"Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory,or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color. Perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware that they engage in such communications when they interact with racial/ethnic minorities.""In the world of business, the term “microinequities” is used to describethe pattern of being overlooked, underrespected, and devaluedbecause of one’s race or gender. Microaggressions are often unconsciously delivered in the form of subtle snubs or dismissive looks, gestures, and tones. These exchanges are so pervasive and automatic in daily conversations and interactions that they are often dismissed andglossed over as being innocent and innocuous. Yet, as indicated previously, microaggressions are detrimental to persons of color because they impair performance in a multitude of settings by sapping the psychic and spiritual energy of recipients and by creating inequities (Franklin,2004; D. W. Sue, 2004)."
I know there will be more than a few white people reading this, already getting set to roll their eyes all over their heads because "now that they can't find real racism, they gotta go make up this 'racial microaggression' bull!" The term sounds juuuust a bit dramatic to me too, and I'm a black psychologist so trust me -- I have used my share of "weird" terminology. But before folks just reflexively dismiss this as "P.C., bleeding heart liberal, Rainbow Coalition" shenanigans, I hope they at least consider WHY such a phenomenon couldn't exist? It's easy to say, "oh that's just baloney," but tell me why it's baloney.
Receiving this article from American Psychologist serendipitously occurred at the end of a week during which allegations of police brutality against a young black boy inspired many an exasperated citizen-neighbor to vent on talk radio shows and porches. More frustrating was hearing two black women, one from N.O. and another from Metairie, consecutively tell two remarkably disgusting and frightening stories about run-ins with local officers only to be followed by a white male police officer who was obviously feeling a bit demoralized and shocked that his fellow officers could do such a thing.
That was his sentiment at first anyways.
You could almost hear him processing his disappointment in some law enforcers' behaviors. Then he said, "Those stories are SO frightening and just awful, I have a hard time believing all of it." Granted, a normal reaction when most are given shocking news. That opinion then quickly became, "I really don't think everything in those womens' stories were true." But why?
Aside from the issue of how white people feel they can give authoritative answers regarding the existence of discrimination, a minority who alleges discrimination has to bear the burden of proof to be believed, yet frustrated white people are often let off the hook with maybe an anecdote and data that's usually more perception ("Mexicans are moving in all around here") than fact ("Three Latino families moved into 3 houses in a1000-home subdivision - and 2 of those 3 families are actually the American born descendants of mid-century Puerto Rican immigrants").
Anyway, this article nicely lays out what racism looks like these days, and why most white people can't see it. Are minorities overly sensitive about race? Probably. Most people who've endured traumatic things get touchy when one mentions or does something related to such a painfully negative situation. (So even if you think it's all just in our heads, this should at least answer that age old question: 'Why are you people so angry?") The main audience of this article is counseling professionals, but anyone who can read or have it read to them will learn something beneficial (in my opinion). If not, then ask yourself why the odds are such that you are right; and then maybe even consider why it is impossible for racist interactions to occur so much?
"Most White Americans experience themselves as good, moral, and decent human beings who believe in equality and democracy. Thus, they find it difficult to believe that they possess biased racial attitudes and may engage in behaviors that are discriminatory (D. W. Sue, 2004). Microaggressive acts can usually be explained away by seemingly nonbiased and valid reasons."
More Excerpts from American Psychologist, D.W. Sue et al., 2007:
Microinvalidations are characterized by communications
that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts,
feelings, or experiential reality of a person of color. When
Asian Americans (born and raised in the United States) are
complimented for speaking good English or are repeatedly
asked where they were born, the effect is to negate their
U.S. American heritage and to convey that they are perpetual
foreigners.When a Latino couple is given poor service at a restaurant
and shares their experience with White friends, only to be
told “Don’t be so oversensitive” or “Don’t be so petty,” the
racial experience of the couple is being nullified and its
importance is being diminished.
White Americans tend to believe that minorities are doing better in life, that discrimination is on the decline, that racism is no longer a significant factor in the lives of people of color, and that equality has been achieved. More important, the majority of Whites do not view themselves as racist or capable of racist behavior. Minorities, on the other hand, perceive Whites as (a) racially insensitive, (b) unwilling to share their position and wealth, (c) believing they are superior, (d) needing to control everything, and (e) treating them poorly because of their race. People of color believe these attributes are reenacted everyday in their interpersonal interactions with Whites, oftentimes in the form of microaggressions (Solo´rzano et al., 2000). For example, it was found that 96% of African Americans reported experiencing racial discrimination in a one-year period (Klonoff & Landrine, 1999), and many incidents involved being mistaken for a service worker, being ignored, given poor service, treated rudely, or experiencing strangers acting fearful or intimidated when around them (Sellers & Shelton, 2003).