What are 'Microaggressions'?

"Everyday verbal, non-verbal and environmental slights, snubs or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership” (Sue et al 2019).

They are almost always the result of stereotyping of certain groups, which is learned through our social conditioning and we may be unaware of how these can affect others.

Microaggressions disproportionately affect Black and minority ethnic people, but women, disabled people and LGBTQ+ individuals and working class people (UK) are similarly affected. In the UK, the legacy of colonialism also contributes to negative attitudes and behaviours against people associated with former colonies. They often take the form of:

  • Casual remarks/‘Off the cuff’ remarks 
  • Exclusionary behaviours 
  • Questions or comments that reveal assumptions based on stereotypes
  • Undermining in public 
  • Colour “blindness”
  • Marginalising or erasing queer identities 
  • Denial of individual prejudice 
  • Questioning lived experience 

Watch this video on YouTube to see how microaggressions are like mosquito bites:

2 minute video explaining microaggressions

Student Quotes:

Students and staff overcheck my work (compared to white students) – it feels like it can’t be correct unless verified.

there’s this thing where it’s sexy to be a lesbian or bi woman, but to be a gay man is disgusting.  I get so fed up of it.

there’s what I call a ‘weird curiosity’ because of the association with sex, some people feel entitled to ask about really intimate details of relationships that they would never do to heterosexuals.  It’s really offensive.

I’m Scottish, I’ve got a Scottish accent but because I’m black everyone assumes I’m from London