Understanding

Microaggressions Self-Defense

A Role-Playing Workshop for Responding to Microaggressions

by Christy M. Byrd | 2018

Microaggressions are subtle verbal and non-verbal slights based on social group membership, and they are ubiquitous in the lives of racial minorities, women, and LGBTQ individuals (Sue 2010). Microaggressions differ from overt forms of discrimination as they are often unintentional or meant in joking manner; nevertheless, they are associated with a host of negative outcomes for individuals who experience them (Sue 2010). For college students in particular, microaggressions have been linked to anxiety, depression, binge drinking, and poor academic performance (Blume 1971; Brown et al. 2015; Ong et al. 2013; Solorzano et al. 2000; Torres et al. 2010; Wong et al. 2014). Since 2007, research on microaggressions has grown exponentially (Wong et al. 2014), and schools and workplaces have sought ways to address them. The current paper describes a research-based role-play workshop designed to teach targets and bystanders effective responses to microaggressions.

The current study draws on two previous studies that described role-play exercises to teach students how to respond to prejudiced comments.

For complete workshop information click here:

This material is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Examples of Microaggressions

  • Being stared at in the dining hall
  • Someone asking to touch your hair because it is “exotic.
  • Being told you speak English well when it is your first language
  • Being mistaken for someone in a service role
  • To an Asian person, “You must be good in math, can you help me with this problem?”
  •  Someone crosses to the other side of the street to avoid a person of color
  • A gay/lesbian person being told “You don’t look gay”

Effects of Experiencing Microaggressions

Psychological effects

  • Anxiety
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Lower self-esteem

Academic effects

  • Lower feelings of belonging
  • Lack of confidence in abilities
  • Poor performance
  • Dropping out of school

 

Examples of Responses

Table A1. Examples of Responses.

Microaggressions

“You don’t look gay.”

 

Strategy

Appeal to values

Response

“Wow, I didn’t think you were the kind of person to make assumptions about people.”

Microaggressions

Someone asking to touch your hair because it is “exotic”

 

Strategy

Express your feelings

Response

“It makes me uncomfortable that you want to touch my hair.”

Microaggressions

“You must be good in math, can you help me with this problem?”

 

Strategy

Get them to explain

Response

“Why would you assume that I am good at math?”


Microaggressions

“How do Black people feel about affirmative action?”

 

Strategy

Empathize with the underlying feeling

Response

“It’s great that you’re curious, but not all Black people have the same opinion about things. My opinion is . . . ”


Microaggressions

“Of course she’ll get the job, she’s a minority.”

 

Strategy

Give information

Response

“It’s actually harder for minorities to get those jobs. I read a study about it.”


Microaggressions

Being told you speak English well when it is your first language

 

Strategy

Use humor

Response

“Thanks, I’ve been speaking it since I was born!”


Microaggressions

Someone assumes you speak Spanish because you look Latino/a.

 

Strategy

Involve others Turn to a friend

Response

“Apparently, I speak Spanish now. Who knew?”


This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Assessment Tools

Appropriation & Aggression

White Privilege

White Supremacy

Introduction

Definitions

Facts rocks with sun

Facts

Maps

Assessment Tools

Appropriation & Aggression

White Privilege

White Supremacy

Slave Owners Are in Your Pocket

Public Displays

Performance Art

Workshops

Freedom and Justice Crier

Activist Resources

Dear White People

Being Allies

James, Rachel, Dragon

Reparations

Three Candles

Spiritual Foundations

Dear White People

Being Allies

James, Rachel, Dragon

Reparations

Three Candles

Spiritual Foundations

Slave Owners Are in Your Pocket

Public Displays

Performance Art

Workshops

Freedom and Justice Crier

Activist Resources

Introduction

Wood Stack Definitions Menu

Definitions

Facts

Maps

Dear White People

Being Allies

James, Rachel, Dragon

Reparations

Three Candles

Spiritual Foundations

Slave Owners Are in Your Pocket

Public Displays

Theater PTown

Performance Art

Maze

Workshops

Freedom and Justice Crier

Activist Resources

Assessment Tools

Appropriation & Aggression

White Privilege

White Supremacy

Introduction

Wood Stack Definitions Menu

Definitions

Facts

Maps