Exploring Microaggressions: Understanding & Impact - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1853 Words
Date:  2023-03-13


People often talk about microaggressions without critically evaluating what this term means. Microaggression refers to directing verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities to others, especially the marginalized in society. These verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities are either intentional or unintentional, but their impact on victims is immense as it leaves them feeling uncomfortable and insulted. These microaggressions are different from other rude and insensitive comments in that they are very specific because they relate to an individual's membership in a group that is discriminated against or subjected to stereotypes. What makes them even more discontented is that they happen casually and frequent, and in most cases, there is no harm intended. For instance, a teacher might complement an African American student for speaking proper English, whereas the student in question speaks English as the first language. This, while the teacher meant to compliment the student, becomes a microaggression because the teacher used a visual outlook to assume that the student could not speak English articulately. Although it might feel like a minute issue, it might have a big impact on this student.

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Racial microaggressions are common types of microaggressions that persist in American society, especially in school environments. It is common to classify people according to their races and ethnicities, a phenomenon that is even practiced by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Bureau classifies citizens as White, Black, American Indian, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (Sue). These racial classifications even persist in school environments, and at times, the minority students of color receive denigrating messages just because they belong to a racial minority group. These messages carry more weight than one can imagine. For instance, in a classroom, the teacher might compliment a black student to straightening her hair for class pictures. Although the teacher meant to compliment the student, he/she unintentionally microaggressions the student who might feel offended and excluded. When they are emotionally affected, it becomes hard for them to learn. This paper seeks to address the types of racial microaggressions among students of color, the effect it has on these students, and how to prevent microaggressions.

Types of Microaggressions

Microassaults: Microassaults are those discriminatory actions that are perpetrated by individuals who are consciously and intentionally willing to do so (Sue). This occurs in several capacities. One is through the use of racial epithets, which are used against students of color. Nigger is the most common epithets that are used against black students. The other capacity is a display of white supremacist symbols in which the perpetrators usually want to discredit other races by claiming that the white race is superior to other races. The other capacity is denying individuals the opportunity to interact with other races socially. Late last year, I witnessed a situation that demonstrated this phenomenon. My friend was dating an African American, but this brought him into conflict with his parents, who were adamant that he was not supposed to date outside his race. In this scenario, the parents are consciously and intentionally preventing their son from dating an African American because they are despising the gild because of her black race, and this is an example of a microassault.

Microinsults: These are assaults that are either verbal or non-verbal that convey rudeness in the way of demeaning one's race and heritage (Sue). The perpetrators of these insults are concerned with making others feel inferior compared to them. I have had a chance to witness microinsults directed to an international student of color. I remember one day we were in engaging in a group discussion when a white asked a student of color from the Asian heritage how they secured a chance to study in the school. Although it might seem, as usual, this statement is microaggression in that the white student seemed to imply that his colleague had gotten a chance or study in the school through unusual means like affirmative action or the students is not ideal for studying in the school.

Microinvalidations: these are thoughts that are put in a statement seeking to negate the reality of a person of color. Usually, individuals who perpetrate these statements are too proud to accept that people of color are their equals and therefore communicate in a way that assures them that they are superior to people of color (Sue). In one instance, I heard an American student asking her fellow student who was a Latino where she was born. In this case, the perpetrator seeks to convey the message that the Latino is a perpetual foreigner in her land just because they have a different skin color. She wants to invalidate that her fellow student was not born in the United States because if the truth is that they are U.S. citizens, it will be hard for her to accept.

Unlike microassaults which are visible, microinsults and microinvalidations are invisible, and this is what makes them potentially more harmful. It is so because their invisibility nature always binds people of color psychologically. When students of color feel that they are being insulted, they are not so sure that statements directed to them are offensive. Consequently, even the perpetrators are uncertain that they are offensive. For instance, in the example above, the teacher might not be even aware that she is insulting by complementing the student of color. Students of color are left in a difficult situation because if they confront the perpetrator, he/she will deny being offensive, and these perpetrators might regard the victims as oversensitive. In other cases, confronting the perpetrators leaves the victims taking a huge emotional toll. Therefore, in any case, the students are worse off when they fail to confront the perpetrators as they are when they fail to confront them (Henfield 151). Denials by perpetrators, in most cases, are not even conscious attempts to deceive as they believe that they have honestly done nothing wrong. This shows that microaggressions hold their power in invisibility. In the above cases of microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations, the whites do not see their actions and attitudes as discriminatory, and this raises a dilemma. It leaves students of color wondering what happened, and the result is anger, and draining of energy. In such harsh school environments, it is difficult for the students of color to learn as effectively as their white counterparts.

