Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment.
–Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D. (Psychology Today)
Fun fact #1: The most popular definition on UrbanDictionary.com says, “Acts or words that are perceived to be insulting by a person who is looking to be insulted, whether or not that was the intent of the transgressor. Usually a symptom of a persecution complex.” (Who wants to go downvote the fuck outta that?)
Fun fact #2: Even our browser’s dictionary thinks the word “microaggressions” should be replaced by “nonaggressions”.
You see how that works? Microaggressions are subtle, intended or unintended ways of reiterating stereotypes with the end result of positioning the dominant culture as normal and everything else as aberrant, not normal.
Houston-based punk band Giant Kitty released an anthem against microaggressions with a music video that hits you in the face as the song attempts to heal you through cathartic vocals and lyrics.
In the music video, microaggressions are yellow post-it notes with a privilege-ignorant insult scribbled on them. Each time, someone walks past a person who sits lower on the power structures of gender, race and sexual identity, they paste a microaggression on them. In a particularly purgative moment, a woman is shown trying to wash off the microaggressions that stick to her back and are hard to reach.
For the privileged, the video is a wake-up call that begs them to be more aware of other people’s pain. To them, we advise doing whatever they do to meditate while listening to this song on earphones. For the people who face these debilitating, angering and at the very least annoying microaggressions on a perpetual never-ending basis, this song is an anthem. To them we say, connect your device into the best pair of speakers you can find, turn the volume up and break a sweat.
Here are some of our favourite lines from the song–
Nobody understands what you’re even whining about
Take help the way they want and get your fill of poisoned words
I take a little bit every day, I just can’t stand the burn
It tastes like something that I’ll never learn to swallow
It’s too late, I won’t be anyone’s exception
This kind of peace is just too fucking much for me to swallow
Here’s what the lead vocalist and songwriter Miriam Hakim, a Texas-based Syrian-American told Bitch Media’s Sarah Mirk about writing this song:
“So many times, other people have told me to brush it off, be the better person, and keep my head down,” explains Hakim. “I’ve been told if someone is being prejudiced, it’s worse for me to ‘make a scene’ and call them out on it than for the person to do it in the first place. I’ve watched people I love have to sacrifice their own mental and emotional well-being to keep the peace.”
“We want to send a message that no one is imagining these things that people say and do to them and that the fact that it happens is terrible,” explains Hakim.