The Best Examples of Microaggressions in 2022

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What are microaggressions?

Opponents of diversity, equity, and inclusion will often cite the myth of meritocracy as the only determining factor in social standing. These individuals will often claim that a white man and an African American have the same opportunities, that English is the official language of the United States, or that sexism doesn’t exist. 

These opponents couldn’t be further from the truth, and microaggressions prove that none of those claims are accurate. 

Microaggressions are everyday slights or put-downs that negatively target marginalized groups or individuals. They may often seem unintentional or appear as a compliment, but microaggressions only highlight the implicit bias many people harbor. 

Microaggressions are harmful to mental health. They impact people of color, those with disabilities, and individuals that identify as LGBTQ. In this article, we review the types of microaggressions, how to classify them, and the various forms they can take. 

You can take steps to eliminate microaggressions in your workplace, organization, or learning institute by obtaining a diversity coach certification through CoachDiversity Institute. 

Types of Microaggressions

Microaggressions are harmful slights against people of marginalized groups. But microaggressions come in various shapes and sizes, each carrying its own deadly payload of discrimination and invalidation of cultural values.

Verbal

Verbal forms of microaggressions involve oral comments or questions that are hurtful or stigmatizing. It may even seem like these comments or questions are innocent enough, maybe even appearing to be a compliment. However, the actual impact is far from innocent or positive.

An example of a verbal microaggression would be if someone said to an Asian person, “You speak good English.” Not only is this hurtful, but if that person is an Asian American, born and raised in the United States, those comments make people feel like an “alien in own land.”

Behavioral

Behavioral microaggressions are taught behaviors and often convey a message of distrust toward people of color. Behavioral microaggressions take the form of engaging in hurtful actions. These behaviors can even be outright discriminatory. 

Engaging in a behavioral microaggression might be unconscious, like clutching belongings around Black people. Likewise, behavioral microaggressions can be explicit, such as a waiter or bartender ignoring or neglecting to serve a transgender person. Regardless of intent, behaviors hurt. 

Environmental

Environmental or systematic microaggressions are more difficult to challenge because they pervade the very social fabric. These are sometimes subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, forms of discrimination. 

The most common example of environmental microaggressions occurs in naming buildings or monuments. For instance, if campus buildings bear names of only white people instead of various influential persons of color, this is an environmental microaggression. Additionally, monuments dedicated to less than righteous individuals, such as Confederate leaders, show environmental microaggressions.  

Classifications of Microaggressions

Just as there are several types of microaggressions, they also have several classifications that mark the severity of the microaggression. Derald Wing Sue of Columbia University in New York holds significant credit for pushing the definitions and understanding of microaggressions experienced in society. Here are the classifications of microaggressions and what they look like.

Microassaults

Microassults are explicit acts of discrimination that individuals pass off as unintentionally offensive. An excellent example would be if a co-worker tells a racist joke but claims, “I was just joking!”

Microassults do nothing but further hurtful stereotypes. It’s not an ascription of intelligence to tell distasteful jokes. Individuals who rely on this harmful communication style will benefit from an individual coaching program through Coach Diversity Institute, where awareness of implicit bias helps curb microassults.

Microinsults

Microinsults are tricky to recognize, as people who engage in microinsults don’t have discriminatory intent. Instead, microinsults are comments or actions that are unintentionally discriminatory yet communicate hurtful biases all the same. 

Examples of microinsults include telling an Indian doctor that “their people must be so proud.” Statements like these seem like a compliment, but it communicates that marginalized groups are incapable of life successes. 

Microinvalidations

Finding validation is a human experience. However, microinvalidations actively detract from the sense of validity. They are comments or actions that invalidate and undermine ethnic experiences.  

Microinvalidations occur when a white person tells a Black person that racism isn’t an issue or doesn’t exist in our modern world. Unfortunately, these comments work to strengthen systematic discrimination. Regardless of whether you have “Black friends,” you won’t experience the struggles someone who is a racial minority might face. Instead, work to understand those experiences, and you’ll help eliminate microinvalidations. 

Examples of Microaggressions

Like types and classifications of microaggressions, there are several forms of microaggressions that impact various marginalized groups. Recognizing the multiple forms of microaggressions helps bring awareness and ultimately leads to healthier interactions between individuals, especially with the help of Coach Diversity Institute’s programs designed to alter social landscapes into acceptance. 

Racial Microaggressions

Racial microaggressions take place during everyday exchanges and communicate derogatory messages toward people of color. These microaggressions even extend to Americans raised in the United States, where people of color experience treatment akin to a second-class citizen. 

Examples of racial microaggressions include:  

  • Assumption of criminal status. Assuming a person of color is a criminal isn’t just wrong; it’s hurtful. Upstanding citizens come from all ethnicities, including Black, Latino, and Asian. In fact, white people make up 57.6% of the prison population—far more extensive than any marginalized group! 
  • Underrepresenting race in the media. Casting actors of different ethnicities shouldn’t be controversial. Representing people of color in the media helps film and television feel more authentic and supports identity.
  • Denial of individual racism. Racism is alive and, unfortunately, still thrives partly because there is a systematic denial of individual racism. Accepting that racism still exists and is still a problem will help eliminate racial microaggressions. 

Sexist Microaggressions

Sexist microaggressions are gender-based discriminations that reflect prejudice and stereotyping of a person because of their sexual orientation. Sexism doesn’t just occur from men toward women but in various scenarios involving genders, such as gender roles, transgender status, or gender inferiority.  

Sexist microaggressions propagate as individuals assume that sexism doesn’t exist. Cultural competency training from Coach Diversity Institute brings awareness to the fact that sexism does still exist.

Misogynistic Microaggressions

Unlike sexist microaggressions that target all genders, misogynistic microaggressions aim directly at women. These misogynistic microaggressions act upon an ingrained prejudice, general dislike, or full-on contempt for females.  

Generally, misogynistic microaggressions will look much like sexist microaggressions. Perpetrators engage in sexist remarks or jokes, actions of objectification, and an assumption of inferiority. 

Heterosexist Microaggressions

Once upon a time, heterosexist microaggressions had the label “homophobia.” However, heterosexist microaggressions aren’t out of fear but rather sexuality-based discrimination. Examples of heterosexist microaggressions are derogatory terms used toward those in the LGBTQ community. 

In addition to derogatory remarks, heterosexist microaggressions can result in assuming someone’s sexual identity or accusing people of being overly sensitive. It could even be an outright refusal to use someone’s preferred pronouns. 

Reduce Microaggressions at Your Institution with Coach Diversity Institute

Microaggressions come in various forms, and understanding the difference will help curb the discrimination. Whether verbal, behavioral, or environmental, microaggressions impact marginalized groups in multiple ways.

These microaggressions can come in the form of microassaults, where someone is intentionally discriminative, or microinvalidations, which minimalize cultural and ethnic experiences. 

Regardless of their appearance, microaggressions have no place in our modern world. Coach Diversity Institute offers an excellent microaggressions training program perfect for those looking to make a difference. In addition to microaggressions training, Coach Diversity Institute has individual and organization programs designed to create a more inclusive world for everyone!