Recently I got embroiled in a futile and asinine text conversation. Usually with these exchanges, there are some side eyes, SMH is used frequently and a general, "why am I still typing?" demeanor is abundant. It was concerning events that happened outside of a club door on Halloween weekend in NYC. My two friends and I, all black men, were involved in an argument with a white woman, and as I looked around, I got increasingly nervous. Given the history of this country, 3 black men arguing with a white woman outside of a club door on Halloween weekend while the NYPD is patrolling around is never good, and I thought it was time to get out of there, pronto. I brought this up while discussing the more pertinent issues with her. I happened to look back at the phone and her first was response was, "Don't make this about race,"
Microaggressions are the worst because they appear to be insignificant and innocuous, but they are actually pernicious and poisonous. They are not overt, so they are hard to spot and they are not immediately scrutinized. As I stared at that comment, I had to think about exactly why that comment was so problematic and why it is incredibly damaging to any kind of progress of racial relations
"Don't make this about race," is the ultimate silencer when talking about race. It is usually people of color, in my experience, that have to deal with this phrase because they brought up a situation that was racist and a white person was quick to dismiss it. It is demeaning as a white person to shut down a person of color, when because of their privilege, they do not have to engage with racism and therefore can say don't make it about race because they are rarely confronted with it. What this effectively does is dismiss the racial implications that are prevalent in a lot of American issues today and also subjugates people of color and real conversation.
It has been proven that people of color tend to be more nervous around when there are huge congregations of white people in party settings, from college and beyond. Microaggressions are used as a tool to delegitimize legitimate gripes that people of color have. It is even more frustrating when the perpetrator thinks there was no harm done, because they have black friends or work with a bunch of black people, so they are in the know. It can be uncomfortable for them to confront those internal biases, but it is necessary in order to have real progress.
That phrase is used with issues like mass incarceration, when people want to pretend it just has to do with fallacies like "black on black crime," when it is has been proven it has racist motivations tied in with economic ones. Another popular one is with police brutality, where the conversation constantly gets steered once again towards black criminality and so called "bad apples," when it is mostly because of racist subconscious biases and flawed policies.
Fighting against micro aggressions can be exhausting, especially when the other person is unable to recognize their implicit bias. When she was called out for this, she just dismissed it saying that it was way off base and continued to bloviate. It should not always be the responsibility of a person of color to inform someone about their micro aggression. White people, if you see something, say something! (thanks mta). That way, we can make real movement toward racial equality through meaningful dialogue. Or else, its just going to be a bunch of gun emojis and sad eyes
What kind of micro aggressions do you run into? Share below in the comments.