I’m grateful to share a new article: “Do We Really Understand Microaggressions?” which is published online with Ms. Magazine.
Here’s the opening:
In recent years and especially since summer 2020, in the aftermath and reckoning of George Floyd’s murder, the term “microaggression” has become commonplace. Every week, new stories highlight racial microaggressions in business and workplaces, on campuses, throughout healthcare, and in everyday life. And now parenting magazines regularly share advice for explaining the term to children and teaching ways to intervene.
But, as the term has traveled widely, it has been misunderstood, flattened, contested, co-opted and weaponized. As with other terms created to name conditions of injustice, “microaggression” has been both watered down and blamed for watering down the harms it attempts to name. We’re now at a moment when the word feels too sanitized, too safe and too small. The number of times we’ve turned to each other and exclaimed: “No microaggression I’ve ever faced felt micro. It’s aggression, plain and simple!”
Certainly, the term causes emotional turmoil, and that turmoil is indicative of deeper trouble. The term is losing its meaning. And when we lose track of the meaning, we also lose track of the purpose: to seek justice and end aggression.
This grappling with the term microaggression—both its trouble and its potential—is part of what we hope to offer as scholars of language and communication. It’s also part of our commitments to strive toward justice.
This publishing experience has offered many lessons, and we’ve had a lot of support.
We especially want to thank Candace Epps-Robertson and Carina Fernandez-Golarz Spencer for their feedback on drafts and support through the pitching, drafting, revising, waiting, publishing, and processing.
Thanks, too, to writers who have provided inspiration, insights, grounding, and stories in writing groups and writing retreats. I’m so grateful to be co-creating writing community with you. THANK YOU.