Microaggressions are brief, everyday exchanges that communicate unpleasant, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalised group membership. They can be verbal, nonverbal, or environmental.
In EDI, they can occur when assumptions are made about others based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics. For example:
- Introducing one colleague with enthusiastic praise and the other with just their name.
- Complementing a native English speaker on their ‘excellent use of English’.
- Asking someone from a minority ethnic background where they are from ‘originally’.
Microaggressions can significantly impact an individual’s sense of belonging and safety. It can also make it difficult for people to participate fully in EDI initiatives.
It is not only important to be aware but also to challenge when they occur and there are a number of ways to do this, including:
- Educating yourself about microaggressions.
- Calling out microaggressions when you see them.
- Creating a culture of inclusion and respect.
By taking these steps, we can help to create a more equitable and inclusive environment.
Here are some additional tips for addressing microaggressions in EDI:
- Be respectful and understanding.
- Focus on the impact of the microaggression, not the intent.
- Offer to help the person understand why the microaggression was harmful.
- Create a space where people feel comfortable speaking up about microaggressions.
By following these tips, we can help to create a more inclusive and supportive EDI environment.