Microaggression is a term used for a brief and common daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental minor, whether intentionally or unintentionally, that communicates a hostile, degrading, or negative attitude towards stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups.
Many scholars and social commentators have criticized the concept of subtle aggression for its lack of scientific basis, over-reliance on subjective evidence, and promoting psychological fragility.
- As per the critics –
Critics argue that avoiding behaviors that a person interprets as subtle aggression restricts their freedom and causes emotional self-harm and subtle offense. Dr. D.W. Sue, who popularized the term microaggressions, expressed skepticism about how the concept was being used: “I was concerned that those who use these examples would take them out of context and use them in an exemplary way instead, use them as punishments.”
How Common is Microaggression?
Microaggressions are common, everyday small talk and comments that pertain to various intersections of one’s identity such as gender, race, ethnicity, and age, among other aspects. They are thought to spring from unconsciously held prejudices and beliefs, which can be displayed consciously or unconsciously through daily verbal interactions. While these communications generally seem harmless to observers, they are considered a form of covert racism or everyday discrimination.
Microaggressions differ from what Pierce refers to as “microaggressions”, which are more extreme forms of racism (such as lynching or beatings) because of their ambiguity, size, and similarity. Microaggression is experienced by most stigmatized individuals and occurs regularly. These can be especially stressful for those on the receiving end because they are easily rejected by those who do.
The members of the dominant culture can’t be detected because they are often unaware that they are causing harm. Microaggression states that repeat or confirm stereotypes about a minority group or subtly degrade its members.
Such comments project the dominant culture as normal. The minority, as neurotic or pathological, expresses disapproval or discomfort with the minority group, assuming that all minority group members are equal. The existence of discrimination against the minority group seeks to negate the perpetrator’s prejudice or to reduce the real conflict between a minority group and the dominant culture.
Examples of Microaggressions
In conducting two focus groups with Asian-Americans workplace, there are proposed eight different themes of racial microaggression:
- Foreigners in their Land
People believe that people of color (POCs) are foreigners or from another country.
- Description of Intelligence
When POCs are considered intelligent or at a certain level of intelligence based on their race.
- Denial of Racial Reality
When a person asserts that a POC does not face any discrimination, they do not face inequality. This model deals with the idea of ??the minority.
- Seduction of Non-white Women
This stereotypes these Americans as being in the “foreign” category. Based on the media and literature, they are stereotyped based on their physical appearance and their gender.
- Example: Asian-American women portrayed as the submissive or submissive type. Alternatively, she may be depicted or described as the Dragon Lady, Tiger Mom, or Lotus Blossom, using symbols from their cultures. Asian-American men, on the other hand, are portrayed as being weak or vulnerable.
- Refusal to Accept Inter-ethnic Differences
The homogeneity of broad ethnic groups is emphasized and assumed. The speaker ignores interracial differences. Focus groups identified the statement “all Asian-Americans look-alike” as a core notion for this theme. Similarly, the idea that all members of an ethnic minority group speak the same language or have similar values ??or culture falls under this topic.
- Distorting Cultural Values/Communication Styles
When the cultures and values ??of Asian Americans are seen as less desirable, for example, many in focus groups felt deprived of the expectation of verbal participation in school and college classes when Asian cultural norms value silence. Because of this discrepancy, many Asian-Americans felt that they were being forced to conform to Western cultural norms to be academically successful.
- Second-class Citizenship
This theme emphasizes that people of color are considered lesser beings and are not treated equally or presented as a priority.
- Example: A Korean man walks into the bar and asks for a drink, but the bartender ignores the man when he serves a white man first.
This topic focuses on the idea that Asian Americans are considered invisible or external discussions of race and racism. According to some focus group members, recent discourse on race in the United States has often focused only on issues between whites and blacks, excluding Asian-Americans.
In a 2017 peer-reviewed review of the literature, Scott Lilienfeld criticized micro-aggression research, which hardly progressed beyond taxonomy such as the above, proposed by Sue about ten years ago. Recognizing the reality of “subtle insults and insults directed toward minorities”, Lillianfeld concluded that the concept and program for its scientific evaluation “are too underdeveloped on the conceptual and methodological fronts to warrant real-world application.
It recommends the abandonment of the term microaggression because “the use of the root word ‘aggression’ in ‘microaggression’ is conceptually confusing and misleading”. In addition, he called for a moratorium on micro-attack training programs until further research could develop the area.
The key researchers behind the micro-attack theory “reject the methodology and standards of modern science.” She lists various technical shortcomings of micro-aggression research, including “biased interview questions, reliance on narrative and a low number of respondents, credibility problems, replication issues, and overlooked alternative explanations.”
Effects of Microaggression
The detrimental impact of racial micro-crimes on emotional and bodily health is beginning to be demonstrated, according to a 2013 scholarly assessment of the research on micro-criminals. These are mostly correlated and based on self-report and recollection. Based, making it impossible to tell if racial microaggressions have a detrimental impact on health and, if so, how. These claims were later addressed in the same journal in 2020, where such concerns were deemed largely unfounded.
Microaggression has been linked to several mental health problems. Over the past decade, an increasing number of scientific reports have found an association between the cumulative effects of subtle aggression and negative consequences, including stress, generalized anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, psychological distress, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and even Suicide too.
Recipients of microaggression may feel anger, hopelessness, or exhaustion. African-Americans have described experiencing pressure to “represent” their group or “behave white” by suppressing their cultural history.
Over time, the cumulative effect of subtle attacks is thought to lead to low self-confidence and a poor self-image for individuals, and potentially to mental-health problems such as depression, anxiety, and trauma. Many researchers have argued that subtle aggression is more harmful than obvious manifestations of bigotry because they are smaller and therefore often overlooked or underestimated, causing the victim to feel self-doubtful to pay attention or react.
To tackle these kinds of situations like microaggressions, harassments, etc., it is important to conduct training sessions. Expert training can prepare you to manage any kind of conflicts that arise in the workplace. Impactly offers training that is focused on bringing a healthy workplace free from any type of biases and microaggressions.