More than a 10 dollar word, microaggression, describes minor instances of unintentional yet objectionable and insulting behavior or comments that are cumulatively burdensome. defines a microagression as: a subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other nondominant group that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype: microaggressions such as “I don’t see you as black.”.

Here is a personal example: In 11th grade English, my teacher was rebellious. She dressed as Che Guevara for Halloween and rode a motorcycle she even cursed in class. On the first day she kicked out half the students for not completing the summer reading assignment. She was totally badass. During class, she recounted to us overhearing black male students referring to each other using the term “nigga” in the hall outside her classroom. As one of two students of color in Advanced Preparation classes; the other student was bi-racial and identified as white just as much as he did black (he checked both boxes), I was the representative “black voice.” Ugh, maybe she thought she was being all Dangerous Minds and “challenging us to grow” when she posed the “who can say the “n” word” question but it was freaking weird. I defended the side of black people being able to say it but white people; hell no. And of course, a “white” classmate argued that because her family never owned slaves, she should be able to say the word with reckless abandon. To my surprise no one uttered a word of opposition. Nothing but silence from my peers and teacher while this girl and I went back and forth until I eventually melted into tears. All eyes on me, a crumbling, fragile black girl crying in public. I was embarrassed. I was traumatized, my skin felt like a burden. I was ashamed that I didn’t represent for my people.

Little Amber internalized this experience and countless other comments,
“You are so articulate.”
“I don’t see race.”
“What are you?”

Being “articulate” is apparently attributed other types of people, which I am not. I am made feel like a genetically inferior person putting on white face to “appear” able to speak. I am the exception. As for “I don’t see race” well, that’s just denying my individuality and culture. No thanks. And the “What are you” question? lets come back to that.

Being constantly reminded of my differentness no matter which group I’m navigating, has detrimental effects on confidence and identity; “too black for the white kids, to the black kids I’m not black enough.”

“You’re whitewashed.”
“White girl.”

Black, Asian, Mexican; people who have experienced microaggressions themselves have made these insulting remarks.
If someone says something offensive, without overtly attempting to convey a bigoted opinion or if they aren’t trying to be an asshole does it count? Especially if its a person of color or a member of another marginalized group?

So, the “what are you”? question. I’m looking at this person, the asker, assessing my own perceptions about them.
Sociologists theorize that we subconsciously assess three things about people upon meeting them; age, gender and race. He is baby faced and short, wearing slightly oversized clothing and displaying an edgy but effortless style that is all their own: Young. He, I would say he is an he. To me he presents as male; in clothing, in mannerism and in style: Young man. He is, short with angular dark hair, slanted eyes, high cheekbones: Young Asian Man.
My memory of when we first met is hazy, but I remember wanting to know where he was from. So I asked, a bit more tactfully than he had asked me. Also, I had previous knowledge of his full name and it fit my expectations of Japanese origin. So I asked, are you Japanese? And he answered calmly, “Yes, and Iranian.”

He confirmed my assumptions and we continued working without a hitch.

Here’s a bonus word of the day; hypocrite.

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