Many call them "subtleties" or "indirectas", but in reality they are microaggressions. They are words or acts that have an aggressive component , but that in one way or another conceal or deform the violent content they transmit.
The most typical example is that of the person who does not answer the greeting of the janitor or the secretary because it seems like a waste of time,
In most countries of the West, discrimination based on gender, race, social class or beliefs is legally prohibited . However, many do not finish assimilating the meaning of this prohibition, hence they continue to discriminate or reject those who dictate their prejudices. So that this does not generate difficulties, they use microagressions.
Sometimes these microaggressions are reproduced unconsciously . They are common places, gestures or phrases , which, however, have a violent component towards a person or a group. For example, when someone interrupts another while he is talking and does not let him finish exposing his idea. This is not done with the figures of power. It is often done with someone that another sees as inferior.
Microaggressions or excessive sensitivity?Some think that what others call microaggressiones are no more than harmless expressions without major transcendence. They question the hypersensitivity of those who take to heart some comments, which in their opinion do not happen to be casual . After all, in social relationships, especially in the field of jokes, there is always something irreverent.
This could be true in some cases. Not every apparently sexist, class or racist comment has a hate content. It can also be a cathartic way of recognizing a certain tension or ridiculing certain positions . Saying "dark" to someone with dark skin is not always a way to belittle him, for example.
The problem of microaggressions is their systematicity and intentionality. If those comments, or those jokes, or those sarcasms are constant, they are more likely to end up affecting the other person. A pinch may not cause damage, but hundreds of pinches may end up blushing the skin a lot. This ends up affecting the self-esteem and sense of dignity of the other.
Treat people differently
Sometimes microaggressions are not composed of words. Also through non-verbal language the signs of prejudice and discrimination appear . At the University of Princenton, an experiment was carried out in the early 1970s. It was directed by the sociologist Carl Word.
The experiment consisted of gathering a group of white and black people, supposedly to select the candidate for a job . The attitude of the selectors to both groups was carefully examined and clear differences appeared, especially in the non-verbal field.
It was evident that the selectors treated whites and blacks differently, despite the fact that their task was to select the best candidates for the job. They tended to sit farther away from blacks and more frequently avoided eye contact. They were also less friendly and spent less time. That is a clear example of microaggressions.
The emotional impact of microaggression
The same experiment at Princeton University had a second phase. In it, first of all , an inventory of the non-verbal rejection and discrimination signals, implemented by the interviewers , was collected . Then, again a group of supposed job candidates was formed, who would again be examined.
However, this time the interviewers were trained to use the verbal language of rejection, both with some black candidates and with other whites . The result was that microaggressions impaired performance. They hesitated when they spoke, stuttered , left incomplete sentences and showed signs of fear towards the interviewer.
The experiment allows us to see that when a person is subject to microagressions, they tend to decrease their good performance and will be more subject to losing opportunities of all kinds. This puts them in a disadvantaged position and is only sustained by the prejudices of others.
As already noted, microaggressions are often carried out and transmitted unconsciously. They are almost always aimed at vulnerable groups or minorities. It is not easy to defend against them, because sometimes they go unnoticed or they are too subtle to sustain a protest. More than against microaggressions, it is healthy that we start the root: prejudices.