What are Microaggressions?

Defining, Recognizing, & Addressing Microaggressions in Everyday Life

July is BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, which makes it a perfect time to discuss something that many BIPOC encounter on a daily basis: microaggressions. A microaggression is known as a statement, action, or incident that can be intentional or unintentional that conveys hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes towards marginalized groups such as racial or ethnic minority.

How do microaggressions affect mental health?

Microaggressions can affect mental health tremendously just with subtle interactions with others that express bias towards a marginalized group. One study revealed that, "research continues to show that racism and discrimination contribute to poor health among minorities and people of color, resulting in increased rates of depression, prolonged stress and trauma, anxiety, even heart disease and type 2 diabetes". These derogatory messages often come from people who believe they've done nothing offensive, further gaslighting the party experiencing microaggressions.

How can I recognize microaggressions?

Microaggressions are often hidden in subtle conversations with others or nonverbal actions. These can be an attempt to use as a compliment or a comment that are unintentional or intentional.

A few examples of nonverbal microaggressions include:

  • Holding your purse a bit tighter because a darker-skin person is walking by
  • Not sitting next to someone on public transportation because of their color
  • Marketing materials only showcasing one race, gender, or other majority group

Verbal microaggressions are easier to identify because the victim notices the comment or is offended right away.

A few examples of verbal microaggressions include:

  • "A man doesn't do the dishes, thats a women's job."
  • "Oh! I wouldn't think you would live here."
  • "Your English is so good!"

These types of comments may seem like innocent conversation, but it is very offensive.

How can I help stop microaggressions?

There are many ways to shut down talk about microaggression, but standing up for yourself is harder for some people. It is important in this situation to target the behavior and not the person, as it may be an unintentional comment. Educate the person who is having the conversation or doing the actions so they learn for the future. As a bystander, you are also able to shut down any microaggression by planning an approach that will be helpful for both the victim and the offender. Working on recognizing your own privilege and slip-ups can only lead to learning and becoming a better ally.

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental illness, clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are here to help. Acenda also offers bilingual counseling and therapy services.

Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 x9500) for more information or to schedule an appointment.