Opinion Of Mikayla Stahl
Recognizing microaggressions is an important step in allyship
“You don’t sound Black”
“Can I touch your hair?”
“Why do Black people have funny names?”
These are examples of microaggressions toward Black people. Microaggressions are the casual, often unintentional, demeaning comments that subtly reinforce stereotypes and discrimination against people of color. Over time, these comments become normalized making them more difficult to eliminate.
“Regular exposure to microaggressions causes a person to feel isolated and invalidated” which can lead to “hyper-vigilance, … anxiety disorders and depression,” explained author Ijeoma Oluo in her book, So You Want to Talk about Race. She compares microaggressions to bee stings: you can live with one, but experiencing three or four every day makes life very difficult.
Someone who views themself as an ally might say, “I’m not racist because I don’t see color.” Their intention is pure, but they fail to see that this is a microaggression.
In denying that you see a person’s color, you are denying seeing a part of who they are. This statement can make a person of color feel as though there is something wrong with their color and others don’t recognize the unique worth and beauty.
Being an ally is not about ignoring race, it is about accepting and embracing all races and supporting their individuality. Calling out such a microaggression can be uncomfortable, and it is difficult to learn from a mistake without feeling defensive. An ally must not make the conversation about their own intentions, but rather how their words make someone else feel. If you have hurt someone, apologize. Learn from your mistakes and grow.
That is the best way for everyone to move forward.