Effects of Microaggressions

Students of color occasionally have unique encounters with verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, which are directed by the majority of white students. These encounters have profound adverse effects on mental and well-being on students of color. It is one of the major effects of microaggressions that are directed on students of color. There is strong evidence that links microaggressions with adverse health outcomes, particularly mental health, in terms of causing trauma and depression among minorities. Research done by Torres and Taknint (395) showed that the majority of students of color had depressive symptoms, which were the link between racial microaggressions and thoughts of suicide.

Usually, racial microaggressions affect the psychological functioning of students, and considering that these students are continuously exposed to microaggressions makes the effects of these microaggressions cumulative. This, in turn, takes a psychological toil and subsequent toll on these students' well-being. It matters less whether microaggressions that are perpetrated against people of color are conscious or unconscious because even when they are unconscious, they lead to mental problems. Anxiety, depression, and trauma are common among students who face the microaggressions (Allen, Scott, and Lewis 117-123). At the same time, the self-esteem among people of color who are victimized also goes down, and this makes it hard for them to learn as they are supposed and demonstrate their skills and proficiency like their white counterparts. This means that students of color are, therefore, in limited education opportunities, and they are likely to stay in the cocoon of inferiority for fear of being lashed out or victimized even more when they argue their points talk against microaggressions.

The other effect is ascribed intelligence and perceived deviance. Usually, students of color struggle against subtle attacks that are embedded in microaggression information. For instance, in the example given above, the teacher complements a student of a racial minority group for speaking articulately in English. However, the teacher here assumes that this student is not American because of his color, yet this student is an American citizen who speaks English as the first language. This is an example of a scenario where a student of color is discredited based on his intellectual abilities. The teacher has a negative interpretation of this student's capability, and this has a profound effect on the victim. This is usually the case because these students end up experiencing strong feelings of inferiority. This at times, forces the victims into performance anxiety, and they even dip into performance pressure because they want to prove to everyone that they are competent (Allen, Scott and Lewis 123).

In most cases, racial microaggressions that are perpetrated against people of color are filtered through racial stereotypes' layers. As such, a negative action by a racial minority student is used to quantify the behaviors and nature of students of that minority race. For instance, just because a student of a racial minority group stole does not mean that others from his/her race are thieves. However, this is the common truth in schools because the behaviors of these students are stereotyped. The stereotype threat is huge and makes students of color internalize intellectual inferiority such that even in simple tests, they tend to associate these tests as a way of evaluating their performance through the lens of race. In a study, in a predominantly white middle school, the result showed that black males were stereotyped as criminals and disrespectful, and this had a profound effect on their sense of self (Henfield 146). When the sense of self of minority students is downgraded, consequences are demonstrated in poor school performance.

Loss of self-concept and proper identity development is the other effect that is associated with microaggressions on students of color. Usually, individuals develop a sense of theirs due to interaction with others, and this particularly concerns their interaction with other students. Racial identity development, on the other hand, is a sense of belonging that develops when students have a strong sense of feeling to their social affiliations, in this case, race. A good environment makes students of color develop positive social identities, and these identities are critical to academic achievements (Moore and Owens 359). Students of color are aware of profound stereotypes that they will encounter because of their race. As a result, they try to dissociate with their respective racial groups as a way of avoiding stereotypes, and this, in turn, makes these students have weak self-concept and racial identity development. This, in turn, contributes to negative educational experiences and poor performance.

Preventing Microaggressions

The majority of teachers in the United States are White. There are more than 90% of teachers who are White compared to their 6% counterparts who are black and less than 5% who are other races (Meeks 75). It is also common to find schools without a single teacher of color, and...

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Exploring Microaggressions: Understanding & Impact - Essay Sample. (2023, Mar 13). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/exploring-microaggressions-understanding-impact-essay-sample

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