From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Microaggression is a term describing how a member of a dominant culture may interact with a member of a marginalized group in a way that the marginalized person experiences as harmful.

Origin of the term[edit]

The term microaggression was coined in 1970 by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce as a way of describing the insults and dismissals he saw frequently directed at African-Americans by non-black Americans. In 1973 MIT economist Mary Rowe expanded the term to also include aggressions directed at women, and it was eventually expanded to include all members of socially marginalized groups, including for example poor people and people with disabilities.[1]

Description and prevalence[edit]

Psychologist and Columbia University professor Derald Wing Sue has defined microaggressions as "brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership."[2] Sue describes microaggressions at generally happening below the level of awareness of well-intentioned members of the dominant culture. Microaggressions are considered to be different from overt, deliberate acts of bigotry, such as the use of racist epithets, because the people perpetrating microaggressions often intend no offence and are unaware they are causing harm.[3]

 Microaggressions have been described as including statements that repeat or affirm stereotypes about the minority group or subtly demean it, that position the dominant culture as normal and the minority one as aberrant or pathological, that express disapproval of or discomfort with the minority group, that assume all minority group members are the same, that minimise the existence of discrimination against the minority group, seek to deny the perpetrator's own bias, or minimise real conflict between the minority group and the dominant culture.[3]

Microaggressions towards members of racial or ethnic minorities, women, sexual minorities and transgender people are reported to be extremely common. 

Studies show that a wide variety of people in the United States report experience with racial microaggressions, including Latino American, African American, and Asian American people. Racial microaggressions are not limited by class or circumstance, and can be experienced by college students and upper-middle class professionals. Common race-related microaggressions include black and brown-skinned men being stopped and searched by police for no reason,[4] white students and professors seeming surprised when an African-American student makes a particularly insightful or intelligent comment in class,[18] and Asian students being pathologized or penalized as too passive or quiet.[5] One famous example of a race-related microaggression happened when during the 2008 U.S. democratic presidential primaries Joe Biden described Barack Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." Sue wrote that while on the surface Biden's comment sounded like praise, the message heard by African-Americans was ""Obama is an exception. Most Blacks are unintelligent, inarticulate, dirty and unattractive.""[3]

 Women also commonly report experiencing microaggressions. For women, common microaggressions include being cat-called, stared at or whistled at, being touched without permission, being condescended to, ignored or frequently interrupted, and having their ideas at work attributed to others.[3]

Members of sexual minorities and transgender people also commonly report experiencing microaggressions. These commonly include the misgendering of transgender people,[6] the sexual exoticization of lesbians by heterosexual men, the making of statements incorrectly linking homosexuality to gender identity disorder, fetishism, masochism or pedophilia, and the asking of prying questions about the person's sexual practices.[3] 


People have expressed several ways in which they feel harmed by racial microaggressions, such as implied messages that may make them feel demeaned.[7] Implied messages can range from example like, “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,[7] including powerlessness, invisibility, pressure to comply, loss of integrity, and pressure to represent one’s group.


The hypothesis of gender microassaults[clarification needed] concerns what can best be described as overt sexism[clarification needed]: "being called a sexist name, a man refusing to wash dishes because it is 'woman's work,' displaying nude pin-ups of women at places of employment, someone making unwanted sexual advances toward another person."[8] Gender microinsults and microinvalidations can be less apparent[clarification needed].

The following have been proposed as "microaggressable" themes (Sue, 2010)[citation needed]:


Some strategies have been identified to help in the difficult classroom discussions that are sometimes caused by microaggressions.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference :0 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  2. ^ Paludi, Michele A. (2012). Managing Diversity in Today's Workplace: Strategies for Employees and Employers. Praeger. ISBN 0313393176. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Sue, Derard Wing (2010). Microaggressions and Marginality: Manifestation, Dynamics, and Impact. Wiley. pp. 229–233. ISBN 0470491396. 
  4. ^ Noguera, Pedro and Aída Hurtado and Edward Fergus (Editor) (2011). Invisible No More: Understanding the Disenfranchisement of Latino Men and Boys. Routledge. pp. 112–115. ISBN 0415877792. 
  5. ^ Paniagua, Freddy A., and Ann-Marie Yamada (2013). Handbook of Multicultural Mental Health: Assessment and Treatment of Diverse Populations. Academic Press. p. 308. ISBN 0123944201. 
  6. ^ Paludi, Michele A. (2013). Women and Management: Global Issues and Promising Solutions. Praeger. p. 237. ISBN 0313399417. 
  7. ^ a b 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.
  8. ^ Wing, D.W. (2010). Microaggressions in everyday life: race, gender, and sexual orientation. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc., p. 169.
  9. ^ 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.