scales-illustration-fairness-justice-bannerjpg

Microaggressions: understanding subtle racism

Overt and blatant racism is easy to spot. It still exists, but there is an insidious version that many South Africans are subjected to far more often.

The highly publicised reaction by Ashwin Willemse to fellow SuperSport presenters Nick Mallet and Naas Botha during a broadcast highlighted something that many South Africans could identify with - microaggression.

After the clip was widely shared some said it was too soon to determine if Willemse was justified to end his participation in the broadcast, while others did not need to know the details to understand what had happened.

Willemse said he was not going to participate with people who would patronise him. It is unlikely that it was a one-off occurrence that would move him to react. It would more likely be the final straw after shrugging it off for some time or perhaps trying to address it.

What are microaggressions?

The term was created in the 1970's to describe comments that fall into three categories which undermine and patronise the person or group at which it is being directed.

They show prejudice and discrimination that could relate to racism, sexism, homophobia or directed at the disabled, the elderly or other groups that may find themselves being marginalised in an environment.

According to Derald W. Sue, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Columbia University in an article by the American Psychiatric Association the three are:

Microassaults are most akin to conventional racism, they are conscious. They are explicit racial or derogatory actions that are intended to hurt. For example, intentionally serving a white person before a person of colour or deliberating referring to an Asian person as “Oriental.”

Microinsults is an unconscious communication that demeans a person from a minority group. Examples include a teacher not calling on students of colour or a white person asking a person of colour “how did you get your job?”, implying that he/she is not qualified and got the job because of affirmative action or a quota program.

And minimizing or disregarding the thoughts, feelings or experiences of a person is referred to as microinvalidation. A white person asserting that “they don’t see colour” or that “we are all human beings” to someone who is black are examples.

Quartz's explanation using examples from movies.

Why it matters

In South Africa, some white people might not be aware of their prejudice and bias. Avoiding overt racism may still see some people saying things that are racist.

It may be that it is unconscious, but it is more likely that a person who uses microaggressions does not think what they are saying is significant enough to qualify as racist.

You could compare it to a mosquito bite; on its own and if only one, just a mild irritation. If, however, it occurs more than once and over a period of time, one more small bite can be infuriating and prevent you focussing on anything else.

If you are unaware of the kind of comments categorised as microaggressions it may be that you are likely to use them.

If you are all too well aware of microaggressions, then this may be a good piece to share with the person who used it when next it happens.

It is difficult to address when many of the perpetrators are unaware of their actions and it is also difficult to either always ignore the comments or try to explain the issue everytime it occurs.

There is some criticism of the term as it could be seen to be too broad, that may be valid, but the central issue does not relate only to the definition, but the frequency it occurs. Even then it does not settle the matter, it should be the point that justifies a more critical conversation about the environment in which it occurs.

Hopefully, this article may be a constructive way to highlight the issue for those that don't get it and save those subjected to it from having to get into a long explanation. Share this with those who would benefit from it.

If microaggressions were directed at those that use them.

MTV created this version by switching the role of the microaggressor.


This article first appeared on 702 : Microaggressions: understanding subtle racism


Recommended

by NEWSROOM AI
Read More
'Drop shipping' - the shady side of connecting buyers with sellers on the web

'Drop shipping' - the shady side of connecting buyers with sellers on the web

The web was supposed to connect buyers to sellers, but not like this.

Facebook is planning some big changes

Facebook is planning some big changes

The Facebook CEO set out his goals for 2019, and they include more encryption, less sharing and deleting your content.

Patronage can be good, just not the kind you assume

Patronage can be good, just not the kind you assume

Patronage in South Africa has negative connotations with good reason, but there is a good version.

What would happen if Government just gave everyone free money?

What would happen if Government just gave everyone free money?

Finland has ended a trial to see what impact a basic income would have on unemployment - this is what it found.

Why you should read the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation annual letter

Why you should read the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation annual letter

For the last decade, the letter has tracked how the world has been improving.

Eusebius: 'Needing to know what happened before the Supersport video is BS'

Eusebius: 'Needing to know what happened before the Supersport video is BS'

Callers on The Eusebius McKaiser Show stand behind Ashwin Willemse who walked off the Supersport Rugby set on Saturday.

Popular articles
Shift to stage 2: Over 800 megawatts back on line from Cahora Bassa - Eskom

Shift to stage 2: Over 800 megawatts back on line from Cahora Bassa - Eskom

Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer predicts Stage 2 load shedding for Friday and Saturday and energy expert Chris Yelland also weighs in.

Capetonians water consumption down by about 536 million litres of water a day

Capetonians water consumption down by about 536 million litres of water a day

Mayco member for water and waste, Xanthea Limberg talks to Kieno Kammies about Cape Town's latest dam levels.

[WATCH] New Zealand unites behind Muslim community #WeAreOne

[WATCH] New Zealand unites behind Muslim community #WeAreOne

NZ PM Jacinda Ardern led a 2-minute silence at AL-Noor mosque on Friday as Muslim Call to Prayer broadcast live on national TV.

Distraught caller describes harrowing experience on Baden Powell Drive

Distraught caller describes harrowing experience on Baden Powell Drive

A CapeTalk caller explained to Lester Kiewit how he went through flames and over rocks, and debris to escape his car being stoned.

What happens to our bodies if we cut out sugar

What happens to our bodies if we cut out sugar

Naked Scientist Chris Smith explains.

Here's how to check your load shedding schedule in Cape Town

Here's how to check your load shedding schedule in Cape Town

Eskom has warned that more power cuts can be expected as maintenance continues over the next twelve months.