Microaggressions are the subtle ways in which body and verbal language convey oppressive ideology about power or privilege against marginalized identities.

—The Microaggressions Project[1]

An example of an antiblack microaggressive back-handed compliment.[2]

Microaggression is an unintentional action that is insulting, demeaning, or dismissive to people who are members of marginalized groups. Microaggressions are by definition individual-level, i.e., interpersonal, acts:

The “micro” in microaggressions is not an indicator that these infractions are small; instead, “micro” refers to the phenomenon that discrimination happens on a clandestine, individual basis making it much more difficult to prove.[3]

Microaggression theory describes social interactions in which members of a dominant social group say or do things (often without intent of malice) that belittle and alienate members of a marginalized group.


The term microaggression was coined by Chester M. Pierce, a Harvard Psychiatrist in 1970.[4] It was originally applied to dismissals and insults toward black Americans from non-black Americans.

In 1973 Mary Rowe, an MIT economist, extended microaggression to include analogous aggression against women. As it stands today, microaggression applies to any casual degradation of marginalized groups, such as disabled people, gender and sexual minorities. [5]


[Derald Wing] Sue first proposed a classification of racial microaggressions in a 2007 article on how they manifest in clinical practice in the American Psychologist (Vol. 2, No. 4).[6] There, he notes three types of current racial transgressions:

Microassaults: Conscious and intentional actions or slurs, such as using racial epithets, displaying swastikas or deliberately serving a white person before a person of color in a restaurant.

Microinsults: Verbal and nonverbal communications that subtly convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person's racial heritage or identity. An example is an employee who asks a colleague of color how she got her job, implying she may have landed it through an affirmative action or quota system.

Microinvalidations: Communications that subtly exclude, negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of color. For instance, white people often ask Asian-Americans where they were born, conveying the message that they are perpetual foreigners in their own land.[7]



See the main article on this topic: Gender

Wing Sue identifies several actions that are considered microaggressive:[8]


See the main article on this topic: Race
Typical examples of the double standard of racist microaggressions.

By the same token the same types of microaggression can exist on the axis of skin colour, race, and culture:


Exposure to microaggressions can cause poor self confidence and self image. In some circumstances it can cause anxiety and depression.[9][10][11][12]

Intersections of oppression

The more intersecting oppressed identities somebody belongs to the more microaggressions can occur against them. For example, a black trans woman may experience not only casual racism, but microaggressive transphobia. A black heterosexual cis man may only experience casual racism and racial microaggressions.

See also

External links


  1. The Microaggressions Project FAQ
  2. 21 Racial Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis, by Heben Nigatu
  4. Derald Wing, Sue (2010). Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Wiley. pp. xvi. ISBN 047049140X.
  5. Paludi, Michele (2010). Victims of Sexual Assault and Abuse: Resources and Responses for Individuals and Families (Women's Psychology). Praeger. p. 22. ISBN 031337970X.
  6. Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice, by Derald Wing Sue, Christina M. Capodilupo, Gina C. Torino, Jennifer M. Bucceri, Aisha M. B. Holder, Kevin L. Nadal, and Marta Esquilin
  7. Unmasking 'racial micro aggressions', by Tori DeAngelis
  8. Sue, Derard Wing (2010). Microaggressions and Marginality: Manifestation, Dynamics, and Impact. Wiley. pp. 229–233. ISBN 0470491396.
  9. Sue, D., Capodilupo, C.M., & Holder, A.M.B. (2008). Racial microaggressions in the life experience of black Americans. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 39, 329-336.
  10. Lundberg, Paula K. (2011). Women and Mental Disorders. Praeger. pp. 89–92. ISBN 0313393192.
  11. Love, Katie Lynn (2009). An Emancipatory Study with African-American Women in Predominantly White Nursing Schools. Proquest. p. 221.
  12. Lundberg, Paula K. (2011). Women and Mental Disorders. Praeger. pp. 89–92. ISBN 0313393192.