Blog > challenges of diversity

Part 1 The microaggressions: How to address them and when to withdraw

Part 1 The microaggressions: How to address them and when to withdraw

Microaggressions are characterised as verbal, behavioural, and environmental insults that convey hostile, disparaging, or unfavourable racial slights and insults to the target person or group. They are present in every aspect of Black people's daily life and employment. You have three options for your response: ignore it, bring it up later, or call it out right away. Here is a framework for selecting the best course of action and for handling the conversation, should you decide to have one. Decide what is important to you first. The second step is to neutralise the offender by clarifying that you wish to have an awkward discussion. Third, ask them to clarify their words or actions before bringing up the consequences. Decide how you want to allow the situation effect you, and then do it. close

 

People are finally having honest conversations in the workplace and around the world about racism, justice, diversity, equality, and inclusion. People are finally having honest conversations in the workplace and around the world about racism, justice, diversity, equality, and inclusion. That's positive news that should encourage both individuals and organisations to take significant anti-racist action. However, those conversations will almost certainly make people feel extremely uneasy. This is true not only for white employees and leaders who may be confronting their privilege for the first time, but also for people of colour, especially Black Americans, who are aware that being open with their peers will require them to either confront or call out "microaggressions."

 

These are instances where someone unintentionally (or on purpose) says or implies something insulting or insensitive.This is when someone says or implies something insulting or hurtful, either by accident or on purpose. Microagressions are characterised as verbal, behavioural, and environmental insults that convey hostile, disparaging, or unfavourable racial slights and insults to the target person or group. They are present in every aspect of Black people's daily life and employment. Here are a few seemingly unimportant remarks that can be very harmful when considered in the context of racist presumptions and prejudices.

  • "I don't see colour when I look at you," (indicates that the other person is unaware of your race or won't hold it against you.)
  • "The human race is our only true race." (implying that your experience is the same as that of persons of other races while being Black)
  • You are very well spoken. (indicates that Black people are typically unable to hold a coherent, intelligent discussion)
  • You have enormous hair today, I notice! Are you going to the client meeting wearing it like that? (indicates that naturally curly Black hairstyles are not appropriate)
  • Everyone who puts forth enough effort can prosper in society. (indicates that inequities in outcomes for Black people are due to laziness)

 

 

As the name implies, microaggressions are minor offences that, when added up over time, can negatively affect an employee's experience, physical health, and psychological well-being. In fact, research shows that subtle forms of discrimination, like microaggressions, can be just as hurtful as overt forms.

 

Microaggressions strengthen white privilege and damage an inclusive culture. Of course, raising awareness of microaggressions, demanding that non-Black employees cease using them, and exposing offenders are the greatest solutions. In the absence of those changes—and with the knowledge that perfect prevention is probably impossible—how should Black workers and managers, both inside and outside of the current racial diversity conversations in the workplace, respond to the microaggressions they experience?

 

Three main responses are possible:

Release it. The most typical default response was to ignore disrespectful comments made at work for a very long period. Because they are so common and sneaky, it can be hard on the emotions to deal with them. Black employees, however, are emotionally burdened by silence, which leaves them perplexed as to what occurred and why, doubting their right to be offended, and reinforcing ideas that they are vulnerable to identity depreciation at work.

React without delay. This way, the mistake can be pointed out and the consequences can be talked about while everyone's memories of what happened are still fresh. This way, the mistake can be pointed out and the consequences can be talked about while everyone's memories of what happened are still fresh. The ability to remediate poor behaviour quickly is crucial. However, this strategy carries some danger. The victim may feel as though they "lost control," did not present themselves in the best light, and will be branded as an excessively sensitive whiner, a troublemaker, or the archetypal angry Black person if the offender becomes defensive.

React later. A more reasonable approach would be to explain the offence caused by the microaggression to the offender in private at a later time. The time lag in this situation is the risk. A follow-up conversation needs to help the person who made the microaggression remember it and then understand what it meant. A follow-up conversation needs to help the person who made the microaggression remember it and then understand what it meant. The Black employee who brought it up can be seen as being petty, such as someone who has been holding onto "small things" or harbouring anger while the other person has gone on after having "meant no harm." Such charges are a sort of racial gaslighting, which can be extremely harmful.

 

We advise using the framework below to decide which course of action is best for you in any particular circumstance and, if you choose to react, to make sure that the conversation flows smoothly.

 

Discern

You should decide how much you are willing to devote to correcting the microaggression. Feel empowered to react when you choose to, rather than feeling obligated to do so after every occurrence. Consider:

 

  • The significance of the problem and the connection Avoidance is not the best strategy if one or both are important to you. When you stand up for yourself, do it in a way that shows that you care about the situation and the other person.

     

  • Your emotions. The authenticity of your responses may be questioned as a result of microaggressions. Whether it's anger, disappointment, irritation, annoyance, perplexity, embarrassment, fatigue, or another emotion, allow yourself to feel what you're feeling. When deciding if, how, and when to respond, it is important to think about how you feel. When dealing with stronger negative emotions like anger, it's often best to deal with the situation later. An immediate reaction can be preferred if you're confused. If you're simply exhausted from the stress of working while black, it's best to let it go. This is true for you, not the offender.

     

  • What impression you want to make both now and in the future. Both speaking up and keeping quiet have negative effects. Only you can decide which matters more to you in a given circumstance.

 

Disarm

Be prepared to disarm the perpetrator if you decide to address a microaggression. We avoid discussions on race because, among other things, they make people defensive. Microaggression offenders frequently worry about appearing racist or, even worse, being exposed as such. Tell them that while what they just said or did might be difficult for them, it was uncomfortable for you. As you examine the causes of their actions, invite them to sit next to you in the awkwardness of their words or actions.

 

Defy

Ask the offender to explain their words or actions. Ask a pointed query, like, "How do you mean that?" As they analyse what occurred, this gives people a chance to examine themselves. Additionally, it allows you to determine the perpetrator's motives more accurately. Microaggressions are often hurtful without being meant to be. This is because one of the best things about being privileged is that you don't have to be aware of it. Microaggressions are often hurtful without being meant to be. One of the best things about being privileged is that you don't have to be aware of it. Recognise that you accept their intentions as you have presented them, but change the conversation to focus on how the microaggression made you feel. Describe your original interpretation of it and why. Remind them that you appreciate their readiness to define their intent and hope they would appreciate your willingness to clarify their impact if they continue to claim that they "didn't mean it like that."

 

Decide

You decide what you will get from the contact and what you will let it take away from you in terms of what this episode means for your life and career. Black people already face discriminatory expectations and evaluations at work, along with those who identify with various other marginalised and intersectional identities. Life is already difficult enough without letting little irritations get to you. Let your strongest and most tenacious act of resistance be safeguarding your delight.

 

A word of wisdom for both old and new non-Black allies: The work of an ally is challenging. As you learn, you will make mistakes, and you will always be learning. Here are some guidelines on how to react for those who have been accused of microaggressions or are counselling someone who has.

 

Keep in mind that affect does not trump intent.

Without holding them accountable for your enrichment, try to comprehend the experiences of your Black peers, superiors, and subordinates.

When your Black coworkers choose to express their thoughts, pay attention to them; don't argue against them or act defensively. and that you most likely contributed to its creation.

Although more businesses support open dialogue about race in the workplace, we cannot dismiss the past discrimination that black workers have faced for speaking up. Cultural change requires effort and time. Therefore, even if we support timely and informed conversation about microaggressions, it is ultimately up to each person to react in a way that is true to who they are and how they want to be seen.