Microaggressions and why we need to keep talking about racism
It is hard to believe that in times like this people still refuse to accept that racism is STILL “a thing.” Besides Lil Wayne and maybe Kanye West (the jury is still out), most of those people look nothing like me and haven’t spent their lives dealing with racism. In today’s (well pre Trump’s) America, racism doesn’t look like separate water fountains and dogs attacking people in the street.
Racism these days is more subtle. It looks like white women steering their children away from a black man walking down the street or locking their car door when a group of black kids walks by.
What is a Microaggression?
These are comments or actions, often unknowingly, that are prejudiced towards members of marginalized groups.
Examples of Microaggressions:
- “I don’t see color.”
- A White/woman clutching his/her purse or wallet when they see a POC.
- Thinking you can’t be racist because you have friends that are black.
- Calling me “oreo” or saying “you’re black but not like black, black.”
- It’s parents and teachers making the comment, “you’re so well-spoken,” to me like I didn’t go to the same sh*tty public school as their children.
- It’s people you have known less than an hour asking to touch your hair. Sorry Karen, but what makes you comfortable enough to think you can pet me?
One of the worst insults I get is someone telling me I “talk white.” Afterward, I always have so many questions. Seeing that they obviously insulted me they backtrack and tell me it’s not an insult I just sound “proper” or “educated.” Why can I not be both?! I can’t sound proper or educated and sound like a black woman? You take these positive qualities and associate them with white people. Why? Are black people not educated? I’m pretty sure I have tons of student loans so I do my best to sound like it.. when appropriate. I mean, have you people ever heard of Oprah or Michelle Obama?
This is what happens when people aren’t exposed to people of color. Lack of equal representation leaves people ignorant of people that are different than them. I covered the lack of representation in my blog Representation in Mass Media and why it’s so important
Most people don’t think that there is anything wrong with these microaggressions. Because that’s exactly what they are, microaggressions. It’s easy to think this way when you’re not affected by racism every day.
Can you imagine feeling the need to tone down parts of YOU to fit in?
- You don’t have to prove to strangers that you are the “good kind of black person” every time you meet someone new. God forbid I meet someone when I am having a bad day. But I have to go out of my way every day to prove that I am not the “Angry Black woman.”
- Not wearing certain hairstyles or clothing because it makes other people, white people, uncomfortable with your blackness.
- Needing to change the way you talk to get a job or when meeting new people to come across as less threatening.
- Being constantly afraid every time you see the police or even drive into a nice neighborhood.
- Meeting a friend’s parents or family and wondering if they are warned that you’re black.
- Refusing to stop at a gas station in the country fearing that they don’t serve “your kind.”
- Being nervous every time you are in a store because they might THINK you’re stealing. I can’t list the number of things I’ve bought just so store clerks didn’t think I stole something.
I had a college friend who wasn’t allowed to date black guys because her grandma would disown her family. Spoiler alert, she loved black guys. It’s this tolerance that has allowed this behavior to continue. I look back and wonder if she would have defended me if her grandma made a racial slur towards me? It took me so long to realize this silence and tolerance is just as bad as her grandma’s ignorance and racism.
It is important that we continue to have these conversations. The wave of hashtags and Instagram posts have almost completely disappeared. People have moved on and gone back to their regular lives. Most people have gone back to complaining that we’re “making everything about race” again.
Stop gaslighting people of color. This includes statements like “calm down, it’s just a joke” or asking “are you sure that’s what happened?” People are bothered by you speaking about race or politics because they don’t want to deal with it. This is a privilege, usually white privilege.
It is this subtle racism that is the most dangerous. The people that pretend racism does not exist or worse make excuses for it. I’m sorry but some of us can’t just change the subject. I’ve been black my whole life. This is every day for us and for some of us it can be life or death.
Here I have linked to my blog let’s Learn about racism which lists links to different educational resources on topics surrounding racism.
What microaggressions have you heard before? Or have you said one to someone else that you recently found out was offensive?
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