Addressing Racial Microaggressions

Written by Nathan Hall |


As the term "microaggression" becomes more commonplace in professionals settings, we have noticed a tendency for some to focus more on the "micro" part and downplay the "aggression". We have also seen how empowering it has been for certain individuals to acquire language for things that they have always felt, but never knew how to express.

The power of microaggressions lie in their invisibility to the normative group. The perpetrator can always rationalize, justify and defend their behaviour as being anything but racially motivated.

It is also important to note that the term microaggression is kind of a misnomer, because there is nothing small about them. People often hear "micro" and believe that these offenses are less harmful and significant. They categorize microaggressions as a lite version of racism.

There is nothing trivial about microaggressions. Think of micro in the same context as micro and macro economics. Micro just refers to whats happening on the individual level, not the systemic level

Neurologist Dr. Bruce Perry has noted that frequent exposure to microaggressions, being othered and similar "invisible" trauma, has the same biological impression on our brains, and triggers the same stress responses as major traumatic events.

Reducing racism to events that are grotesque enough to make headlines, while belittling the daily trauma is, in and of itself, stress-inducing trauma.

So it's important that we stop trying to stack rank oppressive experiences. They are all manifestations of racism.

The Micropedia

To help you acquire more language and insight into why certain behaviour and comments can feel threatening, or rub you the wrong way, here is a helpful Encyclopedia of common microaggressions.

Each Micropedia entry comes with

  • A definition and explanation as to why it can be problematic
  • Real world examples of the microaggression in use
  • Resources to help you address it.

Do you experience microaggressions at your job? Tell us your story.

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