Marcus is one of few visible racial ethnic minorities at his college. Not one of the faculty is a person of colour…Deborah is a successful executive who has been overlooked for promotion for the third time…Richard and Luke receive stares and remarks from strangers when they walk together hand-in-hand.
These scenarios are examples of microaggressions - the verbal, behavioural or environmental indignities that people of colour, women and LGBTs must navigate on a daily basis. This paper will explore the concept of microaggressions and discuss the consequences of this phenomenon for both victims and perpetrators. Through the close examination of a daytime television drama, the subtle and insidious nature of microaggressions will be revealed.
As the scenarios above illustrate, microaggressions are less overt than traditionally defined racism, sexism, or heterosexism. Rather, they are everyday exchanges and experiences that communicate hostile or demeaning messages towards people of colour, women, LGBTs or other marginalized groups. Pierce (1970) was first to define microaggressions as “subtle, stunning, often automatic, and nonverbal exchanges which are ‘put-downs’” (as cited in Sue, 2010, p. 24).
It is nearly impossible to avoid inheriting at least some of the racial, gender, and sexual-orientation biases that are inevitable within a society that privileges Whites, men and heterosexuals. Sue (2010) explains that racism exists on a continuum of conscious awareness. While biases can be displayed overtly through conscious and deliberate acts of discrimination, bias is more likely to occur in the form of unconscious, unintentional, and subtle discriminatory behaviours. Sue (2010) argues that this ambiguity makes microaggressions more harmful to the well-being and self-esteem of victims than overt discrimination. Victims must continually question, react to and interpret the meaning of these experiences on a daily basis (Sue,...