What Is Microaggression?

Our post on “Microaggression” sure brought in a lot of comments from those who never heard of it, to those who called it “PC nonsense” or simple lack of social grace, to those who have 12306043_sexperienced it or specialize in studying it.

A sample:

Nancy Germond, Owner, Insurance Writer:

“I offer a free White Paper on my website about this very issue, microinequities. Anyone who is interested can simply go to my website and download it free. This is an important topic and rarely discussed because we are often so unaware when we commit them.”

Shauna McGee Kinney:

“The back handed compliment (also known as the “complisult”) is a very common form of passive aggressive behaviour. Maybe the complisult is something that a narcissistic sociopath would use as a tool to stir up drama, and position ones self in the position of (false) authority?

Micro-aggression probably cannon happen without a regular grouping of people. I believe that those “drama queens” are a minority in our functioning social groups at work, church, teams, schools, and homes.

So what about the majority of people? What if we intuitively self-segregate? Could we be instinctually judging others because we are looking for familiarity and social inclusion? By drawing attention to how others do not fit in — the person doing the judging might be suggesting their fit in the larger group.

Maybe micro-agression might be coming from a deeper place in our subconscious?

Micro-agression is leading edge of crowd psychology. That leading indicator that warns us of potentially dysfunctional herd mentality, and exclusion. The group probably is not capable of including you, and it’s easier for the herd to annoy you to the point you leave on your own. While the crowd psychology won’t lead to a riot, it does lead to discrimination.

Here are two common examples of small, aggressive actions I can think of:   The boss who says that was a great presentation — for a junior staff member. You’re not old enough to fit into the position of power. (age discrimination)

The sports team member who says you play well for your age. The team consensus might be you are hurting the team, and you may be left out of future plays, or selected for powerless positions in the team. (age discrimination).”

Christopher’s Mom”:

“When I started practicing law, my older male peers referred to me as a “lady lawyer” – not to distinguish me from a rude breed of lawyers, but rather to highlight the fact that I was an aberration because of my gender. The presumption was turned on its head one day when my then 6 year old son visited the office. I introduced my son, Christopher, to one of the senior partners, explaining that George was also a lawyer. Without missing a beat, Christopher said, “Mom that is silly! Only girls can be lawyers!”

I don’t necessarily view presumptions as aggressive; sometimes they are merely a reflection of a person’s limited exposure to other cultures, races, lifestyles. Because I was my son’s only exposure to lawyers, he naturally thought all lawyers were women – and probably all of them moms, too.

Americans are particularly xenophobic and uneducated in geography, geopolitics and world history and so therefore not attuned, for example, to the huge variety of cultures that are blobbed together in their minds as all being stereotypically “Asian” or “Arab”etc. That is wrong, of course, but not necessarily aggression. Sometimes it is just the ignorance of a six-year-old like mind.”

Lyn Boxall, Singapore-based General Counsel:

“I hadn’t heard of the term micro-aggression before, but I have heard and experienced it. Indeed, it’s not an uncommon experience for a foreigner working in a multinational corporation, though I think it’s at least somewhat the same as the phrase used in the UK, namely ‘damning with faint praise’.

My Singaporean friends are certainly tired of getting comments in the US of ‘you speak such good English’. They’ve mostly not figured out how to reply politely that this is rather natural when they come from an English-speaking country.”

Kimberly Lowe, a business lawyer in Minneapolis-St. Paul:

“Is this really a form of discrimination or just a lack of social skill (or what my Auntie referred to as “social grace”)?  I have seen many relatively intelligent, well-minded and socially sophisticated lawyers stumble over these sort of things.

My own experience in this area has been extensive. Being a socially adjusted (while I have a dog and a cat I am not a cat lady or a crazy person), single white female with no children, no abusive ex-spouse(s) and no all-consuming desire to obtain the same, I am often asked to my face what went wrong or even more frustrating, pitied for my sad and lonely existence (this is typically by female professionals). Several of my married male peers have said to me: “You seem normal enough, why aren’t you married. I always thought there was something wrong with you but now that I know you better I see there isn’t.”

While I have written and ranted about how I am discriminated against, is that really the case? No. I am just not typical and when people encounter me they do not have the social grace to know how to make conversation about something other than personal characteristics. When I encounter this sort of “micro-aggression” I simply respond with an equally inappropriate observation and then move on conversationally. If the microaggressor has any social sophistication, my response should spark a discussion.  Teaching moment.”