While revisiting my last post, I became aware of what is a common conundrum for people of color, Jews, Natives, those with disabilities, and other marginalized groups. How are we to tell what is a microaggression, and what is simply an eddy in the swirl of social interaction?
My brief conversation with Dr. Spitz took place in the midst of normal, post-lecture, chaos. There were demands for her attention from many directions, and I had interjected a topic about which she had no previous knowledge. It is clear to me that Dr. Spitz meant no harm, and, given the context, had the next person with whom I spoke not abruptly turned away, I would not have thought much about it. Only after the second experience did the first become meaningful. Continue reading
Today is Mothers’ Day in the U.S., and the weather has turned warm enough for me to go barefooted in the house. The afternoons are even warm outdoors. This morning Jennie began putting in our kitchen garden. Even as we welcome this time of growth and the promise of abundance, I am troubled by events of recent weeks.
A few weeks ago Jennie and I experienced a difficult moment when a liberal European man addressed us with a slightly digging comment about Indians. He had no idea he might offend us; after all, I look European. The comment was not egregious, yet it stung. The mental health term for such comments is “micro-aggressions”. Such statements mount up and crowd the mind and psyche of persons. They are particularly damaging to young people and elders.
Recently I read a post by Native Appropriations about the usurpation of Native tribal identities by European-Americans in California. Near the end of the piece she wrote:
“People often argue that there is nothing wrong with playing Indian –that dressing up or donning headdresses does no harm. I find it hard to imagine that someone could watch that video and think that a young Native child encountering that scene would walk away unscathed.”
These seemingly innocuous insults to Self and culture are sometimes called “microaggressions“. Micro-aggressions are subtle attacks on a person or group, assaults that undermine confidence and selfhood. They occur in families, workplaces, and the larger social environment. They are aimed at the perceived other, including spouses, persons with disabilities, and ethnic and racial minorities. Often they are actions quite difficult to read as aggression, and are easily justified or reinterpreted by the person who originates the attack. Taken as an aggregate, microaggressions are immensely destructive over time. Continue reading