After our class discussion about microaggressions and what they mean, I have found myself contemplating how I would personally handle someone undergoing microaggression and how to deal with the person dishing it out. Turns out I am not the only one with this internal struggle. While browsing I came across an interesting question and answer article discussing just that. The question asked by Awkward Ally was very similar to that of my own, how to act in that moment when you see microaggressions occurring around you?

Kerry Ann Rockquemore, Ph.D. and President of the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity wrote back to Awkward Ally and was by all my accounts a microaggressions genius. First, she gave a detailed and enlightening description of a time when she was the target of microaggressions, specifically that of being the only female in a group of men and how they should, “Meet at the mall next time and focus on shopping” when prompted on how to improve gender diversity in the group. Next, she gave some interesting insights that may seem intuitive, but necessary to address:

  1. Silence communicates tacit approval.
  2. Apologizing to the target afterwards adds insult to injury.
  3. The worst ex post facto response of all is asking the target of microaggression to fix the problem (for example, in her case the men in her cohort asking her to plan the next event if she thought that they needed more women.)

To me this advice was eye opening to say the least. Being a woman in a scientific field often times dominated by men and having been the victim of such microaggressive offences I have to say I agree completely.

Rockquemore went into even more depth though, suggesting the idea of moving from reacting to the idea of resistance. Instead of reacting to microaggressions, reframe your role in the situation to engage in microresistance. By this she means to say, instead of reacting to the offensive situation or comment, proactively work towards an equitable environment for everyone in your department. It changes the energy of the situation from that of hostility, to one that is more directed at equity and inclusion. It becomes a role of empowerment as opposed to one of defense.

And finally, her last suggestion entails practice. The more you practice that idea of being an ally when microaggression occurs and becoming more comfortable with microresistance in daily interactions, the better and more composed you will be when microaggression strikes.

What do you think? Did this advice help you? Do you have any helpful tips that help you deal with micro aggressions?

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