Racism is a disgusting reality of the world in which we live, and it’s been alive since almost the beginning of time. Although racism is so prevalent, somehow a majority of people claim they cannot possibly be racist just because they wouldn't judge someone on the color of their skin. Yet, what many Americans do not understand is that racism goes beyond yelling the N-word whilst wearing a white sheet and hood.
Let me introduce you to this term called “microaggressions." This concept was coined by a Harvard professor in 1970. By definition, it means (get ready for it), "The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target people based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”
In other words—low-key racism.
It’s racism that is so low-key that the people doing it do not even realize how racist it actually is. This casual racism is so embedded in our minds and institutionalized in our society that we can’t even see anything wrong with it.
Still confused? No worries! Let me give you some examples that people of color probably receive on a day-to-day basis. It may clear some things up.
"You're really pretty for an Indian* girl!"
This is my personal favorite. Let me translate the underlying message for you: It is rare to find a pretty Indian girl since the entire ethnicity is ugly. I used to smile politely at this backhanded compliment, but now I just pretend I’m on "The Office" and stare into an imaginary camera.
*Replace “Indian” with any other ethnicity, race, skin color, body size, sexuality, etc.
"So, like, what are you?"
This is probably the most common. Like, are you kidding? If you see a person and can’t put a finger on what ethnicity he/she is--do not ask this question! They’re human. They’re not a “what." Instead, try to ask, “What is your ethnicity?” Or if you know they are not American then ask, “What’s your nationality?” (but make sure they’re not American, because when said to a fellow American, it is as if they are an alien in their own country. I was born in America; I am just as American as you are).
"He only got that grade because he's Asian!"I’m sure you have all heard this sitting in a classroom desk at one point in your life--whether in your sixth-grade math class or talking about the SATs. This statement takes a stereotype of a race and allows it to degrade a person's hard work and intellect.
"Why do you talk white?"/"You act so white!"/"You don't act like a normal black person."
I’m not even going to comment on this. Except: how the f*** do you TALK white?
"You know, you're in America. You don't have to wear that scarf over your head. It's okay."
Let me set something straight: A Muslim woman wearing a hijab is not oppressed. Do not think you are a saint trying to liberalize her.
“So, what are you? Mexican? Oh, Colombian? Same thing.”
This literally diminishes a person’s identity, their culture, and their background’s history (especially if you are one of those people who say you’re one percent Swiss).
"I'm colorblind. I don't see race. There is only one race, the human race."
Why can’t you see race? Is there something wrong with different races that they should be overlooked as if they're a problem? Instead of denying a piece of someone’s identity, try to acknowledge the significance of their race and how it has affected their experiences and everyday life. Acknowledge color, but do not treat people differently based on it. Appreciate the differences and diversities of the world.
Getting upset/mocking the new emoji update with different skin tones.
Why should white be the default race? Why can’t people of color have representation in freakin' emojis?!
“I’m not racist, I have black friends!”
This does not mean anything; there is no correlation. Oh, and by the way, having a black friend does not give you the OK to say the N-word if you are not black.
Microaggressions do not solely apply to race or ethnicity. It can apply to gender and sexual identity. Here are some examples:
“Meet any boys in college?”
Every girl has heard this from her family when she comes home for break. As if meeting a boy is the top priority in college, and not receiving an education.
When someone calls transgender men or women by their birth name.
Yes, accidents happen. But when the wrong name is consistently used, it is disrespectful to someone’s identity. So, just apologize and make an actual effort! Simple.
When a female doctor is mistaken for a nurse.
It’s 2016. Women can obtain high-positioned careers, not only nurturing ones. Also, men can obtain nurturing careers without it being emasculating.
“So who, in this homosexual relationship, is the man and who is the woman? Haha!”
By saying this, you are promoting heteronormativity. Same gendered relationships do not have men-women roles (whatever that means). Being gay does not make a man less of a man and being a lesbian does not make a woman less of a woman.
“She’s so bossy. What a b*tch.”
If a woman is assertive, she is automatically labeled a b*tch. When a man is assertive, he is a leader. There is no logic in this. Trust me.
Now that you hopefully understand what a microaggression is, you may start to recognize when one has occurred and the underlying message it may send. The intent of these statements and behaviors may not be malicious, but it is still insulting. Although this is not necessarily blatant racism, it definitely can lead to it. The intent may different from the impact.
This isn’t about being politically correct or about how "people are so easily offended these days." It’s about diminishing ignorance and educating yourself in order to remove the prejudice attitudes that are prevalent in our country. It’s about removing stereotypes, racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia from our society. It’s about respecting other human beings. A little sensitivity in humans will eventually make us, well, more humane.