Be Mindful of Microaggressions
By: Allison Kugel
According to Dictionary.com, the definition of a microaggression is “a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.”
I was heartbroken to read that Empire star Jussie Smollett had been viciously attacked in Chicago in what was allegedly a racist and homophobic hate crime. The assailants allegedly shouted, “This is MAGA Country!” during the attack. I will opt not to go into politics, instead sticking to the human side of the issue at hand.
I have never understood unprovoked anger and hatred toward another. I can only conclude that it comes from within the perpetrator. As the late Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “When you squeeze an orange, orange juice is what comes out because that’s what’s inside. When someone squeezes you, that is, puts pressure on you, whatever comes out of you is what’s inside. And if you don’t like what’s inside, you have the power to change it.”
Perhaps this is an oversimplification of the complexity of human behavioral impulses, but one thing we can all do is be cognizant of daily microaggressions that add negative energy to the collective consciousness. Together, we can raise the vibration of this earth.
Discriminatory jokes and offhand sarcastic quips about people’s gender, race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation are not harmless. They add to a collective hostility towards specific groups of people. Harmful language can also embolden people who are living in a state of fear and ignorance to commit egregious acts of hate against others. In addition, our children hear it, our grandchildren hear it, our friends and co-workers hear it. With each word we speak, we possess the power to either poison or heal a new generation of human beings.
Going forward, when someone in your company talks about another group of people with discriminatory and mean spirited language, even if it is meant to be veiled as a “joke,” you can make the choice to remove yourself from the conversation, gently re-direct the subject, or say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think it’s funny to dehumanize people who are different from you. Please refrain from using that language in my presence.” Or, do as Joel Osteen would do. Point to your ears and say, “Sorry, but these are not garbage cans.”
I understand that we are not always in a position to create a teachable moment, but you can certainly, gracefully, remove yourself from the conversation. As we have all witnessed, words can cause harm, and unfortunately, negative words can translate into negative actions if spoken to the wrong people.
I pray for Jussie Smollett’s healing, and I pray that this incident serves as a landmark. When my son was about four years old, one of his favorite books was a children’s book titled, Words Are Not For Hurting. The concept is so simple, and as adults we often forget. Let’s try to remember.