The Science Behind Handling Microaggressions*

Clairesideye

*hint: there is none. 

Last year, my alma mater launched a campaign entitled “Language Matters”, focusing on the hyperpresence of microaggressions and providing a step-by-step guide to conscious word use. The presentation was, for lack of a better word, poppin, using a fancy Prezi and informative, sometimes humorous videos to tackle the issues of misgendering, racial/ethnic microaggressions and sexist comments. I was a fan of the presentation, and so were my professors and organization advisors apprerently because by the end of the year, I had participated in at least four of those trainings. One of the biggest takeaways was that they were called microaggressions for a reason; small enough to be overlooked as offensive comments or actions but large enough to have an emotional impact on those on the receiving end.

Having been someone who has been on the receiving end of countless microaggressions, the ones easiest to recall being a direct result of my skin color or “foreign” name, the training hit home. At this point in my college career, however, my interactions with people were incredibly calculated. All my extracurricular activities were social justice related, so I was surrounded by people who got it. My friend circle was filled with folks that incorporated “they” into their vocabularies to avoid misgendering folks, people who made a conscious effort to understand and respect the demographics of the New Brunswick community. People I felt safe around. No one really prepared me for the life of microaggressions outside of the undergrad bubble.

Four-odd months after graduating and I’m exhausted.

I’ve been considering how people claim that grows comes from discomfort, and what that means for marginalized peoples that are forced into oppressive spaces for the sake of “diversity”. I’ve also been considering what diversity means when we’re unwilling to have real conversations about who holds the bulk of power in today’s society (i.e. white cis men. Fact, not an assumption like the facilitator of a recent diversity training tried to tell me). I’ve been considering my role as a girl that adds racial and ethnic diversity to white spaces but who never feels comfortable enough having the conversations I want to have for the sake of disrupting group dynamics. But mostly, I’ve been struggling with not popping off about every single microaggression I face and learning to pick my battles. Quite honestly, there are some groups that have the privilege of voicing their discomfort more than others. When women voice themselves, they are immediately categorized as radical feminists. When we are Black, the angry Black woman cloud engulfs us. When we are queer-identified, divisive.

If growth means learning how to silence myself before others do, I’m growing. I most certainly am growing.

While having a conversation with someone about the racial microaggressions we’ve experienced, it dawned on me how truly draining it is to carry the weight of all the comments we’ve let slide for the sake of maintaining decorum. How oftentimes when we speak up, we’re met with apathetic attitudes, causing us to wonder why we even spoke up in the first place.

Quite frankly, it’s hard.

I’d like to turn this post into some sort of a forum for my other marginalized peeps that have been struggling. What are some best practices to avoid that feeling of exhaustion from microaggressions? Is it even avoidable? Please feel free to comment below.

Yours in tired,

Fullamusu

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