What Are Microaggressions And Are You Committing Them?
Your subtle stereotypes are stressing me out.
Two weeks ago during its opening weekend, I took a trip to the movies to see Get Out. I was excited to see it but was pleasantly surprised by the mixed crowd that came out in droves. I was just sure that it was only going to be black people in attendance. So, my first thought was “Will they be able to relate to the issues in this movie?” My second thought was “GOOD, now they can learn about the annoying things they do and say on the regular basis that blows my mind.” I walked into a crowded theater and had no choice but to sit down next to a group of white kids (their race will become relevant later, just hold on) and I just hoped they wouldn’t talk or be on their phones the entire film.
Thankfully they weren’t on their phones, but I did find it somewhat stressful when they didn’t understand the issue with Rose's father’s love for Obama being the only reason race wasn’t important to him. Believe it or not, all black people don’t love Obama and I’m sure you can love him and be racist. That in itself may have been a microaggression. Nevertheless, I figured this probably could’ve been a teaching moment had we not been in an atmosphere that wasn’t conducive to conversation. So, for the little white boy that whispered “What’s wrong with that?” this is for you.
According to dictionary.com, the definition of a microaggression is a subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other nondominant group that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.
Dean reiterating his daughter’s words expressing his love for former President Barack Obama after speaking about why they have two black people working for them makes us cringe! Your love for one person of an entire demographic doesn’t excuse any treatment towards the rest of that same demographic. Just like having a mother won’t excuse you from being a misogynist. Sorry Billy, your black best friend isn’t enough anymore. You won’t get a pass.
Here is a list of some of the other microaggressions white people commit against black people:
– Putting your hands in someone’s natural hair
– Locking car doors because you see a black man
– Clutching a purse when walking past a group of black people
– Telling someone they do something well for a black person (dress well, speak well, etc.)
– Assuming a lower occupation of someone because their black
– Claiming you don’t see color
The list goes on, honestly. Many people would deem these things as mistakes but when they happen multiple times to people of color around the world, it’s not by chance. The times of allowing ignorance to be an excuse are definitely in the past.
While typically, microaggressions are used towards black people from white people, we do it to one another much too often. I’ve had to tell people of all races not to put their dirty hands in my hair! Sorry black people, you don’t get a pass either! Please ask first!
Here are some of the other microaggressions we (black people) commit against one another:
– Using light-skin jokes (about curving suitors, not responding to text messages, etc.)
– Being surprised about someone’s beauty because of the saturation of their melanin (“You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl”)
– Telling someone they have “good hair” because of their curl pattern
– Assuming someone is of mixed race because of their lack of melanin
– Taking away someone’s black card because they don’t meet your requirements of blackness
– Believing all black people are Democrats
As before, the list goes on. All people (myself included) are guilty of committing microaggressions. What matters now is that we recognize it, learn from it, and correct it.
You can start today by thinking twice before you say or do anything discriminatory. If you’re not sure, refer to the list above, then Google or just ask. If you don’t feel comfortable asking, you probably have no business saying whatever you had on your mind. To the little white boy from the theater: I hope you read this and learned why we all sigh when you make sure to tell me Oprah is your fave.