Microaggressions: Conscious or Unconscious?

In our recent world, especially in developed countries, the concept of egalitarianism is accepted more and more widely by people. They believe the world should be a fair place which provides equal opportunity for each person no matter what one’s race, gender, or sexual orientation is. Because of this belief many people pay attention to their conversations and behaviors in order to not act as a racist or sexist. Egalitarianism is not only a inner belief, but it also becomes a environmental pressure in the society that against such prejudicial thoughts. That makes people even have bias thoughts have to hide them carefully.

However, the problem of bias wasn’t solved just because we know political correctness. In America, we have learned this country has some disgraceful history of racism, so it is even correct to say America at its beginning was built on inequality and prejudice. As for now, although explicit racist events happen much less than before, we noticed another problem: microaggressions. A microaggression means one’s words or behaviors show prejudice towards a minority group. Sometimes a microaggression can be conscious words, acts or environmental attacks meant to hurt someone, which is characterized as microaassult. The first person in the picture below is an example who received this type of microaggression, via aggressive words meant to hurt him.

microaggression examples

But more often ethnic groups are suffering from unconscious types of microaggressions than the conscious types. For example, a microinsult is a kind of unconscious mircoaggression which are verbal or nonverbal communications that convey biased thought. The other two people in the picture received this type of microaggression, as they were both hurt by disrespectful words, but those words may probably be said unintentionally. People said these words may have implicit racist thought imbued from the environment or society, and that thought is invisible to them since they accept it as a common sense. However, when they actually talk that to a person of color it can hurt their feeling because the words show rudeness, insensitivity or demean that person’s racial heritage.

Do you think microaggressions are conscious or unconscious, or maybe, in fact, there is not a clear boundary?

3 thoughts on “Microaggressions: Conscious or Unconscious?”

  1. I appreciated how you defined each type of microaggression. I think we can classify microaggressions, such as a microassualt as being conscious and a microinsult as being conscious. Before taking ContemporaryRacism, I was not aware of microaggressions or implicit forms of racism. I think context and intentionality are very important when discussing whether the microaggression is conscious or unconscious. Although whether a microaggression is conscious or unconscious, ethnic groups still suffer. Education about all types of microaggressions is necessary.

  2. Ziming- I really enjoyed reading this blog post. Many of the topics that we have discussed in class have led back to the question of intentionality. I think the question of whether certain microaggressions are conscious or unconscious, or whether there isn’t a clear boundary, brings in the concept of intentionality. I think that it is important that you brought up the point that ethnic groups often suffer from both conscious and unconscious microaggressions and stereotypes. It is important that we as a society learn to combat these actions and check ourselves while in conversations and interactions with others.

  3. Ziming- I think you raised some really interesting points, some of which I agree with. The fact that the majority of these microaggressions are unconscious is a scary thought to itself, and one that must be examined now, more than ever. It is incredible to me that the average person must put in so much effort to destroy their automatic thoughts, and transform them to new, non microaggressions. We have a lot of work and training to do as human beings.

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