Jussim: The Problem with Research on Microaggressions

Interesting discussion of microaggressions as racial insults or just being treated badly (equitably so):

If one were to read much of the psychological literature on microaggressionsuncritically, one would come away with the conclusion that they are a serious problem. If so, it is very hard to discern this from the vast literature on microaggressions.

A microaggression is often defined as some sort of subtle racial insult, often one that’s plausibly deniable as not racist. But this definition is complicated by the fact that people are treated badly all the time.

The day I wrote this, I had to wait for a ridiculous amount of time to pay $13 for a small, desiccated hamburger at an airport. Interestingly, this is exactly the type of incident that Sue et al (2007, p. 275) highlighted as a possible example of a microaggression: “When a Latino couple is given poor service at a restaurant…” Similarly, Nadal (2011) used this item to assess people’s experiences with microaggressions: “I received substandard service in stores compared to customers of other racial groups.”

As per Nadal (2011), if I believed customers of other races were given better service, I should consider this a microaggression. In this case, I am pretty sure my long wait for a bad burger was not a microaggression. And I am pretty sure it would not have been a microaggression if the burger shop provided the same overpriced, undersized, desiccated burger to a person of color (POC), notwithstanding Sue et al’s or Nadal’s analyses.

When Is Bad Treatment a Microaggression?

What makes some sort of bad treatment a microaggression versus just another form of people treating each other badly sometimes? Racism (or some other form of bigotry). The treatment needs to be motivated by, express, and reinforce racism or some other form of social bias. Long waits for bad burgers could be a microaggression—if, say, the burger joint made POC wait longer to order. But if everyone has a long wait for bad overpriced burgers, there is no racism involved, so no microaggression.

But how can one tell whether any particular insult or mean-spirited act or statement is a microaggression or just a person acting badly that has nothing to do with race (or any other identity)? One definition of microaggressions (Sue et al., 2007) is “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” Did they literally mean “daily,” or is it just a figure of speech? Sue et al. (2008, p. 278) clarify: minorities don’t “just occasionally experience racial microaggressions.” Rather, “they are a constant, continuing, and cumulative experience” in their lives. They are, per this definition, disturbingly common racial slights.

Another more recent definition is that these are “deniable acts of racism that reinforce pathological stereotypes and inequitable social norms” (Williams, 2020). This is quite a scientific statement. They are racist but deniable as not racist. They have clear causal effects—reinforcing pathological stereotypes and inequitable social norms. This would seem to require researchers to do the following:

  1. Establish that an insult/slight is motivated by racism.
  2. Identify stereotypes that the insult/slight reinforces.
  3. Empirically establish the “pathology” of the stereotype.
  4. Show that the microaggression actually strengthens those particular pathological stereotypes.
  5. Identify relevant inequitable social norms.
  6. Show that the microaggression reinforces those norms.

Given that all of this is in Williams’s definition of microaggressions, to take this seriously scientifically, one would expect all of this to be empirically established for a particular slight before it would be labeled a microaggression.

Instead, I argue that the reverse occurs—some act is labeled a “microaggression” by one or more scholars, then all of the ills attributed to microaggressions are presumed rather than demonstrated. Then the act is heralded as scientific evidence of a microaggression.

The academic legerdemain by which the ills of microaggressions have been implicitly imported or declared by fiat rather than actually empirically demonstrated has been explored in each of the following articles (titles shown; all fully referenced at the end):

  • “Macrononsense in Multiculturalism”
  • “Microaggressions: Strong Claims and Inadequate Evidence”
  • “Microaggressions, Questionable Science, and Free Speech”

For example, Lilienfeld (2017) concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support any of these major claims by microaggression advocates:

  1. They are operationalized with sufficient clarity and consensus to afford rigorous scientific investigation.
  2. They are interpreted negatively by most or all minority group members.
  3. They reflect implicitly prejudicial and implicitly aggressive motives.
  4. They can be validly assessed using only respondents’ subjective reports.
  5. They exert an adverse impact on recipients’ mental health.

The “Best” Studies

Some of the “best” studies often held up by microaggression advocates as establishing the validity of these main claims fail to do so. For example, in defending the microaggression concept in light of Lilienfeld’s critique, Williams (2020, p. 12) invoked a study by Kanter et al. (2017): it provides “important empirical support for something that diversity researchers knew all along—microaggressive acts are rooted in racist beliefs…” This was a small-scale study, including only 33 Black and 118 white students, all from a single university. These numbers are so small and so unrepresentative of any population that the entire study should be viewed as little more than question-raising, regardless of other limitations, of which there are many, as we elucidated in Cantu and Jussim (2022).

