Effects of Microaggressions

The effect of this is corrosive and creates an ongoing feeling of being regarded as a second-class citizen, inferior or even dangerous.

Black and minority ethnic people, disabled people and other under-represented groups are likely to experience microaggressions as a frequent and familiar aspect of their environment in the UK, both within wider society and the university.

Despite massive changes in social attitudes towards gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and other minority sexualities in the past forty years in many countries, as well as significant changes in legislation, such as same-sex marriage, individuals still experience discrimination and regular microaggressions from others. 

The effect of this is corrosive and creates an ongoing feeling of being regarded as a second-class citizen, inferior or even dangerous.  Each microaggression on its own can seem minor and trivial. However, the cumulative effect is devastating but invisible to others who do not attract them. Known effects are:

  • Loss of self-esteem, feelings of exhaustion  
  • Damage to the ability to thrive in an environment
  • Mistrust of peers, staff and the institution
  • Decreases participation and ability to study
  • Students drop out 


Student Quotes:

Microaggressions, I feel, always stem from stereotypes, which you think are the truth but they are not and so they come up as insult. So they aren’t opening room for growth. Because if you see Africans as poor, they are dirty, there’s a lot of diseases, they will always kind of see themselves that way.  If you keep on asking me questions like “How come your English is so good?”, “ I like your wig” and stuff like that it just makes me feel like that’s how I’m supposed to be - I’m not supposed to know English, I’m not supposed to be educated or something like that and it doesn’t really bring room for growth or improvement at all.

It puts you in a box that you’re trying to get out of - in a stereotypical box - it limits your social interaction with other students, because if you’re stereotyped in a certain way people will expect you to behave in that frame.

If you find people who fit in that same box as you, you might as well just bond with them.  So you end up having this cluster of grad students, Asian students together so it’s really hard to fit in with other groups.

It triggers your internalized homophobia, if that makes sense, because sometimes  I doubt if my feelings and like my identities are valid because I feel  if I can hide them maybe I should hide them - because what's the point of being [queer] if I can just ignore it?  It has triggered a lot of confusion inside me. So that also leads to loss of self esteem. 

I feel a little bit less confident about going to staff with my problems if they're not wearing like the LGBTQ rainbow lanyard. That lanyard actually makes me feel that my sexuality is not going to be taken negatively.