A few months ago, I watched a video that spoke about little mosquitoes biting us and how we cope with these bites. We might be able to endure these individual bites, but with time we have to do something because they not only become irritating, but painful. Mosquito bites are an accurate metaphor for microaggressions. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, microaggression can be defined as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).”
The most uncomfortable part about microaggressions is that the perpetrator is like a mosquito, and as such, does not know the impact of their actions. Often, people make comments or statements towards people who are different from them and they might think they are not being offensive, but the person having to answer the question might be burning deep down. If you find yourself having to end a statement with, “I don’t mean to be offensive” or “not that I think that about you,” then you are perpetuating a stereotype that deep down, you are aware of. If you have to reassure people that your statement means no harm, then you should know that you are causing more harm than good. If you walk up to someone just to confirm if your stereotypes are true or false, then you need to do better and go do some actual research.
Read some books or articles and enlighten yourself. Go in with an open mind, realizing that the world does not revolve around your opinions and ideas and that people will be very different from you. This difference can be seen in the form of communication, art, language, and even something as simple as food. It is completely okay to have your own opinions, because there are certain things we just can’t change about ourselves. However, when your opinions and thoughts start interfering with the way you associate with other people, then it is time for a healthy change. If you look at a group of people and all you see are the stereotypes you attribute to them, you need to take a step back and re-evaluate your personal opinions. Like I said before, ask questions, but don’t ask questions just to see if your assumptions and stereotypes are true because the person you are asking will definitely pick up on this.
We all have our personal biases because we are humans, but at the same time we have to be willing to acknowledge them to the best of our abilities and work on them. In a community such as Concordia, students of color tend to experience these biases, and as much as we try to explain to as many people as we can, there is only so much we can take. Let us use a real example to analyze this phenomenon of microaggression. Imagine being an African and being asked if you have a pet lion. Most of us will kindly explain to you that we do not. This question is equivalent to a mosquito bite; however, when many more mosquitoes keep biting or many more people keep asking the same question, some of us just answer, “ Yes, we have pet lions that we ride them to school.” Microaggressions come in various forms and one of these forms includes questions like the one I just stated above. Next time you make a comment towards someone, imagine you are in their shoes and have to answer, and see how frustrating it would be to answer this question.