Williams (2020, p. 13) also extolled “Another important measure of microaggression frequency—the Racial and Ethnic Microaggressions Scale (Nadal, 2011), which was validated with a large sample of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and multiracial participants.” Whether anyone should take Nadal’s scale seriously, given its numerous limitations, is, however, another issue. For example, consider the item “someone avoided walking near me on the street because of my race.” This would require mindreading. Even since Bem’s ESP article helped trigger the replication crisis, mindreading has been widely recognized as impossible.

However, I argue that one does not need to criticize the methods to understand how damaging Nadal’s study was for claims extolling the frequency with which POC experience microaggressions. Respondents were provided with supposed examples of microaggressions and were then asked how frequently they had experienced such discrimination in the prior six months. For a vast majority of the items, most respondents reported that they either had not experienced the microaggression in the past six months at all or, if they had, did so one to three times. In light of this result, I would argue that it’s difficult to characterize microaggressions as constituting a major social ailment. And that comes from taking his results at face value, which in itself may not be warranted.

Perhaps because we (Cantu and Jussim, 2022) highlighted the strange state of affairs whereby an article extolled as testifying to the importance of microaggressions actually found just the opposite, Williams recently highlighted a study (Anderson et al., 2022) as demonstrating that microaggressions are experienced very frequently by medical students. That is indeed what the authors claimed to have found: “Our first major finding was that medical students frequently experience microaggressions.” (p. 303).

Unfortunately, the authors’ claims notwithstanding, they did not assess “microaggressions.” They assessed variations on “How often do you think has someone been mean to you?” Here are just two items:

People trivialize my ideas in classroom discussions.

I am made to feel unwelcome in a group.

There is nothing about race or racism here (or in their other questions). These types of experiences have probably happened to everyone. To be sure, though, I have no doubt that people are subject to subtle insults, and that sometimes these are racially motivated. But if one wishes to know “how often?” one cannot possibly obtain much of an answer from even the supposedly best published psychological science on the topic.

Thus, it’s possible for peer-reviewed social science to create myths (much as I argue it has about stereotype threat and implicit bias) about the power of problems that it has not actually established to exist to any substantial degree.

Source: The Problem with Research on Microaggressions

Trichur: Microaggressions in the workplace cause more than bruised feelings. They also create business risks

Of note. While with respect to gender, applies more broadly:

Every workplace has at least one.

That guy who excels at preening, politicking and pushing women to the sidelines: Mr. Microaggression. He is a master of subtle slights and snubs.

Microaggressions are everyday comments or actions that trample the dignity of women but also visible minorities and other equity-seeking groups. Intentional or not, these acts of bias or discrimination cause great harm.

Human resources experts say such behaviours taint workplace cultures. And in the post-#MeToo era, these routine acts of exclusion, which are too often dismissed by managers, are creating legal, regulatory and reputational risks for companies.

“In our globalized world, overt racism, sexism and other prejudices are officially unacceptable – which unquestionably marks progress – but bias still finds expression in aversive or avoidant behaviour,” states a human resources guide prepared for UKG Inc. by Vancouver-based Parris Consulting.

“Where outright violence and oppression were once rampant, prejudice expresses itself more subtly now – in the form of microaggressions.”

Sure, some colleagues deserve the benefit of the doubt if they commit a faux pas or make a clumsy remark at work. But well-meaning folks generally have the reflex to acknowledge and apologize for hurtful behaviour.

Mr. Microaggression, however, undermines his colleagues with impunity. And make no mistake, everyone in your organization knows it.

Although he is not shy about showing disdain for certain male co-workers, women – especially those who are junior to him in age, rank or tenure – make up the majority of his targets because they are less likely to fight back.

He is, of course, smart enough not to say or do anything overtly sexist. After all, plausible deniability is pivotal to his pretense of professionalism.

Instead, his behaviour is less conspicuous: leaving female colleagues off e-mails, interrupting them during meetings, passing off his grunt work, going over their heads to snatch away plum assignments, commandeering internal committee work or elbowing them out of high-profile presentations to top bosses.

Some women are also guilty of flexing their privilege by perpetrating microaggressions against their colleagues. Whether it is on the basis of race, sexual orientation, disability or some other difference, such comments or actions amount to an abuse of power because they have the effect of discrediting their intended targets.

“Even if the slights are ignored or minimized, the work environment may still be chilly,” the human resources guide states. “It’s hard to feel collegial toward people who commit microaggressions. It’s uncomfortable pretending everything is okay when it’s not.”

