Identifying & Addressing Microaggressions

A proactive approach to managing concerns regarding harmful forms of discrimination and bias.

What Are Microaggressions?

Microaggressions are subtle statements, actions, or incidents that form discrimination towards a marginalized group. These can be both unintentional and intentional forms of discrimination, that cause emotional or physical discomfort or harm to the marginalized group.

Microaggressions are often deeply embedded in a system or an individual’s beliefs, experiences, or cultural surroundings. Education around understanding the presence of microaggressions as being enmeshed in our lives, can help us understand the attention needed in identifying when it is happening.

Harms of Microaggression.

The harmful nature of microaggressions is that they have historically gone unmanaged, unnoticed, or completely disregarded. The negative outcomes of these aggressions is that it leads to members of the community feeling undervalued, unsafe, or uncomfortable. These aggressions are associated with increased anxiety and depression, low-esteem, and suicidal ideation.

When we exclude, disregard, or ignore the harmful impact of microaggressions, we are ensuring that a portion of the population remains marginalized or devalued. This type of mistreatment leads to higher levels of burnout, mental health concerns, and interpersonal obstacles.

These microaggressions put the target of these aggressions on the defense, which does not promote autonomy, wellness, or equality in any setting.

Identifying Microaggressions.

Since many of the aggressions are deeply embedded, the first step is identifying your biases. Where do we harbor beliefs or associations that are harmful to another target individual that is different than ourselves? How often do I cast judgment on others and in what settings? What beliefs do I have that could potentially be harmful to another target or population?

The goal here is to bring the microaggressions into the light and to increase awareness around when they happen and how to address them moving forward.

What Can I Do to Make Change?

Once you have identified where these microaggressions occur and begin to recognize the frequency in which the happen all around us, we can begin to make a change. Becoming more cultural competent and aware can allow for individuals to feel more comfortable with approaching topics head on.

How are the biases you hold creating emotional or physical distance from those around you? How can you adapt or better understand the source of this bias to promote connection?

Hold others around you accountable too. When you notice yourself or someone else making a joke or comment about someone’s accent, name, or cultural practices, take a moment to pause and reflect. Question in the integrity of the comments being made, and highlight how these harmful statements may be a greater reflection of your own discomfort or biases. Often, microaggressions are bred out of a lack of understanding or cultural awareness around those who present differently from ourselves. Are these statements, jokes, or nuances true or are they due to lack of understanding or context of someone else?

Intentional conversations about equality, inclusion, and diversity is an important step towards bringing awareness to everyone. The more comfortable we can get having conversations around identifying microaggressions, the greater the chances of decreasing how often these aggressions are present.

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