Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment (Dr. Derald Wing Sue “Microaggression: More than just race”)

Related terms

micro-affirmations, microassault, microinsults, https://www.brown.edu/sheridan/microaggressions-and-micro-affirmations-0

Not to be confused with overt racism. “Overt racism or explicit racism is the intentional and/or obvious harmful attitudes or behaviors towards another minority individual or group because of the color of his/her skin (Elias, 2015).

  • Includes any speech or behaviors that demonstrate a conscious acknowledgement of racist attitudes and beliefs.
  • Rooted in white supremacy ideology, which it seeks to reinforce and maintain.
  • Distinguished by blatant use of negative attitudes, ideas, actions directed at nonwhite racial groups.
  • Can be practiced by individuals, groups, institutions, and across societies.
  • With the rise of the civil rights movement and passage of civil rights protections, overt racism has become largely taboo in American society (Devine & Elliot, 1995); however recently there has been a rise of overtly racist incidents, such as hate crimes corresponding to the election of President Trump (Williamson & Gelfand, 2019).

Overt racist actions are those that are the easiest to see and describe as racism, unlike the more insidious, or covert forms of racism.” https://fitchburgstate.libguides.com/c.php?g=1046516&p=7619360

Macroaggressions – According to Gorski (2014), macroaggressions are our compliance  in the structures and systems that are meant to exclude, either by action or omission (i.e., not complying with disability rights law). “Macroaggressions are verbal or non-verbal communications that are not only purposeful and deliberate but are meant to create longitudinally debilitating and depressive results in the victim. They are persistent and malicious.” (p. 6)

Osanloo, A. F., Boske, C., & Newcomb, W. S. (2016). Deconstructing macroaggressions, microaggressions and structural racism in education: Developing a conceptual model for the intersection of social justice practice and intercultural education. International Journal of Organizational Theory and Development, 4(1), 1-18.  https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Azadeh_Osanloo/publication/301201502_Deconstructing_Macroaggressions_Microaggressions_and_Structural_Racism_in_Education_Developing_a_Conceptual_Model_for_the_Intersection_of_Social_Justice_Practice_and_Intercultural_Education/links/57e94fc508aef8bfcc9610bc.pdf

Quick Start

You’ve Been Called Out for a Microaggression. What Do You Do?

Examples of Racial Microaggressions

  • Examples of microaggressions across different themes based on Wing, Capodilupo, Torino, Bucceri, Holder, Nadal, Esquilin (2007). Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice. American Psychologist, 62, 4, 271-286
  • University of Minnesota School of Public Health
  • https://sph.umn.edu/site/docs/hewg/microaggressions.pdf

Microaggressions in Everyday Life

Tool: Interrupting microaggressions

Responding to microaggressions and bias

Responding to microaggressions and bias

Video on microaggressions from Linkedin Learning


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