Equally frustrating is the inaction of managers who chalk up such incidents to misunderstandings, coincidences or personality quirks. Perhaps the biggest mistake they make is appearing more concerned about placating the perpetrators instead of doing right by employees who have suffered repeated indignities.

Diversity and inclusion have become buzz words in corporate Canada. But business leaders who wilfully ignore systemic discrimination in their workplaces, including by downplaying the harmfulness of microaggressions, will experience higher turnover of top talent and expose their companies to legal and regulatory problems.

Microaggressions aren’t just about bruised feelings – they also create business risks.

Global banking regulators, for instance, are increasing their scrutiny of culture and conduct risks after being urged to do so by the Financial Stability Board, an international body that makes recommendations to improve stability of the global financial system.

In Canada, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), for instance, is continuing its “work on advancing culture as a key area of focus” in its supervision of financial institutions.

OSFI has wrapped up its initial cultural reviews of banks and insurance companies, spokeswoman Carole Saindon said in an e-mailed statement. Those introductory assessments specifically probed how cultural factors affect “strategic decision making” inside financial institutions.

“These reviews have provided insights into behavioural indicators such as transparency and communication, diversity of thought, ability to provide challenge and reflective learning,” Ms. Saindon said.

Of course, microaggressions are just one facet of a problematic corporate culture. It also clear that culture and conduct risks affect more than just banks and insurers. Recent scandals involving technology, entertainment or natural-resources companies also highlight the link between human behaviour, social mores and excessive risk-taking.

That’s precisely why, as a starting point, business leaders across all sectors must be pro-active about educating their employees about microaggressions and how to respond to them.

“It’s critical to understand the current thinking on microaggressions – how they are (or should be) defined, how they may cause harm, how and why they should be called out, and what critics have to say about them,” the human resources guide adds.

“This last point is crucial because organizations and HR professionals need to make decisions about employee relations. If an accusation of committing a microaggression is levelled, they will need to understand it from all sides.”

Still, the onus shouldn’t be on women and minorities to solve the systemic discrimination they face at work. That’s the responsibility of business leaders and HR departments.

The #MeToo movement should have been a wake-up call for the business community that microaggressions can signal much deeper problems with corporate cultures. In fact, there’s even a microaggression app for women in the workplace, Variety reported earlier this year.

Managers need to stop coddling toxic employees. Mr. Microaggression isn’t misunderstood by his coworkers, he’s a menace to your company. Time to keep him in check.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-microaggressions-in-the-workplace-cause-more-than-bruised-feelings/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Morning%20Update&utm_content=2021-9-9_7&utm_term=Morning%20Update:%20Leaders%20square%20off%20over%20child%20care,%20federal%20spending,%20in%20first%20official%20French-language%20debate&utm_campaign=newsletter&cu_id=%2BTx9qGuxCF9REU6kNldjGJtpVUGIVB3Y

For Doctors of Color, Microaggressions Are All Too Familiar

Of note:

When Dr. Onyeka Otugo was doing her training in emergency medicine, in Cleveland and Chicago, she was often mistaken for a janitor or food services worker even after introducing herself as a doctor. She realized early on that her white male counterparts were not experiencing similar mix-ups.

“People ask me several times if the doctor is coming in, which can be frustrating,” said Dr. Otugo, who is now an emergency medicine attending physician and health policy fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “They ask you if you’re coming in to take the trash out — stuff they wouldn’t ask a physician who was a white male.”

After years of training in predominantly white emergency departments, Dr. Otugo has experienced many such microaggressions. The term, coined in the 1970s by Dr. Chester Pierce, a psychiatrist, refers to “subtle, stunning, often automatic, and nonverbal exchanges which are ‘put downs’” of Black people and members of other minority groups; “micro” refers to their routine frequency, not the scale of their impact. Dr. Otugo said the encounters sometimes made her wonder whether she was a qualified and competent medical practitioner, because others did not see her that way.

Other Black women doctors, across specialties, said that such experiences were all too common. Dr. Kimberly Manning, an internal medicine doctor at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, recalled countless microaggressions in clinical settings. “People might not realize you’re offended, but it’s like death by a thousand paper cuts,” Dr. Manning said. “It can cause you to shrink.”

The field of medicine has long skewed white and male. Only 5 percent of the American physician work force is African-American, and roughly 2 percent are Black women. Emergency medicine is even more predominantly white, with just 3 percent of physicians identifying as Black. The pipeline is also part of the problem; at American medical schools, just 7 percent of the student populationis now Black.

