Realizing The Macro Effect of Microaggressions
Last week I had the opportunity to help lead our monthly Woke Wednesday discussion on Microaggressions - the everyday and environmental insults whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized membership. For the minorities, marginalized, and underrepresented groups who experience various forms of microaggressions everyday, what essentially began as a survival tactic, has now become the often overlooked restraint needed to stay cool, calm, and collective in the face of disrespect and exclusion. There were about 40 other Bincers who joined the conversation. Informed by their particular backgrounds many were able to share their experiences with microagressions while others learned a lot about the experiences of their colleagues.
For most of my life I accepted that this was just the way things were. I knew the most common compliment I would get from my professors in academia is that I was “very articulate”. I understood why my high school football coach picked me to play Wide Receiver on the first day of training camp, although I had played Quarterback my entire life. At my last job, I grew accustomed to being mistaken for the one other black guy who worked on my floor. I’m also willing to bet money that the next time I’m shopping in Footlocker, someone will walk up handing me a pair shoes and ask “Do y’all have these in a size 9?” Do these things bother me? Slightly, but I learned to ignore them, or make light of the situation by trolling my microaggressors with jokes.
It wasn’t until recently, in the past couple of years, that I began to evaluate what it actually meant to be so comfortable brushing off microaggressions on the day-to-day. This leads me into the Binc value of the month #Respect. When we first think of respect, we think of it as an outward expression to others. But I want to touch on the other half of respect that often gets overlooked. That other half is called #self-respect. Have I gotten too comfortable with letting microaggressions slide? Is it because I don’t want to cause any unnecessary tension between me and the microaggressor? Is it because it’s just easier not to speak up only to be misunderstood? I had to take an inward look at myself and ask If I am affording myself the level of respect that I and every other human deserve. Do I respect myself enough to not allow others to so easily diminish my value through false and inadvertent assumptions. At what point do I stop and realize that I’m doing a disservice not only to myself, but to society as a whole when I choose not to speak on these things?
For me, the biggest takeaway from this Woke Wednesday was learning pointers and different approaches to addressing these situations when they come up - whether I’m the perpetrator or the recipient. If we cannot become comfortable addressing these things as a society, It will be extremely difficult to progress in the ways we aspire to. These unintentional insults and stereotypes are remnants of generational internalized biases formed throughout the history of our country. Unbeknownst to us, these images, signals, and messages were being planted in our brains as children in grade school studying one-sided history books, and reinforced to us night after night into our adulthood through the news outlets, our favorite tv shows, music, and advertisements. The challenge I’m issuing to myself and encourage you to join, is to question everything you see, hear, and read. Seek the answers yourself by speaking with others who, on a surface level, appear to have nothing in common with you. It’s my personal opinion that by taking this approach, we can learn to fully #respect each other and fully embrace the #weculture.
Woke Wednesday, WW for short, is a monthly event hosted by our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) committee; it is an open forum that allows Bincers to discuss topics that surround the themes of both diversity and inclusion. Even though some topics we choose are not directly tied to recruiting, they always tie into the tech industry as a whole. Here are a few other stories covering past Woke Wednesday’s: Demographics and Diversity in Tech, Cultural Appropriation.