There are many people who think that their intent is pure and nothing but positive intentions are subconsciously filtering through their words and actions.
While this can be true, there are ways to make sure those potential consequences don’t happen.
The first thing every person needs to do is open their mind. They need to acknowledge that there are things they don’t think about or even notice because they have never experienced them.
Sometimes these things people don’t think about are microaggressions: small, subtle, often unintentional actions or comments that make the recipient feel excluded.
1. Calling out microaggressions is not about shaming people.
It is about creating a more inclusive environment. Calling out microaggressions gives people a platform to examine their behavior, and also allows them (if they are willing) to make changes.
Microaggressive actions do not happen in a vacuum; to ensure we make our spaces welcoming and inclusive, we need to be talking about these issues in our workplaces and schools, on the news and social media, in our homes and places of worship.
2. Failure to recognize the prejudice in your own words and actions is the real problem.
We need to be very clear that we are not blaming people for some type of internalized racism, sexism or other form of bias- but rather we are pointing out that the discrimination they may be inflicting on others is their own doing.
That they can stop it themselves before it gets out of hand and makes others feel excluded, unsafe or uncomfortable. If you don’t listen, you will never know what’s going on around you.
3. Microaggressions are more than just hurt feelings.
They are often small, subtle displays of prejudice and discrimination that take place every day in various forms.
Things like showing a woman less respect and deference because she’s a woman; being impatient, curt or rude to people because they don’t look or sound the same as you; using phrases like “you guys” or “man up” to talk about men; referring to someone of a different culture, ethnicity, religion or race with an epithet -anything that represents a derogatory stereotype can be considered microaggressions.
4. You don’t have to add the word “micro” to these statements.
It is critical that we raise our awareness and make it clear that these kinds of actions are not only harmful but illegal under federal, state and local laws. It is also essential that we work to educate both our friends and colleagues on what is appropriate and not in today’s society.
For example, calling someone by a derogatory term that may cause harm or harassment does not simply refer to the objectification of women or men.
5. It is everyone’s responsibility to call out a microaggression.
It’s not the microaggression’s job to educate the speaker about their microaggression, it is everyone else’s job to make sure that kind of ignorance doesn’t go unexamined and become a problem in the larger community.
We need to be aware of our words, actions and attitudes toward others, and take steps to eliminate any bias that may exist.
Each of us needs to make a commitment not only to ourselves but our family, friends and work colleagues on not being complicit in discrimination or bigotry.
6. Microaggressions are not unique to the minority group being targeted.
Microaggressions are a type of discrimination that targets men, women, people of color, gay, lesbian and transgender individuals.
They also occur against Jewish people and other people who have religious or non-religious beliefs. They also can happen to anyone including adult Whites because they are seen as racially conservative or old-fashioned.
While these forms of discrimination primarily affect members of specific groups often times we see them in other groups as well.
7. There are times when we are unintentional perpetrators of microaggressions.
We also need to take care not to leave members of minority groups holding the bag. For example, if a person makes a racist comment about someone who is Black, it is important for other people around to call it out as well.
This happens more than we think – even White people can be the victims of racism from their own friends or peers and get blamed for being too sensitive or too ‘politically correct’ when they object to racist comments or jokes in their presence that directly disparage Blacks – and we need to stand up for other groups as well.