Microaggression: unintentional racism is still racism

Curlfest celebrates and supports the natural hair movement, reminding us: hair is important to who we are. It’s part of our identity, and it’s public, a statement of our inner feelings. It can be radical, rebellious, conforming, feminine, bold–and about a hundred other things. It’s part of our history. It’s an expression of our present.

Hair may be a target of intense interest, a gaze-drawer. Something a stranger might want to touch.

And that is a pretty good example of microaggression.

Microaggression is a subtle, indirect, often unintentional act or statement directed at members of a marginalized group.

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard these statements or questions:

“Where are you from?”
Here’s how it can be internalized: You are a foreigner in your own country. You don’t really belong.

“You speak English very well.”
Here’s what someone might think: Minority populations are not articulate.

“I don’t see color. I’m color-blind.”
Does that mean: Your color and race aren’t important or worthy.

“America is the land of opportunity.”
Are you saying: Privilege exists everywhere for everyone. 

Here’s something to remember:

Even if I don’t intend to hurt or offend anyone my words can still be a microaggression. It’s not my intent that matters but rather the impact of my words. Which means, I need to think through a few things before I open my mouth:

  • What bias do I bring to the conversation?
    • It doesn’t matter if it’s positive or negative.
  • In what context are my words delivered?
    • Who, what, when, where, why are considerations
  • What perspective does the receiver of my words hold?

Consider this question:

“Would you like a diet Coke?”

How is that statement perceived if we change the recipient of the question? Or the person who delivers it?


If any of these statements are important to you, please keep reading on the subject. The Debater article is a concrete example of microaggression.

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