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.
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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
- Depressive symptoms
- Lower self-esteem
- Lower feelings of belonging
- Lack of confidence in abilities
- Poor performance
- Dropping out of school
Examples of Responses
Table A1. Examples of Responses.
“You don’t look gay.”
Appeal to values
“Wow, I didn’t think you were the kind of person to make assumptions about people.”
Someone asking to touch your hair because it is “exotic”
Express your feelings
“It makes me uncomfortable that you want to touch my hair.”
“You must be good in math, can you help me with this problem?”
Get them to explain
“Why would you assume that I am good at math?”
“How do Black people feel about affirmative action?”
Empathize with the underlying feeling
“It’s great that you’re curious, but not all Black people have the same opinion about things. My opinion is . . . ”
“Of course she’ll get the job, she’s a minority.”
“It’s actually harder for minorities to get those jobs. I read a study about it.”
Being told you speak English well when it is your first language
“Thanks, I’ve been speaking it since I was born!”
Someone assumes you speak Spanish because you look Latino/a.
Involve others Turn to a friend
“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.