racial, gender, and sexual-orientation microaggressions
Being told that “we are just not ready for a Black person in that position.” Having to explain that my sexual fantasies do not center on White women. Feeling racially threatened when approached by a White law enforcement officer. Explaining that not all African Americans are employed to meet some quota.
Being told that I need to openly distance myself from another African American whose words have offended someone.
Having people tell me that I have it made and then telling me that I have “sold out” in order to have what I have.
Explaining why I am tired. Being tired. (Adapted from Locke, 1994, p. 30)
But it is important to note that microaggressions are not only confined to their individual psychological effects. They affect the quality of life and stand- ard of living for marginalized groups in our society. Microaggressions have the secondary but devastating effect of denying equal access and opportu- nity in education, employment, and health care. While seemingly minimal in nature, the harm they produce operates on a systemic and macro level.
If we return to our earlier case vignettes, we can conclude that the students of color in Professor Richardson’s class are being subjected to a hostile and invalidating educational climate. They expend energy in defending an assault on their racial/cultural identity and integrity (Solorzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000). They are placed in a situation of learning material from an ethnocentric perspective when they know a different history. They must comply and accept what they perceive as partial truths (and oftentimes mistruths) or fight
to see themselves and their groups represented realistically in the curriculum. If they fight, they are likely to be labeled troublemakers and to be given lower grades. Even if they are exposed to relevant materials, they may lack the energy to be fully engaged in the learning process (Salvatore & Shelton, 2007; Steele, 1997). If, however, they decide to accept the reality espoused by the professor, they may feel that they have “sold out.” Regardless of the actions they take, the students of color will be placed at an educational disadvantage that is often reflected in lower grades, lowered chances to be admitted to insti- tutions of higher education, less education, and years spent in lower levels of employment.
Even when educational achievements are outstanding, as in the case of Kathleen, gender microaggressions may severely limit her ability to be