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There are objections abound when it comes to microaggressions: from the idea that it’s a “first world problem” to that it’s too “PC.” But often these objections come from people who don’t experience them and don’t understand the harms.

You don’t have to look far to find debate online about the legitimacy of microaggressions:

Some other common objections:

  • “it’s political correctness gone too far”
  • “it’s not actually harmful – stop your sniveling and grow a thicker skin”
  • “millennials are too fragile and sensitive – just get over it”
  • “focus on the MACROmessages – there are real issues in the world like genocide you should spend your energy on”

The problem with these objections? They’re not from people who’ve actually experienced it. Again, a quote from Columbia professor Derald Wing Sue:

“People who don’t see the lived experience of people of color and the daily onslaught that they experience tend not to believe that it’s a major event.”

GIF via Giphy

And there’s a common misconception that microaggressions are the same as any other minor rudeness we might experience – like a rude shopkeeper, a queue-jumper or a rushed commuter pushing past you without apology. It’s not.

Microaggressions are different because they play off stereotypes of people from marginalized groups, subtly reinforcing that members of the dominant group are superior to the marginalized.

It’s not a random slight – it’s targeted and it’s personal (even if it’s not intended to cause offense).

.     .     .

The bottom line:

Microaggression is in the eye of the beholder. Be mindful that you can never really know how these slights make others feel.

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