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4 Ways Microaggressions Undermine Christian Unity

In 2018, I attended a Black Student Union graduation at a prestigious university. Nearly every commencement speech included the topic of microaggressions. Students were angry. They yelled about doors not being held for them, professors not remembering their names or overlooking them in class. Alongside Black faculty and professors, they declared they were done discussing these grievances and would begin to actively demand action be taken against those who perpetuate microaggressions. 

Fast forward two years and the term “microaggression” is being used even more in the Social Justice world. Last month, National Public Radio (NPR), released an article focused on microaggressions, “Microaggressions Are A Big Deal: How To Talk Them Out And When To Walk Away.” I found the article to be balanced and appreciated that it offered an attempt at solutions. However, without Christ and Scripture as the foundation, these solutions are only temporary fixes that offer no long term hope for unity.

Let’s start with a brief definition.

Microaggressions are commonly defined as: The everyday (usually brief and routine) verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership (such as a racial minority).

There are 3 primary forms of microaggressions: 

  1. Microassault: an explicit racial derogation; verbal/nonverbal; e.g. name-calling, avoidant behavior, purposeful discriminatory actions.

  2. Microinsult: communications that convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person's racial heritage or identity; subtle snubs; unknown to the perpetrator; hidden insulting message to the recipient.

  3. Microinvalidation: communications that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person belonging to a particular group.

Here are a few popular examples: 

  1. When a person of color is asked, “How did you get the job?” An implicit meaning in the statement is that people of color can’t get certain jobs on their own merit and must have received help to obtain their position.