Common Racial Microaggressions

Black and minority ethnic people (particularly those with darker skins) are disproportionately affected by microaggressions.

Remarks and behaviours, which might be experienced occasionally and brushed off as ‘rude’ or ‘inconsiderate’ by white people, are amplified by being a constant part of the affected person’s daily experience. They are usually categorised into three groups:


These are explicit racial derogations expressed verbally or non-verbally. For example:

Racial Slurs 

  • ‘N*****’, ‘P***’
  • ‘Coloured’
  • ‘Oriental’

Avoidant behaviour 

  • Moving away
  • Leaving out of group discussions

Displaying positive representations of white supremacy or colonialism or negative representations of people of colour

  • Swastikas
  • Images of subjugation​​​​​​


Student Quotes:

People wouldn’t want to be in the same group as me, because I talk differently or I look different.

On the Uni bus people would rather stand than sit down next to me.



These are a variety of subtle snubs, conveying a hidden insult to the recipient. Perpetrators are usually unaware they are speaking from bias. For example:

  • “Your English is really good” (to someone who is Black or Asian British, Nigerian, American or to people perceived as speaking English as an additional language). 
  • “You are a credit to your people” (as if they are an exception to the rule) 
  • “You’re Asian, how come you’re not good at Maths?” (stereotyping) 
  • “You are intimidating/aggressive” (to black people)
  • “You’re very exotic” (intended compliment but experienced as racially-based)
  • “You Chinese students are too quiet”

Student Quotes:

There’s these comments that people give they say oh, you’re being an ‘angry black woman’.  Every human being in this world gets angry at some point and so like basically it means that it’s just a thing that black women seem to find joy in?



These are characterised by communications that negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or  experiential reality of a person of colour. For example:

  • “I’m sure they didn’t mean anything by that"
  • “You’re being oversensitive”
  • “Your colour doesn’t matter to me, everyone’s human”
  • “All lives matter”
  • “You’re imagining it”
  • “Anyone can succeed if they work hard enough” 
  • “I have Black friends, I can’t be racist” 
  • “You should try to fit in more”

Student Quotes:

People have started saying that a lot; that "I feel have to be very mindful, I have to think before I speak."  I feel that you should do that anyway.