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Microaggressions, Marginality, and Harmful Impact


hired, retained, or promoted in the company (Hinton, 2004; Pierce, 1988). While the brokerage firm interviewer might on a conscious level believe that the company would offer the job to the most qualified applicant, his micro- aggressive behaviors reflect strong unconscious gender biases. Thus, he can in good conscience offer the position to a man and at the same time main- tain his innocence or the belief that he chose a candidate without bias. Few employers realize that the high unemployment rates, and the “glass ceiling” encountered by women and employees of color, are reflected in the many microaggressions delivered by well-intentioned coworkers and upper managers (Sue, Lin, & Rivera, 2009). The inequities in employment and education are not so much the result of overt racism, sexism, or bigotry, but the unintentional, subtle, and invisible microaggressions that place marginalized groups at a disadvantage. Ironically, hate crimes are illegal, but microaggres- sions are not (Sue, 2008)!

The Way Forward

Making the “Invisible” Visible

On July 16, 2009, a renowned African American scholar and professor at Harvard University, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was arrested for disorderly con- duct by a White Boston police officer, Sergeant James M. Crowley, because Gates “exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior.” What was said between the two is in dispute, but what we do know are the following facts. Gates had just returned from China where he was filming a PBS documentary, Faces of America, and was being driven back to his Cambridge home. For some reason the door to his home was jammed, and he asked the driver, a dark-skinned Moroccan, to help force it open. A 911 caller reported two men suspiciously forcing open the door to a house. Sergeant Crowley was the first to arrive and saw Gates in the foyer of his home. He asked Gates for identification; that is when the encounter seems to have escalated. Both give different versions of the event. Gates reports that he asked Crowley several times for his name and badge number and Crowley reports that it took some time before Gates complied with his request to show identifi- cation. Within a short period of time, the street was clogged by six other


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