Microaggressions website imageMost commonly, a micro-aggression has been described by Derald Wing Sue as, “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults toward marginalized groups.”

Sue also divided these micro-aggressions into three distinct groups—microassult, microinsult, and microinvalidation.

Microassult- “An explicit racial derogation characterized primarily by a verbal or nonverbal attack meant to hurt the intended victim through name-calling”

Example: Saying, “that’s so gay” to describe a bad or abnormal situation.

Microinsult- “Communications that convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person’s racial heritage or identity. Micro insults represent subtle snubs, frequently unknown to the perpetrator, but clearly convey a hidden insulting message to the recipient from a marginalized group.”

Example: Asking someone, “What are you?” when trying to identify their ethnicity.

Microinvalidation- “Communications that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of a person from a marginalized group.”

Example: Telling someone, “I never see you as Black” or that they “are not really Asian” when people don’t fit a stereotype.

Since microaggressions can be either intentional or unintentional, here are a couple ways of preventing them. Most commonly, microaggressions are committed unknowingly and in casual conversation. To prevent this type of microaggression, knowledge is key. Now that you know what a microaggression is, you can begin to change the way you interact with people. Additionally, you can share this information with others to help them understand. However, if you experience an intentional microaggression, take action. Let the person who has committed the microaggression know that their phraseology is harmful to others and is not acceptable.

UAB is committed to creating an environment that is inclusive to everyone. As stewards of that mission, the SOM Office for Diversity and Inclusion wants to give team members the tools to understand other cultures around them. To further explore the concept of inclusivity, watch The Common Thread modules.