December 12, 2013

"Microaggression" — the word that died.

I've been working on the theory that the term "microaggression" briefly spiked to prominence and then utterly crashed with the story of the professor who was accused of "microaggression" for correcting spelling and grammar errors. I picked apart some details in the way that story was told here, and then I began to Google "microaggression" every day or so to see what was surfacing in the world of microaggression. It's an interesting label, possibly useful, clearly abusable, and I wanted to see where it would get put. But all that came up, again and again, was that spelling-and-grammar-correcting professor. Hence the theory that the word died.

But today's search turned up something new over at Buzzfeed: "21 Racial Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis." A photographer named Kiyun got her friends to "write down an instance of racial microaggression they have faced," so this is a series of people racially microaggressed against, holding signs. This is a pretty good-humored project, and the young people who went along with the photographer's idea object mostly to dumb remarks ("What do you guys speak in Japan? Asian??"), excessively personal remarks, ("What does your hair look like today?") and — here's something to hearten the John Roberts' fans — lack of color-blindness ("What are you?").

You know there's a color-blind way to fight against microaggression: Etiquette!


Alexander said...

Could you please explain how this is 'good-humored'? I do not see it, I see just one more pile of bullshit to justify the continued use of the race card.

SJ said...

In science, one meter has 1,000,000 micro-meters.

Which leads me to ask: How many micro-aggressions make one aggression?

mccullough said...

Biggest act of microagression was not including any white guys in that Benetton ad

Ann Althouse said...

"Could you please explain how this is 'good-humored'?"

The people in the photographs look like they have a proportional response to this stuff -- the little things.

Some are smiling. Some look amusingly puzzled. No one looks particularly angry. That's the idea: the aggression is small. Micro. Their piss-offedness, if any, is proportionate.

Ann Althouse said...

If you think there is racial microaggression against white people, do your own photo project.

If I were willing to be photographed with a sign, my sign would say: "You're so white!" Or: "What are you, like, an albino?"

William said...

I can handle microaggressions without much difficulty. It's those damned macroagressions that make life challenging, especially in bad neighborhoods.

rhhardin said...

Derbyshire has a pretty consistent microaggression of the week feature recently, having noticed it was big at Oberlin, home of race hoaxes.

tim maguire said...

Fordham students, by the way.

Fordham Univeristy is in the Bronx (with a campus on the east side of Manhattan, near Times Square). Every person there, including the white ones, is a minority in their community. Most or all of the microaggressors were not white.

Rusty said...

Ina couple of hours Ima gonna get all microagressive on my lunch. Deal wit it.

Bill R said...

A better word would be 'microgrievance'. You can't have an aggression without an aggressor and there is no reason to believe anyone in the examples meant any harm at all.

On the other hand you can have a grievance without anyone intending harm, like when someone accidentally steps on your foot, for example.

So these are "microgrievances", each one equal to one millionth of a "grievance". If a "grievance" is someone stepping on your foot, a "microgrievance" might be a butterfly landing on your shoulder.

I'd get over it. But before I got over it, I would ask myself why I'm looking so hard, with a microscope no less, to find reasons to feel sorry for myself,

Sorun said...

If we're lucky, the term will go the way of Jesse Jackson's "economic violence."

I've seen a disproportionate number of Asians using this term, including its originator, IIRC.

Asians are well-integrated with whites in American society, so they can't bitch too much about racism. Instead, this may a new style of passive aggressive racial whining.

lemondog said...

A better word would be 'microgrievance'

Too late Wiki has it defined

Microaggression is the idea that specific interactions between those of different races, cultures, or genders can be interpreted as small acts of mostly non-physical aggression

Alexander said...

That's an excellent suggestion that we should incorporate everywhere: if you think there is discrimination against your group, sex, etc. the go somewhere else and start your own sports team/software firm/ fortune 500 company/ wedding cake bakery.

Sigivald said...

Seems to me that the conflation of "aggression" with "clueless rudeness" is harmful in itself.

Sigivald said...

(Per that, Bill R has the right of it.

These are grievances - possibly quite justified ones, mind you - rather than necessarily or at all aggressions of any magnitude.

Aggression requires some aggressive intention on the actor notionally performing it, does it not?

On the other hand, a legitimate grievance can arise with no aggressive or otherwise ill intent on the actor's side.)

Sam L. said...

Life is hard; gotta be somebody microaggressing every day. Your turn is coming up.

Henry said...

Is the opposite of microaggression, macronuisance?

Balfegor said...

("What do you guys speak in Japan? Asian??")

No, they speak Moonspeak. Come on. I thought everyone knew that. What are they teaching in our schools these days?

lemondog said...

If you think there is racial microaggression against white people, do your own photo project.

What is a white person. Is it skin color/shade, cultural, something else?

re: Racial Microblahblah:

I am Assyrian (Middle Eastern) and as such considered Caucasian. We range in many shades.

Grade school teacher during Christmas: You don't celebrate Christmas do you.

Me: Yes I do.(she thinks I am Jewish)

An acquaintance: Is that like Italian or something?

No I have not been...sob..... scarred..... :’-O

Peter said...

Nanoaggression is thoughtcrime.

Google doesn't know how to track it. Yet.

ErnieG said...

Then there's micropassiveaggression. That's where a teacher, avoiding the temptation to correct a student's grammar or spelling, says what the hell, and gives him an A.

Virgil Hilts said...

Q for some of these card holders. Say I meet you and say maybe you look ethnic but heh, I really do not give a rat's ass about ethnicity. I don't care if you are or are not ethnic. Is that a microaggression on my part -- ignoring your ethnicity? Not caring what it is, not bothering to learn? Am I being insensitive? If you say "no that's perfectly cool," then I'm fine with you. But if your answer is something else, then maybe you are being the microaggresser.

Unknown said...

The range of the actions showcased convinces me that microaggresion pretty much means whatever anyone wants it to mean.

For instance, how is asking what language is spoken in Japan aggressive at all?

I wasn't there, so I suppose that the speaker could have been sarcastic, but considering that the President of the United States thinks Austrians speak Austrian, I cannot discount the possibility that the asker was genuinely unaware that Japanese speak Nihongo.

On the other end of the spectrum is the boy who accused an Asian of smelling like rice.

That isn't microaggression, that is straight out harassment that would get the aggressor in some serious trouble with their employer if done in most businesses since it certainly is contributing to a hostile work environment.

madAsHell said...

"What do you guys speak in Japan? Asian??"

So, Obama assuming that there is an Austrian language was a micro-aggression?....and racist?

Blair said...

There is a wide range of irritations at the site. But I found the fellow complaining at being called "Garcia" amusing. When his name was Hernandez! I mean, the humanity of it all, thinking Hispanics all have the same surnames! ;-)

Alexander said...

I go to the Mexican restaurant and they automatically give me the gringo level of hot sauce.

I've been microagressed.

Biff said...

The Professor said, "You know there's a color-blind way to fight against microaggression: Etiquette!"

The multi-culturally "correct" response would be along these lines:

Etiquette, by nature, is a set of conventions about acceptable behavior created by the dominant and the powerful. Etiquette is a tool of privilege and control, used to segregate the authentic expression of disenfranchised communities from the conversations of the elite. As such, etiquette is, itself, a routine form of microaggression committed by the privileged against the unprivileged. Etiquette must be challenged at every turn!

MadisonMan said...

It does seem like microaggression is just some PC BS word for rude.

You can try to change rude people, but you will find the world doesn't run out of them.

Will Collier said...

All "diversity training" could be eliminated by instituting two simple rules for all office/academic interactions:

1. Mind your manners.
2. Don't be an asshole.