Taking the aggression out of microaggressions
“Sometimes people just want to not feel as if they are walking on eggshells, and they want some acknowledgment that life is messy and that all of us, at any given moment, can say things the wrong way, make mistakes.” — President Obama
Chug chug chug drip drip drip whirred the Keurig machine doing its best to churn coffee for the line of sleepy eyed office laborers being ejected from the elevator right into the kitchen. As if chanting the mantra “I think I can I think I can,” the machine rumbled as each person took their place to fill their mug of morning brew.
A friendly colleague engaged me in light conversation as we waited our turn. As I placed my mug, he asked a mundane question that all Americans have a ready response to:
“So, which is your favorite dynasty in China?”
I squinted at him and wondered what triggered him to think I would have an opinion on such an esoteric topic. I filled up my mug and said — “I think I skipped that class in school,” and excused myself.
I walked to my desk as my mind was just waking up and catching up to the question. My left brain began to situate the offbeat inquiry within some social context of intersectional baggage. However, my right brain burst into comedic laughter as I pictured my colleague eagerly clanging a gong at any Chinese person passing him on the street à la Eddie Murphy in Coming to America.
Periodically, especially during these politically and culturally divisive times in America, I think about this odd question and other risible comments that I have encountered in my professional life. The victimhood spiritus mundi tells me that I should frame these interactions as ‘microaggressions.’
Derald Wing Sue who popularized the term explains that microaggressions are “everyday slights, put downs and insults” that historically marginalized populations (people of color, women, LGBT ) experience in their everyday interactions.
Microaggression, as with all theoretical social frameworks that strive to make sense of complex human behaviors and…