Microaggressions: A Symptom of Implicit Bias


Share On Social!

We already know that implicit bias, or unconscious bias, is an uncontrollable predetermined notion that affects understanding, actions, and judgments about others.

But did you know that microaggressions are an outcome of implicit bias?


Microaggressions are indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against a marginalized group, according to the American Psychologist.

A minority is more likely to encounter microaggressions, even when there is no obvious, explicit judgment or harassment.

In a 2004 study, Researchers Sandra Graham and Brian S. Lowery identified three categories of racial microaggressions that include:

  • Microassault: “Verbal or nonverbal attack meant to hurt the intended victim through name-calling, avoidant behavior, or purposeful discriminatory actions.” Example: Students wearing clothes that feature the Confederate flag.
  • Microinsult: Insensitive communication that demeans someone’s racial identity, signaling to people of color that “their contributions are unimportant.” Example: A teacher corrects the grammar only of Latino children.
  • Microinvalidation: Negating or ignoring the “psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of a person of color.” Example: An Asian-American student from the U.S. is asked where she was born, which conveys the message that she is not an American.

A common misconception is that minorities are sensitive to microaggressions. Yet, research shows that people of color’s sensitivity to these discriminations do not exceed their white peers’. However, they do experience microaggressions more frequently than the rest of the population.

Still, people of color aren’t the only marginalized group being affected by microaggressions. Women, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and others are also affected.

“Microaggressions, really, are reflections of world views,” Derald Wing Sue, lead author of the article, told PBS. “Inclusion, exclusion, superiority, inferiority.”

He has personally experienced microinvalidation, according to Fortune Magazine. Despite being raised in Portland, Oregon, Sue said he is frequently asked about his place of origin with an underlying implication that he is not an American.

Sue notes phrases such as, “Wow, you speak such good English!” communicate a clear message:

“I am a perpetual alien or foreigner in my country,” Sue said. “I am not a true American, because true Americans look the following way. That’s what generates these behaviors.”

These systemic, culturally-ingrained discriminations perpetuate the idea that only certain people belong in this country, according to Sue.

What Can You Do?

To change your behavior, you must expose yourself to what makes you uncomfortable.

There are many resources to help people that make those realizations, such as:

The good news is you can “rewire” implicit bias toward more compassion for others.

Download the free Salud America!Find Out If You Have Implicit Bias and What to Do Next” Action Pack. This will guide you to see if you have implicit bias, reflect and learn from others who have overcome their own implicit bias, and encourage others to learn about implicit bias, too.

The Action Pack was created by Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio.


Editor’s Note: Main image above via Edutopia. 

By The Numbers By The Numbers


Big Excuses

people use to justify discriminatory behavior

Share your thoughts