by Isabel Beresford- Cole

Racial Microaggressions are an everyday experience (but they are not Micro in Impact)

There is the belief that we are living in a ‘post-racial age’, where it is no longer socially acceptable to be outright racist, shouting slurs and inciting violence.

Many white people say that they “do not see colour”, claiming to ignore the race of the person and treat all people equally. However, Bonilla-Silva coins this an era of ‘colour-blind racism’, which is in itself harmful as it refuses to see and accept the oppressive mechanisms constantly taking place.

Racism can exist without ‘racists’, as demonstrated in the workplace, where from Race Equality matters network 83% of ethnically diverse respondents experienced racial microaggressions in the workplace.

By refusing to see “colour”, this assumes a refusal to accept and therefore change the institutional prejudices that face ethnically diverse people regularly. This therefore exacerbates the issue, preserving their own white superiority, whether this be a conscious or unconscious effort.


Unless you experience it, you won’t understand why it’s like a death by a thousand cuts.


This is where #ItsNotMicro comes in. #ItsNotMicro encourages us to directly confront issues of racism in the workplace.


According to Psychology Today, microaggressions are “subtle, often unintentional, forms of prejudice. It often takes the shape of an offhand comment, an inadvertently painful joke, or a pointed insult.”


Though seemingly innocent on the surface, these words carry a weighty history of structural oppression, consistently eroding the mental well-being of those on the receiving end.


Despite the increasing prevalence of the term “microaggression,” many remain unclear about its meaning.


A new solution by Race Equality Matters


What sets the #ItsNotMicro solution apart is its adept illustration of the dichotomy between intention and impact, exemplified in instances like the question, “Can I touch your hair?”


As someone with curly hair, I frequently encounter this seemingly endearing inquiry, rooted in a genuine fascination with curl patterns. However, it inadvertently reinforces the narrative that white hair is the standard, labelling anything outside this mould as ‘abnormal.’


The solution not only identifies such microaggressions but also provides constructive solutions. Returning to the hair example, genuine curiosity can be expressed through questions about hairstyles, without imposing on a coworker’s obligation to educate.


#ItsNotMicro not only spotlights microaggressions but also guides individuals on overcoming them, fostering a workplace culture of understanding and respect.


The need for active allyship


#ItsNotMicro stresses the role of proactive allyship, offering ways that you can become a good ally.


Too often, the burden of racial activism has been placed on ethnically diverse people, particularly black women, which can be mentally and emotionally draining. #ItsNotMicro believes, “It’s everyone’s business to confront microaggressions”, you should not stay silent when you see prejudices take place.


The solution acknowledges the fear of confrontation and offers non-aggressive ways to address microaggressions, fostering a supportive work environment.


For example, “May I ask what you meant by that?” or “Could you please clarify?” calmly and safely calls on the perpetrator to reflect on their actions without causing tensions or conflict.


I like that there is a distinction made between white saviourship and allyship– your ethnically diverse coworkers are not ‘weak’ or in need of ‘saving’, but by being active and calling out injustice, you are amplifying the voices of your other coworkers.


As a young person entering the world of work, initiatives such as this make me feel safe and considered in a work environment. Too often, young people are dismissed as being

overly-sensitive or a ‘snowflake’ for calling out what they believe to be insensitive and incorrect.


Hope for my generation and others

#ItsNotMicro instils a sense of confidence in me that if I experienced microaggressions in the workplace, I would be taken seriously and supported by my co-workers, and that the company cares for my well-being.


In conclusion, I urge all companies to join this impactful solution. With 73% of surveyed companies acknowledging that #ItsNotMicro would aid in addressing racial inequalities, it’s time to sign up and be part of the solution.


Image from our ‘Its Not Micro Guide – Background Image Shutterstock

Skip to content