Do I say comments to my friends unintentionally or unconsciously that are microaggressions? A Microaggression is a “statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority. It could be indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group.”
Many of these insults have been directed toward me in my lifetime. When I was younger, I had jobs that people did not think I could handle because of my age even though I was experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable. I remember when I was 20 years old, I was the pool director of our small swim club and the “adults” said they would “help me”. I am sure they never said that to the 21-year-old man who had the job 4 years before I did. Was it my age or gender? Recently, I was told that I had a big a$$ for a white girl. It was supposed to be a compliment. These comments made me feel “less than”.
The interesting part about the unconscious bias is that we don’t even know that we are biased at all. How can we be aware if we are not aware? This is the question I always came back to in my quest. So, I did more research. I must strive to be aware. Harvard University has an interesting free assessment for 10 different factors to test our biases called Project Implicit. These factors range from skin color (light vs dark) to religion to sexual preference to race.
I took the race and skin color assessment and was VERY surprised that I moderately preferred light skin color. Now, I know with my logical and emotional mind that I prefer darker skin. Having freckles and light skin, I have always wanted to be tan or at least darker. Also, I know that I am attracted to darker skinned men. My husband is darker, and I think that is sexy and handsome. So, how can I prefer lighter skin? I have no idea, but now that I am aware of this, I can make it better.
Self-awareness is the most important factor in unconscious bias and microaggressions. Not only do I research ways to help me understand my bias, but I also ask my friends and family to call me out if I say anything that may be offensive. I try to be open to feedback. Being open, then curious about my words and actions helps me to learn how to work better with people who are different than me. Remember the Golden Rule – Treat others how you would like to be treated. Well, the Platinum Rule states, treat others how THEY would like to be treated. How do we do this? We observe, ask, and listen.
Here are some things to keep in mind when communicating using your self-awareness:
- Active Listening – listening with all of your senses to the other person. Next, ask questions to clarify if you have a question, then paraphrase to make sure you truly understand.
- Feedback – giving and receiving both constructive and positive feedback. Remember, feedback is like a gift.
- How to say it – use words that the other person will understand. Don’t use regional, generational or national jargon. Show in the other person’s environment and background.
- Be kind – OK the Golden Rule does apply as well. We all want to be respected and valued.
- Be curious –If you are authentically curious your nonverbals will mirror your genuine purpose.
- Nonverbals – can also be a type of microaggression that we are not aware of. I’ve notice that if I am open and willing to admit my weaknesses, people can see (without me talking) that I am trying to get better. This combines with being curious and kind.
Final Blog on Anti Racism
This is the last blog in my journey to learn more about race, antiracism, and how I can help my friends and others who are different from me. I am so thankful to my friends who have graciously answer my questions, have had wonderful discussions and have called me out. Actually, this is just the start to my being more self-aware and to living a better life, trying each day to “be better”.
So, I challenge each of you to take the assessment, become more self-aware, and use the communication skills to the best of your ability. Let’s all stay open, curious and kind. Let’s all…