The Eastern APA Convention is just over two weeks away. Many have experienced the climate of the convention as less than welcoming. What can we do to change this? Attention to microaggressions and microaffirmations can make a difference. What are microaggressions? Derald Sue, et al. (2007) describe racial microaggressions in a now classic paper:
Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color. Perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware that they engage in such communications when they interact with racial/ethnic minorities….Microaggressions seem to appear in three forms: microassault, microinsult, and microinvalidation. [Note that he elaborates on these types in the paper linked below.] Almost all interracial encounters are prone to microaggressions.
Microaggression is not only directed towards racial minorities, but also towards other stigmatized or marginalized groups. And just as women and minorities as well as dominant groups are prone to implicit bias, so are we all prone to microaggression.
The good news, however, is that one way to disrupt the negative effects of microaggression is to perform microaffirmations. Mary Rowe (2008) describes them as “apparently small acts, which are often ephemeral and hard-to-see, events that are public and private, often unconscious but very effective, which occur wherever people wish to help others to succeed.” (46) They include “gestures of inclusion and caring, and graceful acts of listening.”
Both papers are worth reading:
Sue, Derald Wing, et al. 2007. “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice.” American Psychologist62(4): 271-286.
Rowe, Mary. 2008. “Micro-affirmations and Micro-inequities.” Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, 1(1): 45-48.
Scully, Maureen and Mary Rowe. 2009. “Bystander Training Within Organizations.” Journal of the International Ombudsman Association 2 (1): 89-95.
And a long list of climate resources here. Further suggestions welcome in the comments!