But for Black female physicians, making it into the field is only the first of many challenges. More than a dozen Black women interviewed said that they frequently heard comments from colleagues and patients questioning their credibility and undermining their authority while on the job. These experiences damaged their sense of confidence and sometimes hampered teamwork, they said, creating tensions that cost precious time during emergency procedures.

Some physicians said they found the microaggressions particularly frustrating knowing that, as Black doctors, they brought an invaluable perspective to the care they offer. A 2018 study showed that Black patients had improved outcomes when seen by Black doctors, and were more likely to agree to preventive care measures like diabetes screenings and cholesterol tests.

In May, four female physicians of color published a paper in Annals of Emergency Medicine on microaggressions. The authors, Dr. Melanie Molina, Dr. Adaira Landry, Dr. Anita Chary and Dr. Sherri-Ann Burnett-Bowie, said they hoped that, by shining a spotlight on the problem, they might reduce the sense of isolation that Black female physicians experience and compel their white colleagues to take specific steps toward eliminating conscious and unconscious bias.

Discussions about lack of diversity in medicine resurfaced in early August, when the Journal of the American Heart Association retracted a paper that argued against affirmative action initiatives in the field and said that Black and Hispanic trainees were less qualified than their white and Asian counterparts.

Dr. Phindile Chowa, 33, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Emory University, was in her second year of an emergency-medicine residency when an attending in her department mistook her for an electrocardiogram technician, even though she had previously worked with him on rotations. She approached him to give a report on her patients, and he wordlessly put out his hand, expecting her to hand over an electrocardiogram scan.

“He never apologized,” Dr. Chowa said. “He did not think he did a single thing wrong that day. I was the only Black resident in my class. How could he not know who I am?”

The derogatory encounters continued from there. Colleagues have referred to her as “sweetie” or “honey.” She recalled one patient who asked repeatedly who she was over the course of a hospital visit, while quickly learning the name of her white male attending physician. When she was first admitted to her residency, at Harvard, a medical school classmate suggested that she had had an “edge” in the selection process because of her race.

Such comments can create an environment of fear for Black women. Dr. Otugo recalled overhearing her Black female colleagues in Chicago discuss how they were going to style their hair for their clerkships. Many of them worried that if they wore their hair naturally, instead of straightening it or even changing it to lighter colors, their grades and performance evaluations from white physicians might suffer.

Dr. Sheryl Heron, a Black professor of emergency medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, who has worked in the field for more than two decades, said microaggressions can exact a long-lasting toll. “After the twelve-thousandth time, it starts to impede your ability to be successful,” she said. “You start to go into scenarios about your self-worth. It’s a head trip.”

This comes on top of the stresses that are already pervasive in emergency departments. A 2018 survey of more than 1,500 early-career doctors in emergency medicine found that 76 percent were experiencing symptoms of burnout.

But Black women doctors said they have seen how Black patients rely on their presence to get the best care. Monique Smith, a physician in Oakland, Calif., was working in the emergency room one night when a young Black man came in with injuries from a car accident. She was confused when some of her colleagues called him a “troublemaker,” so she visited the patient’s bed and asked him about his experience being admitted. He told her that he had begun to lash out when he felt he was being stereotyped by staff members because of his skin color and the neighborhood he came from.

“I was able to go into the room and say, ‘Hey dude, Black person to Black person, what’s up?’” Dr. Smith said. “Then I advocated for him and made sure he got streamlined care.”

The conversation made Dr. Smith more attuned to the degrading comments that Black patients experience at hospitals, and she now tries to intervene and identify her colleagues’ biases. She believes, for example, that physicians are sometimes quicker to order drug testing for Black patients, even if their symptoms are most likely unrelated to substance abuse.

But many Black physicians find it challenging to be advocates for themselves and their patients, particularly within the rigid hierarchies of the medical system. “You’re faced with situations where you’re going to be perceived as the angry Black woman even though you’re just being your own advocate,” said Dr. Katrina Gipson, an emergency medicine physician. “You’re constantly walking the line of how to be a consummate professional.”

Dr. Landry, an author of the recent paper and an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said that hospital and residency directors who are looking to address the deep-rooted problem should begin with hearing and validating the personal experiences of Black doctors. Continuing to diversify emergency medicine departments is also critical, she added, so that Black physicians are not working in isolation to implement cultural changes and arrange mentorship from more senior Black colleagues.

