Microaggressions, in my opinion, are not real.
No, I don’t mean that people can’t say or do things that are subtly offensive, or that presumptions and assumptions that are prompted by superficial attributes or external appearances can’t be hurtful, annoying, or downright rude.
What I am saying is that there is not amount of schooling, or no degree of consciousness raising that will obviate some of the least attractive aspects of human nature.
We screw up. I like to think I have learned to avoid the faux pas — or the microaggression — because I have become cognizant of some things that I wouldn’t and didn’t recognize years ago. However, the younger version of me is still out there, or down there, or over there.
For instance, when I was about 14 or 15, I was at a football game with my 11 or 12 year old brother. I brought up the name of a Tracy Wilson, a high school girl whom I knew, and I snickered in a objectifying, adolescent male way. My little brother, hearing that snicker, asked, “Who is _____, some girl with big tits?” He didn’t know I was standing right next to that girl” She was two years older than I was, and nice to me. She was also popular and pretty, so her acknowledgment of the little junior high boy reflected well on me with my friends.
What I had actually said when a fellow 9th grade pal pointed out a pretty girl was, “Well, she’s certainly pretty, but she’s no Tracy Wilson.” The line was designed to get a laugh and serve as a flirt with Tracy. My brother’s outburst was a thoughtless, ignorant, and hurtful remark for Tracy, and I was naturally embarrassed as well.
I tell that story because I think it should serve as the type of indignity that we all experience, and it is relegated to a classification that I think deserves no special attention. PLEASE note that I am not saying the offensive and insulting nature of the infractions aren’t genuine; I simply think that in mose cases, the best response is to point out the error as politely and bluntly as possible, but to move on without giving it much more thought.
To her credit, Tracy Wilson responded to my little brother, but she looked at me with a smirk the entire time she was saying, “not particularly big, but very perky.”
I spent the next two years apologizing.