Microaggressions: Racism in the 21st Century

(Editor’s Note – Happy Valentine’s Day! We’ll be back later this afternoon with gifts you could get your sweetheart any time of the year.)

Though blatant/explicit racism has been deemed “politically incorrect” in our society and is thus generally frowned upon, racism is deeply ingrained in our culture, and practiced (whether consciously or unconsciously) by all of us. Much of current racism/sexism/ethnocentricism now takes place via “microaggressions,” the subtle interactions that normalize the implicit hierarchal order of our society.

Microaggressive statements reiterate the dominant idea that the heterosexual, white, middle-class, capitalistic model is the universal “right way” to live and be, of which all variation is inferior (less than). Research suggests that “microaggressions” are the most harmful because they are often defended and cast off as “no big deal,” “it was a joke,” or in many instances, the person committing the microaggressive act is oblivious to its oppressive/offensive content.

Examples include: “Yeah, he’s black on the outside, but he’s white inside” (therefore suggesting being black on the inside is unacceptable); “there is only one race, the human race” (therefore failing to recognize and/or respect racial/cultural differences); “He only got into college because of affirmative action” (therefore he is not a credible student); “I’m not racist, I have black friends” (suggesting that simply befriending people of a different race cleanses you of racism); and dismissing people of color’s experiences within this racist culture (i.e. “why does he always have to bring up that he’s black, I’m white, you never hear me talking about it”).

February is Black History Month, and it is important that we look within us for our own racist/sexist/classist/ethocentrist/xenophobic tendencies. Here is an excellent video that illustrates microaggressions in action, and the harmful effects they have on those who experience them:

Most people do not consciously choose to be racist/sexist/classist/xenophobic, but have unfortunately grown up in a culture that systematically teaches it. Racism and discrimination will continue as long we keep kicking it down the road with our “politically correct” boot. Think about it. Better yet, talk about it.

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