“I’m the only African-American female physician faculty member in my department, and that creates this feeling of not having a support system to speak up when something happens to you,” Dr. Landry said. “Having this paper is a validating tool for people to say, ‘See, I’m not the only one this is happening to.’”

Dr. Molina, an emergency medicine resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and one of the paper’s authors, said that spotlighting diversity in medicine was particularly important amid a pandemic that disproportionately impacts Black patients. “The Covid pandemic has served to emphasize health disparities and how they impact Black populations,” she said. “As emergency physicians, we have to present a united front recognizing racism is a public health issue.”

 

How to Respond to Microaggressions: Should you let that comment slide, or address it head on? Is it more harm than it’s worth? We can help.

Worth reflecting upon and some useful checklists to use. I particularly found the sections on picking your battles and how to disarm microaggressions particularly well done (but welcome, as always, comment):

For many of us, microaggressions are so commonplace that it seems impossible to tackle them one at a time. Psychologists often compare them to death by a thousand cuts.

The metaphor is both the subtitle to a paper that Kevin Nadal, professor of psychology at John Jay College, wrote about the impact of microaggressions on L.G.B.T.Q. youth, and the title of another paper on the health implications of black respectability politics by Hedwig Lee, professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis, and Margaret Takako Hicken, research assistant professor at the University of Michigan. The phrase is commonly found in additional studies on the topic.

I felt my thousandth cut a few Novembers ago standing outside a bar as my friend’s boyfriend explained to me the concept of American Thanksgiving. From the time in fourth grade when my teacher made me read the part of “slanted-eyed child” in a play to every time a stranger in the online dating world told me he “loves Asian women,” I have been pressed with the dilemma of how I should react to these seemingly small lacerations. Should I respond? Is it worth it?

When I tell people that I am writing about microaggressions, most — even some of my closest friends who are women of color — ask me why. It’s tempting to ignore microaggressions, considering blatant, obvious discrimination is still a real problem, but the buildup of these “everyday slights” has consequences on a victim’s mental and physical health that cannot be overlooked. The normalization of microaggressions is antithetical to a well-rounded society with equal opportunities for marginalized individuals.

So many of us ask the same questions: Was that really a microaggression? Is this worth tackling? What should I say and how should I cope? Or worse, we’ve convinced ourselves that the questions are not even worth asking. Dancing in circles myself, I weigh in with experts who have witnessed microaggressive acts and had them share their insights based on years of research and data.

Originally coined in the 1970s by Chester M. Pierce, a Harvard psychiatrist, today’s definition of a microaggression can be credited to Derald Wing Sue, a professor of counseling psychology at Columbia University. Since 2007, he has written several books on microaggressions, including “Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation.” In it, Dr. Sue writes that microaggressions are the everyday slights, indignities, put-downs and insults that members of marginalized groups experience in their day-to-day interactions with individuals who are often unaware that they have engaged in an offensive or demeaning way.

Microaggressions are often discussed in a racial context, but anyone in a marginalized group — be it as a result of their gender, sexual orientation, disability or religion — can experience one.

Microaggressions can be as overt as watching a person of color in a store for possible theft and as subtle as discriminatory comments disguised as compliments.

The first step to addressing a microaggression is to recognize that one has occurred and dissect what message it may be sending, Dr. Sue said. To question where someone is from, for instance, may seem fairly innocuous but implicitly delivers the message that you are an outsider in your own land: “You are not a true American.” Subtle actions, like a white person’s clutching a purse closer as a darker-skinned person approaches, are nonverbal assumptions of criminality and examples of microaggressions.

While there has been debate about the definition of microaggressions and how they should be addressed, Dr. Sue says their existence is impossible to dispute. “When I talk about the concept of microaggressions to a large audience of people of color and women, I’m not telling them anything new, but it provides them with a language to describe the experiences and the realization that they’re not crazy,” he said.

Discrimination — no matter how subtle — has consequences. In 2017, the Center for Health Journalism explained that racism and microaggressions lead to worse health, and pointed out that discrimination can negatively influence everything from a target person’s eating habits to his or her trust in their physician, and trigger symptoms of trauma. A 2014 study of 405 young adults of color even found that experiencing microaggressions can lead to suicidal thoughts.

For many members of marginalized groups, it is easy to believe that simply growing a thick skin will provide protection from these experiences. However, Dr. Nadal argues that the consequences of microaggressions are real, whether or not you believe yourself to be numb to them.

