The true dangers of Microaggressions

A few years ago, whilst I was still at school, one of my closest friends came up to me and said “you will not believe what just happened to me”. She went on to tell me about how she had been stopped by someone who asked her a question that, if you are a person of colour, will most likely make your eyes roll: WheRE aRe YOu fRoM. When she proceeded to tell this man that she was from London, his reply unfortunately reflected an experience that many Black women face. He told my friend that she was lying. Why? Because she is Black, and to him, you could not possibly be Black and British. At the time, all we could do was laugh, how could this man tell her she was wrong about her own nationality? It was not until recently that I realised that this is just one example of a microaggression, one that she has since experienced daily. A few years later, I was on a night out with another of my best friends. A guy was talking to her and I saw her shake her head and laugh out of annoyance. When we were alone again I asked why she was shaking her head, she told me the guy was attempting to ‘flirt’ with her by saying “You know, I’ve never been with a Black girl before. For many of you reading this, you may not understand the complete extent to which these two experiences are so derogatory and offensive. And that is one of the main reasons why microaggressions are such a serious problem that have some of the greatest consequences.

Microaggressions are defined by Derald W. Sue as “The everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that...those who are marginalized experiences in their day-to-day interactions with people”. What makes microaggressions so dangerous is the fact that they are so subtle, and often done subconsciously, so they become normalised. They are often said without qualms for those who do it, and often the impact that years of microaggressions have on those who are victim to it, are dangerously unacknowledged. Many groups experience microaggressions, this of course includes, (but is not limited to) black men, and non-black women, however, there is something slightly more unnerving and worrying about the microaggressions Black women are subject to. These microaggressions seek to insult Black women for both their gender and their race; many are misogynoir microaggressions.