Have you been guilty of paying someone the wrong compliment, AKA an aggression?
Said assault may have been of the “micro” variety, but it was aggressive nonetheless.
So says the UK’s Imperial College London, concerning particular gestures toward people who aren’t privileged.
The heading introduces it aptly: “Microaggressions — What You Should Know.”
“This short online course,” the page states, “is recommended for all Faculty of Engineering staff and students. It provides an introductory and basic overview of” the following:
- What microaggressions are
- Guidance on how to appropriately challenge microaggressions that we witness, experience or commit
- Tools to help create a more inclusive workplace culture
It’s a very different world than just a mere couple decades ago. In the past, we were told words couldn’t hurt us.
If we were once made to believe we were stone, the new science evidently points toward glass.
Therefore, society moves to become increasingly careful.
Imperial College provides a video illustrating the effect of insolent syllables.
They are, the guidance says, “subtle, invisible, and insidious.”
“The thing is, if you’re putting up with microaggressions on a daily basis, it can have a cumulative psychological impact. Not just on you as an individual, but on an organization’s culture.”
“It has been described as ‘Death By a Thousand Cuts.”
The animated clip features cartoon people with stress bolts shooting from their heads after being aggressed.
“Oh, you’re gay! You should meet my friend Jen, she’s gay, too!
“Oh, because I’m gay, I’ll like all gay people?”
Here’s a doozy:
“Great talk! It must be so much harder to give a talk when you’re blind, I’m so impressed.”
“Why be shocked that I can achieve as much as my able-bodied colleagues?”
A further instance: A desk worker demands to see a black woman’s ID, even though he knows she works there.
Plus: A white woman asks if she can touch another woman’s hair because she’s black.
Other insults are listed:
- “You’re so articulate”
- “You speak English so well”
- BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) people are generally not as intelligent as White people.
One major microaggression category is “Color Blindness”:
i.e. statements that indicate that a White person does not want to or need to acknowledge race
- “When I look at you, I don’t see color.”
- “There is only one race, the human race.”
- “All lives matter!”
- Denying the significance of BAME people’s racial/ethnic experience and history
A few other types of insults:
- Sexual objectification
- Assumptions of traditional gender roles
- Assumptions of inferiority
- Use of heterosexist or transphobic terminology
- Discomfort/disapproval of LGBTQ+ experience
- Assumption of sexual pathology and abnormality
- Lack of thought around LGBTQ+ issues
One more transgression in the sexual category is “Assumption of Heterosexuality/Cis Gender”:
- Assuming that someone’s partner is of the opposite sex to them
- Assuming there are no LGBTQ+ people in the room e.g. saying, “We never get any LGBTQ+ people coming to our meetings”
- Assuming pronouns
- LGTBQ+ people are very rare or not normal
- LGBTQ+ people are all instantly identifiable
A final example of a microaggression, per the college, is the “Myth of Meritocracy”:
i.e. statements which assert that race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity etc. do not play a role in life successes
- “I believe the most qualified person should get the job. We need excellence!”
- “Men and women have equal opportunities for achievement.”
- “Gender plays no part in who we hire.”
- “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough.”
- “Positive action is racist.”
- The playing field is even, so if Women/BAME/Disabled/LGBTQ+ people cannot make it, the problem is with them.
- Black people are given extra unfair benefits because of their race.
If I correctly understand the function of a school, if meritocracy is a myth, it seems that all schools should be closed.
A school is, as much as anything can be said to be, founded squarely upon the concept of merit. Otherwise, there can be no such thing as a grade.
Or maybe I’m wrong — and maybe that’s a microaggression.
It’s a very, very different world, indeed.
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