Microaggressions and Being Assertive

As I was reading the blog posts regarding microaggressions, my mind quickly jumped to my Interpersonal Communications class and the book that we just read on being assertive. When learning about assertiveness, we learned that it is important in being assertive to stand up for yourself and say something to someone when they give you a certain look, or a microaggression. The book on assertiveness says that if someone gives you a look that you take to be a passive aggressive way to discount you or what you are saying or doing, you should say something along the lines of “I’m not sure what you mean by that look. What were you trying to say?” The book explains that everyone has a right to assert himself or herself and stand up for themselves when it is necessary. However, while reading the blogs I realized that being able to be assertive in many situations is a white privilege.

Many of the blogs reflect that minorities feel that they do not have the right to question the microaggressions of others. Instead of being assertive and questioning the person that expressed the microaggression, minorities instead have to question themselves. They have to question whether or not that person meant to be racist or sexist or if that person was just having a bad day. Minorities experience microaggressions everyday but do not have the ability to be assertive and question the person that expressed the microaggression. The blog post by Caplan expresses the feelings of a minority; he does in fact feel that he cannot do anything because no matter what he may want to do, if he does it it will be portrayed as a negative. The book that I had to read for Interpersonal Communications says that every person has the right to be assertive. Does the author really mean that only every white person has the right to be assertive when he says that every person has the right?

Links:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-sexual-continuum/200903/unmasking-subtle-heterosexism-microaggressions-and-microvalidations

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/microaggressions-in-everyday-life/201010/racial-microaggressions-in-everyday-life

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/science-isnt-golden/201104/we-do-not-live-in-postracial-postfeminist-world-is-news

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/microaggressions-in-everyday-life/201010/the-power-define-reality

2 thoughts on “Microaggressions and Being Assertive

  1. Being in the same class, I too have felt that this approach is a perfect example of colorblind racism. This approach assumes that every individual has equal opportunity to be assertive and minimizes both the consequences of assertiveness, as well as the difficulty. In the book, it makes it sound like being assertive is as simple as just vocalizing discomfort. You asked: “Does the author really mean that only every white person has the right to be assertive when he says that every person has the right” I think that’s what the author unintentionally means. By assuming we’re all equal, the author denies the barriers that prevent equal communication; race not only impacts socio-economic status—which leads to discrepancy in managerial positions between Whites and Blacks—but it also doesn’t acknowledge what societal norms exist, as well as cultural differences. A Black individual may not have the ability to be assertive with a White boss and because the dominant group uses colorblind ideology, it’s socially undesirable to go against those norms. Lastly, different racial groups have different cultures may have different values and expectations of communications, meaning that the White value of assertiveness isn’t a culturally competent perspective.

  2. I would say that the author is operating in a colorblind ideological frame of mind and therefore thinks that “everyone” has the same right to being assertive. As we have seen in class, the problem with that mode of thought is that, in our society, that is not the reality.

    As a woman, particularly a woman in business, if you are assertive you will be referred to as the “B-word” or you will be accused of trying to be a man and questioned as to why you aren’t at home with the kids. If you have children they are seen as a hinderance and you may not get a job because of the fact that you have kids because when they are sick you may have to call off. Even though it is against the law, many employers will still ask if you have trustworthy and dependable childcare and back up childcare for incidents of illness. I have never known anyone to answer either of those questions with a “no” but I would imagine that if they did they would not be hired.

    As a member of an oppressed racial group, at least according to my friends, if you are aggressive then you are considered militant. If and when you call someone on their microaggressions toward you then you are “looking for a reason to pull the race card” or “looking for a reason to claim sexual harassment”. So I would say that, although white women still have more privlege afforded them than Blacks across the board, the author would have been more accurate had they stated that White-straight men have the right to be assertive.

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