Recognising and Fighting Microagressions
Updated: Jun 20
The term 'microagressions' was coined by a Black Harvard professor and psychiatrist Dr. Chester Pierce in 1970. He was studying the persistent presence of stigmatising representations of Black people in television. He defined the term as ' subtle, stunning, often automatic and nonverbal exchanges which are 'put-downs' of Black people'. Over time it was established and recognised and used more generally towards any minority. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as 'a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalised group such as a racial or ethnic minority'.
This can be evident in comments made that appear explicitly demeaning to a minority by addressing or highlighting often negative stereotypes connected to a minority but are also destructive in well meant remarks too. Although not intending to be aggressive, the impact of comments that compliment a characteristic often associated with 'whiteness' becomes insulting as it invalidates aspects of the same person that would not be deemed 'white'. This can include phrases like ' wow you're so good at English' or 'I love your hair it's so soft'. The concepts behind these words often stem from supremacy that is unconscious yet continued and strengthened in society through these comments. Why should it be deemed better or more beautiful to have soft hair?