Global Health Asia-Pacific Issue 2 | 2023 | Page 82

What are microaggressions ? And how can they affect our health ?

Author : Mahima Kalla , Digital Health Transformation Research Fellow , The University of Melbourne
This article was published in The Conversation in April 2023 : https :// theconversation . com / what-are-microaggressions-and-how-can-they-affect-our-health-193309
Global Health Asia-Pacific is republishing it under Creative Commons licence .
Most offensive actions are not gross and crippling . They are subtle and stunning .

Microaggressions are seemingly innocuous verbal , behavioural or environmental slights against members of minority communities .

The term microaggressions was coined by American psychiatrist Chester Pierce in his 1970 essay Offensive Mechanisms . He explained�
Most offensive actions are not gross and crippling . They are subtle and stunning . The enormity of the complications they cause can be appreciated only when one considers that these subtle blows are delivered incessantly . Even though any single negotiation of offence can in justice be considered of itself to be relatively innocuous , the cumulative effect to the victim and to the victimiser is of an unimaginable magnitude .
While originally conceived in the context of race relations , microaggressions may also relate to gender , sexual orientation , religion , disability status , weight , or a combination of these .
What do microaggressions look like ? Consider these situations . All are real-life stories from people of colour I know ( used with their consent ) � � a woman walks into a hairdresser ’ s shop . The shop is empty and the hairdresser is cleaning hair from the floor . The woman asks if she could get a haircut – if not right now , perhaps another day . The hairdresser says she can ’ t help as she is not taking on any new customers .
� a man is waiting to pick up his partner in his car ,
parked on a side street near his partner ’ s apartment , which is located in a predominantly white suburb . He is minding his own business sitting in his own car . Each time a person walks by , they stare at the man , and keep staring as they walk past .
� a couple is waiting to order coffee in a busy city cafe . The server is chatty with the white couple ahead of them . When they progress to the front of the line , the server is curt , avoids eye contact , and is eager to move on to the next customer . After placing their order , the couple stands where other patrons had previously waited for their orders . A staff member comes over and asks the couple to wait outside instead .
Examples of microaggressions towards other identity minorities may include moving away from a trans person on public transport , or not considering wheelchair accessibility needs when booking venues for meetings or events .
Each of these incidents in isolation may not seem particularly harmful , and some may even chalk them up to coincidences or “ reading too much into a situation ”.
However , when experienced repeatedly , daily , or even multiple times a day , they can harm people ’ s psychological and physical health .
Microaggressions are subtle Microaggressions are often so subtle that even the victim may not realise that they have just experienced one until later – likely because microaggressions are often accompanied with dissociation ( i . e . disconnection from thoughts , feelings or personal sense of identity ).
As psychologist Ron Taffel explains , dissociation is a “ psychically handy ” tool that helps ease the pain , making sure that the moment does not fully register or does its damage until a less vulnerable time later – perhaps during a quiet time alone …
Microaggressions affect our physical and mental health Microaggressions can occur in all environments , from the workplace , to shops , medical clinics , schools , universities , even while walking or parked on the
80 ISSUE 2 | 2023 GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com