Microaggressions and macro-injustices
How everyday interactions reinforce and perpetuate social systems of dominance and oppression
Keywords:microaggressions systems injustices
This article provides a framework that reveals microaggressions as an integral component of systems of social injustice. Microaggressions are a subset of micro-interactions, minute components of everyday interactions such as facial expressions, gestures and words. Research and theory in social cognition provides the context for why microaggressions, usually based in race, gender or sexual orientation, exert such a powerful impact on individual experiences and social behaviors. This framework illuminates why the experiences of dominant-class people who commit microaggressions are often so disparate from those of targeted-class individuals, and why microaggressions exert such power over the recipient. This article also examines the role of microaggressions in sustaining the very macro–systems of oppression and structural injustice from which they arise. This connection has been largely overlooked in scholarly analysis, in part because different scholarly disciplines use different lenses to analyze social systems, e.g., psychology privileges individuals and interpersonal interactions, while sociology focuses populations and social norms. Drawing upon multiple disciplines, this framework recognizes that a multitude of interactions between individual people leads to emergent characteristics at the population level. These characteristics in turn affect individual experience and behavior. The micro constructs the macro; the macro shapes the micro.
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