“Experiencing the spectrum of racism — from microaggressions to systemic oppression to hate violence, may negatively affect people whether someone is aware of it at all,” Dr. Nadal said. “If the person who committed the microaggression is in your life, it can always be worth bringing up. In the same way that a family member or friend may hurt you and it takes years to recover, the impact of a microaggression can be long-lasting too.”

When discussing microaggressions, people from privileged backgrounds often say marginalized individuals are simply overreacting. Dr. Alisia G.T.T. Tran, an associate professor of counseling and counseling psychology at Arizona State University, disagrees. She says that most people actually ignore and shake off a lot of microaggressions. “They have no choice, they’re so common, and you can’t fight every battle — but these things can stay with you or build up,” she said. She and many other psychologists say that responding to a microaggression can be empowering, but with so many battles, how do you decide which to fight?

To help, Dr. Nadal developed a tool kit called the Guide to Responding to Microaggressions. It lists five questions to ask yourself when weighing the consequences of responding to a microaggression.

  • If I respond, could my physical safety be in danger?

  • If I respond, will the person become defensive and will this lead to an argument?

  • If I respond, how will this affect my relationship with this person (e.g., co-worker, family member, etc.)

  • If I don’t respond, will I regret not saying something?

  • If I don’t respond, does that convey that I accept the behavior or statement?

Diane Goodman, a social justice and diversity consultant, says the process is unfair, but having to decide whether or not to take action is inevitable in today’s society. “The emotional labor should not have to fall on people from marginalized groups. In the real world, people are confronted with microaggressions and people need to decide what they want to do.”

Before moving forward with confronting the microaggression, she recommends you assess the goals of your response: Do you simply want to be heard? Or are you more interested in educating the other person and letting them know they did something wrong?

Even once you have decided that you can respond to a microaggression, knowing what to say or how to behave can be nerve-racking. In his research on disarming microaggressions, Dr. Sue uses the term “microintervention” to describe the process of confronting a microaggression. “Unless adequately armed with strategies, microaggressions may occur so quickly they are oftentimes over before a counteracting response can be made,” he said.

While your response will vary by situation, context and relationship, Dr. Goodman recommends memorizing these three tactics from her list of prepared statements.

Ask for more clarification: “Could you say more about what you mean by that?” “How have you come to think that?”

Separate intent from impact: “I know you didn’t realize this, but when you __________ (comment/behavior), it was hurtful/offensive because___________. Instead you could___________ (different language or behavior.)”

Share your own process: “I noticed that you ___________ (comment/behavior). I used to do/say that too, but then I learned____________.”

One principle underlying these statements is helping the aggressor understand she or he is not under attack for their comment. “If we want people to hear what we’re saying and potentially change their behavior, we have to think about things that will not immediately make them defensive,” Dr. Goodman said.

It happens all the time — a friend of yours likes a racist comment on Facebook or a co-worker shares a meme with misogynist undertones. How can you respond when communicating online seems so visible and permanent?

According to research by Robert Eschmann, an assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Social Work, the visibility of microaggressions also means you can have like-minded allies step in to respond with you. “When you experience a microaggression when you’re by yourself,” Dr. Eschmann said, “there is no one else that can validate that experience for you. When you’re online, you can have lots of eyes on it and more people that can call it out and say that’s wrong.”

Another tactic Dr. Nadal suggests is to send links to articles that identify the microaggression. “It can be exhausting to have to explain microaggressions each time you encounter them; however, copying and pasting a link may be a simple tactic to use.” After you send the link and call out the microaggression, it is also important to identify when the person you are speaking to is actually open to a conversation.

Dr. Sue reminds us that so much of what happens online are monologues and not dialogues. “To me, responding to microaggressions online are a waste of time, because I don’t think — unless I have time to interact with the person on a personal level — I will be able to effect any change,” he said. Knowing when to step away and shut off the screen, especially when you sense a dead end, is crucial to self-care, he adds.

Learning to draw boundaries and find support among allies is one of the most important steps in dealing with microaggressions.

For those looking for an immersive experience, one Psychology Today article suggests a process of radical healing — developing pride in your community, sharing stories with people from it and taking action to make changes on a local and political level, reflecting on the challenges of your ancestors and practicing self-care by staying healthy — physically and spiritually.

Self-care, however, can be as simple as having a few friends to discuss common experiences with. Shardé M. Davis, a professor of communication at the University of Connecticut, has studied supportive communication about microaggressions among groups of black women and finds that talking can facilitate the coping process. Although Dr. Davis’s study was limited to black women, she believes the spirit of what that represents could easily translate to other groups of people.

Source: How to Respond to Microaggressions