No, Where are you REALLY from? What are Microaggressions and how can Allies help?

What are microaggressions?

Micro-aggression is the term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal indignities whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial insults. The person offending is often unaware that they have engaged in demearning or rude comments. It is important that you make them visible to the offending person.

What makes microaggressions different from other rude or insensitive comments?

Microaggressions are more than just rude or insensitive comments. They are very specific remarks, questions or actions that has to do with a person’s race and often happen casually, frequently and often without any harm intended in everyday life. The one that happens to me often is - Why can’t you have a normal name? I will call you Sarah. I find this rude and degrading. My name is unusual, just ask me how to pronounce it - no offence will be taken. I know it may take a few goes to get it right)

How do microaggressions harm people?

Although they are seemingly small and innocent offences, they can take a psychological toll on the mental health of their recipients.

"It can be difficult to distinguish micro aggressions from typical rudeness"

Some examples


Where are you from

You are a credit to your race unrepresented groups are not intelligent

You are so articulate

No, where are you actually from

Where were you born

You speak good English

Your name is hard to pronounce


You are a foreigner

People of colour/minority groups are not intelligent


You are a credit to your race

You are so articulate


People of colour or minority groups are not intelligent


When I look at you I don’t see colour

There is only one race – the human race


Denying a persons race


Why do you have to be so loud/animated

Don’t be so aggressive


Leave your cultural baggage outside


A Black person being mistaken for a service worker – shop assistant, security guard, waiter etc.


People of colour could not possibly occupy high-status positions.

You don’t belong

You are a lesser being


I'm not racist.I have a black friend


Saying you are not racist is denying the larger social context in which all of us are living

"The power of racial micro aggressions lies in their invisibility to the perpentrator

How Allies can fight Microaggression

Allies can help because you may be in an equal status relationship to the perpetrator.

· Become aware of your own biases and racism and confront those beliefs.

· Call out microaggressions when you see them.

. If someone tells you that a remark you made was harmful, be open to criticism, listen to why it was offensive, thank them and apologise.

. Educate employees, colleagues, friends and family about microaggressions

Allies be bold and speak out.

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