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What to know about microaggressions

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What is a microaggression?

A microaggression is a comment or action that negatively targets a marginalised person or group. A microaggression can be intentional or accidental. It is a form of discrimination.
The person sending the message may not realise that it is a microaggression. In some cases, a microaggression can be disguised as a compliment. Microaggression can be:
1. Racial
2. Sexist
3. Misogynistic
4. Heterosexist

Types of microaggression

Verbal: A common or question that is stigmatising to a marginalised group or person (e.g. ‘you're so smart for a woman')
Behavioural: Behaving in a way that is discriminatory to a marginalised person or group (e.g. when a waiter ignores a transgender and serves a cisgender person instead)
Environmental: Subtle discriminations that occur within societies (e.g. when a college campus only has buildings named after people of a certain race)

Classifications of microaggression:

1.

Microassault: Behaves in a discriminatory way while not intending to be offensive

2.

Microinsults: This is a comment or action that is unintentionally discriminatory

3.

Microinvalidations: When a person’s comment invalidates or undermines the experiences of a marginalised group

Link between microagressions and implicit bias

Microaggressions are a subtle form of prejudice. Implicit bias is the unconscious prejudice in favour of or against one person or group.
Microaggressions are often an expression of implicit bias. However, if a person understands that their comments or actions are microaggressions and continues behaving in the same way, the prejudice they express is explicit bias.

How to avoid commiting microaggressions

1.

Listen to the person receiving the microaggression and empathise with their feelings

2.

Try not to be defensive or dismiss the person’s feelings

3.

Take responsibility for any underlying bias held toward certain groups

4.

Take steps to become more educated and understanding

5.

Commit to changing microaggressive behaviours

What to do if someone commits a microaggression

1.

Respond to the microaggression if it's safe to do so

2.

Discuss the incident briefly and arrange to discuss it with the person again later

3.

Let the person know how the microaggression made you feel and why it is significant

4.

Criticise the microaggression, not the person

5.

Take care of yourself by seeking social support and self-care techniques

6.

Avoid taking on work related to marginalisation

7.

Call out the microaggression

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