acts initially, or feel defensive when they’re called out. If we teach the youth about inclusiveness and diversity from a young age, we as a society have the power to transform them into open minded adults. Let’s teach the kids, our peers and our friends not to be afraid, but to respect each other’s uniqueness.