The Dangers of Microaggressions
Updated: Jul 13
I would like to preface this post by saying that I am half white, half Chinese, so my experience with microaggressions is not only limited but also diluted in content. So what is a microaggression? Oxford Languages defines a microaggression as a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority. Essentially, microaggressions are subtle forms of racism one may experience in everyday life. The most harmful aspect of microaggressions is how normalized they are. In my experience, it is not until days, or even years later that I realize it is not okay for people to make comments such as how well my dad speaks English, even though he was born in America. I still am unpacking a lot about my identity as a mixed person, and microaggressions have played a huge part in my experiences as someone who is half Asian. Hopefully by sharing my encounters, I will help to educate about microaggressions and their harm.
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the microaggressions I have witnessed have not even been directed towards me, but my fully Asian father. I moved to a predominantly white town in the fourth grade, and one of my friends thought I had moved from China. Four years after explaining that I had lived in America my whole life, the same person continued to believe that my dad lived in China, and was even confused about how well he spoke English when they first met him. It is not uncommon for others to think POC were not born in America, and personally, that stigma only makes me feel like more of a foreigner in my own hometown. I have also been asked if I knew other Asians in my area which groups us all together as if we could never fully be a part of the white community in my town, but a separate group on the outside. People have asked me if my family owns the Chinese restaurant in my town. Honestly I do not know how to dig deeper into that, other than to say it is humorous in its ignorance. Continuing with the food theme, I have been asked “what special meals I eat at home” as if my mom (who is white, but that is besides the point) does not cook Mac and Cheese six out of seven days a week for dinner. I would classify all of these experiences as microaggressions, because they held no offensive intention, they were dropped casually and I did not think twice about them until years later. But again, I would like to reiterate that the most harmful part of microaggressions is their normality and “good” intent.
So how do we as a society handle microaggressions? I would suggest continuing to bring awareness to them. Whether it be generally addressing microaggressions, or if you are comfortable, calling out those in your community who cross racist lines. On an internal level for POC, I think it is important not to let microaggressions make you feel less comfortable in your own skin. I believe microaggressions can be halted, it will just take willingness to educate and be educated.
Solace Yee TeensForAll Blog Writer