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The term “microaggression” was originally coined by Pierce in the 1970s in terms of racial microaggression [1]. “The chief vehicle for proracist behaviors are microaggressions. These are subtle, stunning, often automatic, and non-verbal exchanges which are ‘put-downs’ of blacks by offenders”[2].

Davis defined microaggressions as ”stunning, automatic acts of disregard that stem from unconscious attitudes of white superiority and constitute a verification of black inferiority[3]. Furthermore Davis states that microaggression is enabled because “cognitive habit, history, and culture left [it] unable to hear the range of relevant voices and grapple with what reasonably might be said in the voice of discrimination’s victims”[4].

The common currently cited definition of microaggression is put forth by Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L. & Esquilin (2007). Sue et al. report that “Microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color[5]. Sue et al. (2007) went on to expand on the term microaggression by introducing three distinct forms of microaggression in the context of racial microaggression by referring to “microassault,” “microinsult,” and “microinvalidation”[6]:

  • Microassault is defined as “an explicit racial derogation characterized primarily by verbal or nonverbal attack meant to hurt the intended victim through name-calling, avoidant behavior, or purposeful discriminatory actions”[7].
  • Microinsults are defined as “characterized by communications that convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person’s racial heritage or identity”[8].
  • Microinvalidation is “characterized by communications that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of a person of color[9]. Other marginalized groups experience microaggression.

Microaggression may be perpetuated on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, and ability status[10].


Supporters of the theory argue that racial microaggressions are reported to be common,[11][12][13][14] including among people who think of themselves as being fair and nonracist,[15][16][17] and who have received multicultural training.[18]

Microaggressions can take a number of different forms,[19] for example, questioning the existence of racial-cultural issues, making stereotypic assumptions, and cultural insensitivity.[19][20] Some other types of microaggressions that have been identified[19] include Colorblindness (e.g., "I don't think of you as Black. You are just a normal person"), Denial of personal bias (e.g., "I'm not homophobic; I even have gay friends."), and Minimization of racial-cultural issues (e.g., "Just because you feel alone in this group doesn't mean that there's a racial issue involved."). "Colorblindness" in particular has been associated with higher levels of racism[21] and lower levels of empathy.[22]

Recent studies show that a wide variety of people report experiencing racial microaggressions. These include Latino American,[23] African American,Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag. Tag has more than one name associated with reference.[24][25] and Asian American[26] people. Racial microaggressions are experienced even by professionals.[27] Focus group based research with African American students at universities have revealed that racial microaggressions exist in both academic and social spaces in the collegiate environment.[28] College students report that they experience racial microaggressions in their relationships with their college counselors,[29] in classrooms,[30] and in other training relationships.[31]

People have expressed several ways in which they feel harmed when they receive racial microaggressions. For example, people may feel demeaned by implied messages[32] such as, “You do not belong,” “You are abnormal,” “You are intellectually inferior,” “You cannot be trusted,” and “You are all the same.” Recipients of these messages have also reported feeling other negative consequences,[32] including powerlessness, invisibility, pressure to comply, loss of integrity, and pressure to represent one’s group.

Some strategies have been identified that help in the difficult classroom discussions that are sometimes triggered by microaggressions.[23] For example, students report that they do not want to be looked to as experts on race-related topics, and that they feel hindered in discussions in which others are overly worried about being perceived as being racist.

Microaggressions may play a role in unfairness in the legal system as they can influence the decisions of juries.[33]


