Friday, July 24, 2015

Practicing Awareness of Microaggressions

When I experience microaggressions, I normally try to move on beyond the microaggressive actions. So for this week assignment to describe at least one example of a microaggression that I detected this week, I was hoping I could report that I did not experience nor observe any microaggressions this week, but, sadly, I experienced it today, the day before this blog is due to be posted.

In our Week 4 video transcript, Dr. Derald Wing Sue focused on a discussion about verbal microaggressions. So I wondered whether microaggressions could be nonverbal and googled the question. Much to my delight, in a Psychology Today article, the very same Dr. Sue (2010) wrote:

Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment (¶2).
The subtle act of microaggression made me feel inferior within the university department I work in. I was in an elevator with my supervisor and a colleague who both were engaged in a conversation in sign language with me. On the next floor, a departmental co-worker stepped in and started talking with my supervisor and colleague with her back to me. She exchanged pleasantries with them before walking away. Both my supervisor and my colleague are two of my dearest friends and are always sensitive to my communication needs. They would not know what just transpired unless I mentioned to them. I chose not to because we were on our way to lunch to wish my colleague good wishes as she’s moving to a new job at a new university.

Normally but not always, I am used to such microaggressions from strangers; but this time, it hurts because that co-worker usually makes me feel like I am a monster when I approach her in her office. I have not given her any reason to feel this way about me. This makes me look for ways to avoid all encounters with her. Ford (2009) talked about strategies he would employ to “simply stay sane in the face of disconnection from a mainstream academic culture.”

It is kind of ironic because our university is concerned about diversity and all types of “-isms,” and here we have a staffer treating me that way within our department. Other employees have accommodated me in my way of communicating through paper/pen and/or emails. Ford (2009) suggested that “institutions of higher education…should make a more concerted effort in considering the challenges faced by students with disabilities in the same ways that efforts have been made to include Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians” (¶6).

Sue, D. W. (November 17, 2010). Microaggressions: More than just race. Psychology Today. Retrieved from:

Ford, A. R. (2009). It's not just about racism, but ableism. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 26(4), 16.


  1. Marla,
    I am sorry you had to experience that type of treatment this week. Yes, the co-worker was very rude. Many organizations and institutions try there best to incorporate policies and procedures about discrimination, but I have found that there are still people that practice this type of behavior. As an African-American, I have felt the same way before. I am rarely in the office where I work because of always being in the field working with families. Therefore, I experience less microaggressions daily. I have experienced microaggressions when working with families of other races.

  2. Marla,
    I found myself saddened at reading your post. I understand that you said this was not the norm for your co-workers but it still hurts a little. It hurts me when I am with my other three co-worker, either working on a project or at lunch and 2 of the team have known each other much longer and they begin to engage in conversations that purposely leave myself and Holly (my other co-worker) out. Something this trivial seems petty but when it continues to happen more and more it becomes very noticeable to those of us being left out. Great observation. Thank You!

  3. Marla,
    I am so sorry for the experience you had with your co-workers. With the university's concern regarding diversity and isms may be it can be suggested that they have staff training's about varying abilities, ism, etc. I think your experience should be shared at your institution; it can educate people who by their behavior can make others experience micoinvalidation about their feelings because of how they may be inadvertently treated. Thank you sharing your personal experience. It has made me want to be more intentional of my communication in the presence of people who are deaf.