Deciding to do nothing by sitting on one’s anger is one response to racial microaggressions that occurs frequently among students of color. According to Clark & Clark (2009) some explanations for this nonresponse behavior are (1) unable to determine whether a microaggression has occurred, (2) at a loss for how to respond, (3) fearful of the consequences, (4) rationalizing that “it won’t do any good anyway,” or (5) engaging in self-deception through denial (“It didn’t happen”).
Although they may appear like insignificant slights, or banal and trivial in nature, studies reveal that racial microaggressions have powerful detrimental consequences for students of color. They have been found to: (a) assail the mental health of recipients, (b) create a hostile and invalidating campus climate, (c) perpetuate stereotype threat, (d) create physical health problems, (e) saturate the broader academic environment with cues that signal devaluation of social group identities, (f) lower academic productivity and problem solving abilities, and (g) are partially responsible for creating inequities in education.
The proportion of children who show consciousness of stereotypes and that they may lead to discrimination increases with age (30 percent of 7-year-olds, 60 percent of 8-year-olds and 90 percent of 10-year-olds). Watch this short video on the subconscious racial bias (racial microaggressions) in children.
Dr. Derald W. Sue, a Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College Columbia University, proposed difficult dialogues on race and racism for students of color are often triggered by racial microaggressions. The term “racial microaggressions” is defined as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicates hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group”. Sue conducted a qualitative study involving students of color from Teacher’s College who had experienced difficult dialogues on race in the classroom, in which the students were observed having discussions in focus groups.
Racism Linked to Depression and Anxiety in Youth
African American, Latino/a, East Asian and South Asian youth experience poor mental health and depression following experiences of racism.
An international review led by the University of Melbourne has found children and young people experience poor mental health, depression and anxiety following experiences of racism. The first of its kind, the review showed 461 cases of links between racism and child and youth health outcomes.
Although any group can potentially be guilty of delivering racial microaggressions, the most painful and harmful ones are likely to occur between those who hold power and those who are most disempowered. Read how well meaning trained therapists commit racial mircoaggressions on a daily basis. How Well-Meaning Therapists Commit Racial Microaggressions
Microassaults are meant to hurt the intended victim through name-calling, avoidant behavior or purposeful discriminatory actions such as using racial epithets (verbal attack) or displaying a swastika (nonverbal attack) or segregation.
University of Alabama Sororities Bar Black Pledges
The study, Mental Health Problems More Common In Kids Who Feel Racial Discrimination, suggests that perceived racial/ethnic discrimination is not an uncommon experience among fifth-grade students and may be associated with poor mental health outcomes. The prolonged stress and depression brought on by racial microaggressions may manifest itself in many ways, such as academic withdrawal, a fear of acceptance, reduced sense of belonging, or negative cognition.
Daily racial microaggressions are “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to People of Color” (Sue et al., 2009). Frequent racial microaggressions can create physiological and psychological dysfunction. This article, Discrimination Is Associated With Depression Among Minority Children, provides strong evidence that Racial Microaggressions (discrimination) occur daily in the lives of Children of Color and may erode their mental psyche over time.
MicroInvalidations (a form of Racial Microaggressions) are statements that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of color” (Sue, Bucceri et al., 2007). “Where are you from?”, “Where were you born?”, “You speak good English.” These microinvalidations are implying..."You are not American"..."You are a foreigner". This video shows several examples of microinvalidations experienced by People of Color.