Topic 1 Microaggressions as evidence of unconscious stereotyping

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a microagression as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalised group (such as a racial minority)”.

Case study:
A digital photo project run by a Fordham University student about “racial microaggressions” features minority students holding up signs with comments like “You’re really pretty … for a dark-skin girl.“ — Jinnie Spiegler

Video resource
What kind of Asian are you?

by Chester Pierce and colleagues (Harvard University) in a study of racism in television commercials.

“These are the subtle, stunning, often automatic, and non-verbal exchanges which are ‘put downs’ of blacks by offenders. The offensive mechanisms used against blacks often are innocuous. The   cumulative weight of their never-ending burden is the major ingredient in black-white interactions.”

Microaggression is a term that Dr Derald Wing Sue, professor of counseling psychology at Columbia University and colleagues used in 2007, to describe racist dynamics between white therapists and their clients who are people of colour. They note that microaggressions occur because white people lack awareness of how race affects their biases, stereotypes, behaviour and attitudes, and also because they lack an understanding of the experiences of people of colour.

There are three types of microaggressions that can happen automatically or without a person being aware of the origins and the consequences. 

In an article published in Business Insider 24 July 2020, Christine Mallinson, professor of language, literacy, and culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, wrote:

‘Because microaggressions are often communicated through language, it is very important to pay attention to how we talk, especially in the workplace and other social institutions like classrooms, courtrooms, and so on. Because microaggressions are so subtle, it’s often hard to know if you’re committing one or if you’re on the receiving end’.

In the article there are 14 examples of the most common microaggressions


How to Outsmart Your Own Unconscious Bias

Valerie Alexander

Founder and CEO of Goalkeeper Media

In an interesting talk on TEDx, Valerie Alexander, explains how the human brain instinctively reacts when encountering the unexpected, like saber-toothed tigers or female tech execs, and proposes that if we have the courage to examine our own behaviour when faced with the unfamiliar, we can take control of our expectations, and by doing so, change the world.

The human brain is a remarkable achievement in evolution. Unfortunately, the brain activity that kept the human species alive for millions of years is the same brain activity that keeps us from achieving equality today.

How microaggressions are like mosquito bites • Same Difference

For people that still don’t think microaggresions are a problem: just imagine that instead of being a stupid comment, a microaggression is a mosquito bite.