So I am painfully aware of a number of microaggressions I have imposed on other people. Once when I was quite young, I told a “friend” of mine that she could not go on our mission trip with us because she was not a Christian. I cringe at myself every time I think of that now–how privileged of me, how arrogant, to assume that another teenager was somehow inferior to me because she had not “made the profession” or stated the formula that the church of my youth required.
More recently, I got irritated with a Jewish rabbi friend of mine who stated that we had committed a microaggression against him by having an event where people stood in line to receive a trinket as part of a spiritual ritual. Even though the event had nothing to do with Christian communion, he equated this “standing in line to receive something of value” to be exclusive toward him as a Jewish man because of its similarity to communion. I had to take a deep breath, step back from the situation, and recognize that the oppressed group always gets to say what the microaggression is. It is not my job to say “Oh, you misinterpreted that,” but to say “I am so sorry that was offensive to you. Help me know how we can plan this differently in the future so that it will not be offensive for you or others.”
Of course, it is a lot easier to note the MANY slights and microaggressions against me as a woman and as a lesbian. Just yesterday, I took my vehicle in for the THIRD time with a tire that was slowly leaking air. The men behind the counter, who didn’t bother to call to tell me that they had already looked at the tire, said there was nothing wrong with the tire. Only after I protested loudly that I was having to replace air in the tire every 2-3 days and that I KNEW something was wrong with the tire, did they actually bother to take the tire apart and find a screw that had broken off inside the tire. If my dad had gone into this shop even one time with a problem with a tire, he would immediately have gotten the full assessment and correction to his problem.
When I was a young adult, I took a male friend of mine with me to a hardware store to buy a drill. The drill was for me. I picked it out, I payed for it, I was the one who would use it. But the male store associate behind the counter made eye contact with and greeted ONLY my male friend, not me. He told my friend how much the total cost would be. My friend looked at me sheepishly. I put the cash in the associate’s hand and forced him to at least acknowledge me. But then, this man had the gall to give the change back to my friend!!!????*** As you can see I am still pretty upset about that one.
I could go on about these, but I won’t. Because I know I need to be focusing more on the microaggressions I direct toward others rather than complaining about those directed toward me. The thing about micro-aggressions is that you often can’t prove the intent or the reason for failure of the other party. But if you are the one experiencing it, it feels undeniably wrong on every count.
My hope is that I am still learning, and growing, and evolving every day. I know I will not always get it right. But I can’t let my fear of being politically incorrect, or even of causing someone harm, stop me from interacting with others and trying to do better. Because insulating and protecting myself is exactly the wrong thing to do, and will not help me or anyone else grow and learn.