Microaggression. Are you familiar with the term? I first heard it about a year ago when a friend on Face Book posted, “I was the victim of a microaggression when I got my flu shot today.” Here’s what I pictured: the aide brandishing the hypodermic needle at him.” But, oh no, it was that she said something like, “Don’t be such a girl” or “Man up” when he made a fuss about getting the shot.
With a bit of investigation I discovered that microaggression is one of the new buzz words in colleges and businesses. Originally coined to refer to slights and rudeness aimed at people of color, the term now includes slights and rudeness aimed toward people of the opposite sex or of any minority group. For example: “Of course the African American will win on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ They all have natural rhythm.” “That’s no job for a woman.” “ If you’re having trouble with math, ask an Asian in your class for help.” Blonde jokes. To a Black person: “I can’t believe you don’t like watermelon.” “You’re pretty smart for a girl.” “I never would have guessed you were that old.” To a father on a playground, “I’m surprised you’re so good with little kids.” A microaggression can even be nonverbal as when a woman holds onto her purse when she sees a Black approach.
Once I discovered this word, I started hearing daily examples of this behavior which I suppose is the new way of describing rude or thoughtless comments. But now schools and businesses run training sessions to alert students and workers to the harm of these comments. I suppose there are even consequences.
The behavior is nothing new, but the terminology, and hopefully the awareness, is.
Dorothy C. Judd © 2016
Next post: Monday, October 24th