RedefiningHERstory: Racial Microaggressions In The Everyday Lives of Black Women
Hey Ladies, have you ever heard someone say, “You are so beautiful for a dark skinned girl” or “this is my Muslim friend, and she is not a terrorist.” My personal favorite that I get all of the time from White women are: “You are a single mom with five kids, low-income and getting your Master’s Degree? Wow! You must be really smart” or “for a Black woman, you don’t act like the other Black women I see at the grocery story.” These Ladies are subtle examples of racial microaggressions – these are compliments riddled with subtle racist undertones. Did you choose to take the high road like I have often done because I got tired of explaining the same things to these people and chalked it up to pure ignorance? Or did you immediately address it? Whatever the case maybe, Black women are faced with racial microaggressions on a daily basis and here is why.
Racial Microaggressions Explained
First off, let me explain what racial microaggressions are. Racial Microaggressions are ordinary nonverbal and/or verbal insults, brushoffs or ‘good ole shade’ Ladies, being thrown your way by someone either deliberately or unintentionally. These messages are usually communicated through subtle or aggressive behaviors, but the messages are offensive and detrimental to the receiver since they are specifically based on their affiliation with a marginalized group within society.
Tori DeAngelis, writer for the American Psychological Association, stated that the term racial microaggressions was coined in the 1970s by Chester M. Pierce, MD, who was a psychiatrist. DeAngelis explained that microaggressions are “micro” because they often happen in minor, isolated circumstances, yet their effects often impact Black women in unhealthy ways. Over time, being the recipient of these subtle or aggressive occurrences can lead to a Black woman feeling isolated, depressed and having lower self-esteem or self-worth.
Now, being on the receiving end of these intentional/unintentional assaults, can inadvertently condition Black women to question if they are being too sensitive and to negate the fact that she has been racially attacked and her feelings are legit. Ladies, I am here to tell you that your feelings are on point and keep reading further to find out why!
The Three Types of Microaggressions:
To be fair, some offenders are oblivious that they are being racist and usually are committing these offenses unintentionally, but that does not eliminate or lessen the emotional effect it may have on the receiver. BUT DON’T BE FOOLED! Just because their intent can be viewed as unintentional or innocent, these people view themselves as being more privileged than us and their “on the sly” statements and behaviors are validating their stereotypical opinions and ideologies of us.
On the other hand, the ones who are deliberately “throwing shade,” know exactly what they are doing because they feel that they are superior and the receiver is beneath them. They do not hesitate to let you know their true feelings.
DeAngelis explained three common forms of racial microaggressions: microassualts, microinsults, and microinvalidations.
Microassaults are the most common of the three. It is the one that is most deliberate and premediated form of microaggressions. This type of racial microaggression centers on racist jokes, mockery of Black culture, mannerisms, and grammar.
DeAngelis explained that whether nonverbal or verbal, microassaults are the most aggressive and straightforward forms of racism and discrimination.
Microinsults are communicated racial messages that are disrespectful and offensive that take aim at a Black woman’s unique ethnic/racial identities and culture. These racial microaggressions are less intentional and direct. They are viewed as compliments, but are truly racial jabs at our identity, culture and heritage.
An example of this is when I stated earlier that White women have a bad habit of interconnecting my intelligence with my societal status of being a single mother of five and my economic status of being low-income. Questions: How does me being a low-income, single mother of five relate to my intelligence and NOT to my tenacity to want to educate myself in an effort to better my circumstances? What do you think? Please leave your comments below.
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In my mind, this is playing through their minds: “Wow! She has been hurdling all of these adversities while pursuing her academic goals, being a single mom and poor that's what my White privilege tells me… here is another one I could really help out, mentor… and above all… write off on my taxes.” While making me the victim.
In other words, I have surpassed their expectations, thus the amazement with my academic and professional pursuits and achievements.
Microinvalidations are microaggressions that subtly dismiss or ignore the collective experiences of Black women and our daily realities. Mircoinvalidations are interrelated with White privilege and experiences, the invisible power of whiteness, and white societal norms.
Researcher AnnLouse Keating described the ‘power of whiteness’ ideology as solely being based on past ascribed ideals of hierarchy between the genders, races, and its capabilities of being invisible. “The most commonly mentioned attribute of “whiteness” seems to be its pervasive nonpresence, its invisibility,” stated Keating. This concept has historically placed White men throughout history in the dominant position of power and Black women in the inferior position within society, explained Keating.
The idea of Whites having this notion that they are “color blind” and racism is not running rampant within society is an example of microinvalidations. We as Black women have that one White person... or in my case, a legion of them... that have that unique way of dismissing our experiences, that we know are racist, by stating such things as “Why are you so sensitive, it was only a joke” or “Not everything is about race and there was no need to use the race card” and/or... my personal favorite... “I am not a racist because I have a Black friend.”
Do not be fooled Ladies because these insensitive expressions are meant to downplay the situation at hand. As a Black woman, I have to admit that their true intentions are lost because of their rejection or dismissal of my oppressive experiences that I have had to deal with on a daily bases with my interactions with certain white people.
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Ways to Counteract Racial MicroaggressionsResearcher Kevin L. Nadal stated that individuals my take one of the three stances to react to racial microaggressions. The first stance is to approach the situation in a passive-aggressive manner by making a sarcastic joke or remark that indicates their annoyance or offense to the remark and/or behavior. Nadal stated, “Or, they do nothing in that moment and decide to talk to others about it first, in the hopes that it will get back to the perpetrator.”
The second approach is to react in a proactive manner. This individual “snaps back” immediately and are very vocal about their displeasure with the remarks and/or behaviors. Nadel indicated that when an individual uses the passive approach to counteract racial microaggressions, it may be that “this individual simply does not have the energy to engage the perpetrator in a discussion.” Nadal explained that “for some individuals, an active response may be a therapeutic way of releasing years of accumulated anger and frustration.”
Finally, an individual may take the assertive approach by “calmly addressing the perpetrator about how it made him or her feel,” clarified Nadal. This method is the educational approach in which the individual simple educates the perpetrator on how their verbal or nonverbal behaviors came off as being racist and offensive.
Which every way you choose to deal with racial microaggressions Black women, Nadal expressed that one should address this behavior immediately and should seek out some type of support to avoid future psychological health issues.
For more information on racial microaggressions and how to counteract them, please click on the links below. Take care and stay blessed Queens!
Created By: ~ejnosillA
DeAngelis, T. (2009). Unmasking ‘racial microaggressions.’ Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/02/microaggression.aspx.
Keating, A. L. (1995). Interrogating whiteness, deconstructing race. College English, 57(8), 901-918.