Columbia University Psychologist Dr. Derald Wing Sue has pioneered research on what are called "racial microaggressions" or experiences of racism that are so subtle that neither victim nor perpetrator may entirely understand what is going on. These microaggressions can range from more overt behaviors like name calling, to insensitivity to a person's racial heritage, to comments that negate the feelings of minority people. Think about things like an Asian American person repeatedly being asked "where are you from?" which can send the message that they are not American. Or an African American person being followed around a store. In both of these cases it isn't entirely clear that a racist even occurred, but if you are a minority and these things happen all the time you start to really notice them. While a single negative comment isn't likely to send someone spiraling to full blown depression or substance abuse, emerging research suggests that the accumulation of these subtle negative experiences can build up and may prove to be especially toxic for minority people.
Dr. Sue has grouped various kinds of microaggressions into three areas:
A microassault is an explicit verbal or nonverbal attack meant to hurt the intended victim through name-calling, avoidant behavior, or purposeful discriminatory actions.Read more: