The not-so-covert effects of covert racism

Zarqua Ansari, Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Microaggressions are defined as statements or actions where subtle, unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group take place.

These are detrimental to society because they often stem from cultural upbringing or a prejudice of that a person may not know they harbor.

In order to be truly neutral about judging someone’s character you must know for sure that you do not hold a prejudice of any kind against them. That being said, microaggressions are often made unknowingly by those who do not know they hold a preconception.

There are three kinds of microaggressions viewed in society; microassault, microinsult and finally microinvalidation. All three of these exemplify similar side effects that stem from one deep rooted problem, prejudice. The biggest example of microaggressions observed in society is covert racism.

Microassaults are often verbal or nonverbal attacks meant to hurt the victim through name-calling, avoiding or intentionally discriminatory actions. For instance, an elderly southern couple that may be walking down a street when a black man turns the corner towards them. The couple could possibly cross the street to avoid passing the black man on the sidewalk.

This would be an example of a microassault. It is detrimental to the black man because he does not feel welcome, even if he happens to live in that neighborhood. It shows that people hold a prejudice against him because of his skin color without even knowing anything about him.

A personal experience I have had with microassaults is name-calling. Before people get to know me as a person, they ask me if they can make racist jokes at me. I find this to be wildly insulting.

I don’t want to be the person that comes across as easily offended, or thin-skinned because then I become the overly-sensitive female stereotype. I usually let the person make the joke, but instantly put them in the part of my mind that I reserve for people to look out for.

Microinsults entail verbal or non-verbal actions that subtly convey partiality and demean a person’s racial heritage or identity. This kind of behavior can range anywhere from rude looks to refusal of service in places such as restaurants, banks or other public services.

For example if two white men are sitting in a coffee shop while waiting for a third friend to show up, they would not get called out for it.

However, on April 1, 2018 two black men were arrested by six police officers in Philadelphia for waiting for a third member to join them. This showed numerous problems. The first was that it was clearly a sign of discrimination.

Secondly, the police sent not one or two, but six police officers to arrest two men. This shows that the police also held a preconception about the black men; they were dangerous enough to warrant six officers to attend the arrest.

An example of a microinsult I have received from numerous people is the saying, “you’re funnier than I thought you would be.” This is a disguised insult. At first, I was glad that people thought I was funny. I took it as a compliment.

Upon inspection, I realized that the person meant I didn’t look like I could have a sense of humor. This got me thinking. What about me striked other’s as humorless? I realized then that this evaluation of my character arose from a preconceived notion about people like myself.

Microinvalidations are communications, or social cues, that exclude the psychological experiential reality of certain groups. By saying you are color blind or that all humans are the same, you are denying their experience of racism and your experience of privilege.

People who display microinvalidation are often afraid to talk about racism. They hold a belief that recognizing someone’s color is considered racist. This behavior is toxic and instead a person’s hardships should be acknowledged and the person should be viewed as an equal.

I never thought I was ever on the receiving end of a microinvalidation because they are often so subtle that they go unnoticed. After thinking about it for a while, I realized everyone practices microinvalidations.

Ignoring the hurt of other people seems like the easiest route to take. It is an awkward conversation no one wants to have. No one wants to make the conversation heavy when it is so much easier to brush past the tough to talk about topics like racism.

However, I have found that the people I do talk to about deep seated issues are the ones I have the closest relations to. I make it my goal, and hope that you make it yours.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email