Other subtle types of oppression include institutional oppression and subtle decision-making biases.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Pierce, C. M., Carew, J. V., Pierce-Gonzalez & Wills, D. (1977). An Expert in racism: TV commercials. Education and Urban Society, 10(1), 61- 87.
  2. Pierce, C. M., Carew, J. V., Pierce-Gonzalez & Wills, D. (1977). An Expert in racism: TV commercials. Education and Urban Society, 10(1), 65
  3. Davis, P. C. (1989). Law as microaggression. The Yale Law Journal, 98(8). 1559-1577
  4. Davis, P. C. (1989). Law as microaggression. The Yale Law Journal, 98(8). 1576)
  5. Sue, D. W. Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, M. B., Nadal, K. L. & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggression in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 27
  6. Sue et al., 2007, 274
  7. Sue et al., 2007, 274
  8. Sue et al., 2007, 274
  9. Sue et al., 2007, 274
  10. Sue et al., 2007, 274
  11. Feagin, J. R., & Sikes, M. P. (1994). Living with racism: The Black middle-class experience. Boston: Beacon Press.
  12. Sellers, R. M., & Shelton, J. N. (2003). The role of racial identity in perceived racial discrimination. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1070–1092.
  13. Swim, J. K., Cohen, L. L., & Hyers, L. L. (1998). Experiencing everyday prejudice and discrimination. In J. K. Swim & C. Stangor (Eds.), Prejudice: The target’s perspective (pp. 37–60). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
  14. Williams, D. R., Neighbors, H. W., & Jackson, J. S. (2003). Racial/ethnic discrimination and health: Findings from community studies. American Journal of Public Health, 93, 200–208.
  15. Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (Eds.). (1986). Prejudice, discrimination, and racism. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
  16. Jones, J. M. (1997). Prejudice and racism (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: McGraw-Hill.
  17. Whaley, A. (1998). Racism in the provision of mental health services: A social– cognitive analysis. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 68, 47–57.
  18. Gushue, G. V. (2004). Race, color-blind racial attitudes, and judgments about mental health: A shifting standards perspective. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 51, 398–407.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Constantine, M.G. (2007). Racial microaggressions against African American clients in cross-racial counseling relationships. Journal of Counseling Psychology. 54, 1-16.
  20. Perceptions of Racial Microaggressions among Black Supervisees in Cross-Racial Dyads Constantine, Madonna G.; Sue, Derald Wing. Journal Counseling Psychology, v54 n2 p142-153 Apr 2007
  21. Neville, H. A., Lilly, R. L., Duran, G., Lee, R. M., & Browne, L. (2000). Construction and initial validation of the Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale (CoBRAS). Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47, 59–70.
  22. Burkard, A. W., & Knox, S. (2004). Effect of therapist color-blindness on empathy and attributions in cross-cultural counseling. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 51, 387–397.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Sue, D., Lin, A.I., Torino, G.C. Capodilupo, C.M., & Rivera, D.P. (2009). Racial microaggressions and difficult dialogues on race in the classroom. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 15, 183-190.
  24. Constantine, M., & Sue, D. (2007). Perceptions of racial microaggressions among black supervisees in cross-racial dyads. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54,142-153.
  25. Constantine, M., Smith, L. Redington, R.M. & Owens, D. (2008). Racial microaggressions against black counseling and counseling psychology faculty: A central challenge in the multicultural counseling movement. Journal of Counseling and Development, 86, 348-355.
  26. Sue, D., Bucceri, J., Lin, A.I., Nadal, K.L., & Torino, G.C. (2009). Racial microaggressions and the Asian American Experience. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 1, 88-101.
  27. Constantine, M., Smith, L. Redington, R.M. & Owens, D. (2008). Racial microaggressions against black counseling and counseling psychology faculty: A central challenge in the multicultural counseling movement. Journal of Counseling and Development, 86, 348-35 5.
  28. Solorzano, D. (1998). "Critical Race Theory, Racial and Gender Microaggressions, and the Experiences of Chicana and Chicano Scholars." International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 11, 121-136; Critical Race Theory, Racial Microaggressions, and Campus Racial Climate: The Experiences of African American College Students Daniel Solorzano, Miguel Ceja, Tara Yosso The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 69, No. 1/2, Knocking at Freedom's Door: Race, Equity, and Affirmative Action in U.S. Higher Education (Winter - Spring, 2000), pp. 60-73; Yosso, T., Ceja, M., Smith, W. & Solorzano, D. (2009). “Critical Race Theory, Racial Microaggressions, and Campus Racial Climate For Latina/o Undergraduates.” Harvard Educational Review, 79, 659-690.
  29. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Constantine.2C_M._2007
  30. Sue, D., Lin, A.I., Torino, G.C. Capodilupo, C.M., & Rivera, D.P. (2008). Racial microaggressions and difficult dialogues on race in the classroom. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 15, 183-190.
  31. Constantine, M., & Sue, D. (2007). Perceptions of racial microaggressions among black supervisees in cross-racial dyads. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54,142-153.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Sue, D., Capodilupo, C.M., & Holder, A.M.B. (2008). Racial microaggressions in the life experience of black Americans. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 39, 329-336.
  33. Law As Microaggression Peggy C. Davis The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 98, No. 8, Symposium: Popular Legal Culture (Jun., 1989), pp. 1559-1577

See alsoEdit

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