Say it with me, people, microaggressions.
Let’s give it a crystal clear definition so that we’re all on one page.
Psychology Today defines microaggressions as “the 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”(Sue). This is an extremely wordy definition, I know, and sometimes I find that definitions like that give a very alien and irrelevant take on concepts that are very real. So here are my different definitions for microaggressions.
Microaggressions are the stares I get from people trying to “figure out” my family.
Microaggressions are the people that automatically assume my mom and I are in separate parties at restaurants.
Microaggressions are the college application whose only ethnicity markers are African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander.
Microaggressions are those little things that don’t fully qualify as oppression or discrimination, but they remind you that you aren’t normal.
When I was younger, I noted the peculiarity of my races to mean that I was less than.
In order to be equal to others, I desperately wanted to fit in. I wanted to be like my black friends or my white friends, but those microaggressions always held me back whenever I tried to align myself with certain ethnicities. They would remind me that I’m not black enough to do this, and they whispered in my ear, “You aren’t white enough to do that.”
Around the age of 12 I began to feel insecure about going out with my mother because I was always very conscious about the looks people gave us. It angered me to no end, causing me to look angry in public. I would look pre-offended by words that had not yet been spoken. But that is not how it’s supposed to be. I should not have to feel defensive against microaggressions from people who aren’t used to me, people who aren’t comfortable with what I represent.
I feel that it’s crucial to emphasize that being different in no way devalues your spirit. If anything, differences like that can increase your value and your importance. Being interracial adds to my worldview, widens it, and makes it extraordinary. When I truly began to accept myself and my ethnicities (a very recent development might I add), microaggressions could no longer affect me.
So what am I trying to say here? This is definitely not a, “I just one day decided to accept who I am and now my life is PERFECT!” story. If you look at my phrasing, “When I truly began to accept myself and my ethnicities, microaggressions could no longer affect me,” the word “affect” is implying something deeper than a flare of anger. I still get those, often.
By saying microaggressions no longer affect me, I’m saying that it does not change the content of my character. It does not cause me to become as consistently defensive as I used to be. I don’t go out expecting microaggressions because I have lowered my shield. Understand that who you are and what you represent is important, unique, and adds value to your person. You are an example. Let people learn from your example. Allow them to be perplexed.
In other words, keep them guessing.
Sue, Derald Wing, Phd. "Microaggressions: More than Just Race."Psychology Today. N.p., 17 Nov. 2010. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.