REVOLUTION GLOSSARY: Clarifying ‘Microaggression’

Rescripted’s Revolution Glossary is our new series where we dive deeper into words which are part of the conversations about justice happening around all of us. The goal of this series is to provide a resource for people who want to expand their vocabulary around social justice topics, or people who want extra context and perspective on their word choices. Our hope is that this series can spark some important discussions, and help people jump into those discussions with enthusiasm.

Microaggression is a term that we hear and use a lot. It was even referenced previously in our Revolution Glossary: Unpacking Allyship. The word itself seems so self-explanatory. Despite its wide-usage and seemingly obvious definition, this term is often misused to a damaging degree. Psychologist Derald W. Sue, author of Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation, defines a microaggression as an act that communicates “The everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that people of color, women, LGBT populations or those who are marginalized experiences in their day-to-day interactions with people.” The piece of this definition that often goes unacknowledged, and where the most damaging misinterpretation occurs, is the relationship between who is acting out the microaggression and who is forced to receive it?

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