Sometimes, it’s the little things. When it comes racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of intolerance, structural and institutional oppression can be hard to see. In day to day life, it can be hard to put your finger on systemic discrimination and to identify the exact forces that continue to privilege some groups in American society over others.
But when it comes to interpersonal interactions, those forces are easier to identify. Microaggressions is a blog that catalogs those small expressions of inequality, from a parent who pointedly leaves newspaper articles about HIV lying around for her gay son to see to a white classmate claiming, on MLK Day no less, that she’s been discriminated against because she’s white.
It’s a really impressive project, one that allows people to vent their feelings of pain and shock and frustration at the discrimination they so often experience at the hands of their fellow human beings. A few examples:
“I know that what happened to the Native American population was wrong, and that it was a horrible injustice to them, but why, after years and years, am I forced to feel guilty for something I had absolutely no part of?” Made me feel appalled & angry.
“You know, get a bag, get a dog, get a gay man. Everyone knows they’re the ultimate accessory. I swear if I had one I’d dress better.” 30 year old woman, coworker of my department at the mall, talking to our other 19 year old coworker. Made me feel paralyzed, mostly because I felt like I couldn’t say anything for fear of starting conflict with the coworker.
“Why can’t you just be white?” My partner at the time said this to me when I was trying to communicate about my identity struggles as a multigenerational mixed race person. Made me feel: Erased. Negated. Dismissed. Devalued. Unheard. Disrespected.
What Microaggressions drives home is something that can be easy to forget sometimes when we talk about policy and culture and the big picture. It’s that sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia happen every day, and sometimes when you least expect it. And it hurts. It might just be a small nick, but it is a cut, and when you’re cut over and over again, every day, sometimes by people you know and trust and love, well… over time, it adds up.