How to Deal With Racial Microaggressions in Workplace | How to Deal With Racial Microaggressions in Workplace

How to Deal With Racial Microaggressions in Workplace

Self-Care

Tamika Lewis April 13, 2022

From racial to sexual microaggressions, if you are a woman who is part of a minority, you have probably experienced some form of microaggressions in workplace. Even though blatant racism is still present in our society, microaggressions can be hard to recognize and fight against. The first step is to learn how to identify if someone is “unintentionally” being discriminatory towards you.

What Are Racial Microaggressions?

Racial microaggressions are everyday insults, slights, indignities, and denigrating messages directed toward people of color. These comments are sometimes so well wrapped up and used in daily communication that not even the person who is saying them is not fully aware of the fact that they are doing something totally wrong.

These insults are usually based on discriminatory stereotypes about some minority groups, race, gender, sexual orientation, citizenship status, disability, religion, or age. This passive or latent racism is usually verbal, but sometimes it can take other forms.

What are Microassaults, Microinsults and Microinvalidations?

If you are a woman of color in the workplace, you probably have experienced some form of microaggressions. These insults, comments, and behaviors can be divided into three main categories, and each one is hard to recognize, which is why often no one reacts to them. Here are three types and their examples:

  • Microassaults – When someone intentionally delivers racist or discriminatory comments while not intending to actually be insulting toward a person that belongs to a certain race. The most common example is when someone tells a racist joke and then adds, “I was just joking.”
  • Microinsults – A comment that expresses a stereotypical opinion about some group of people. This usually sounds like a compliment that excludes the person from the group they belong to. A common example is when someone comments, “You are different, not like most black people,” or “You don’t behave like a woman at all, it is great.”
  • Microinvalidations – This happens when a person’s comment undermines the historical experiences of a marginalized group. For example, when a white person says to a black person that there is no racism in society or “When I look at you, I don’t see color.”

What Are Microaggressions at Work?

Comments like “How did you get this job” or ” You speak so well” are just the tip of the iceberg of comments and latent racism examples women of color endure daily. All women of color experience multiple discrimination, on one side as women and on the other side as a part of a minority group, making everything even harder.

These insults are so well incorporated into our society that most women will not even report such behavior. While the ones who do report often end up being accused of overreacting. But derogatory comments are not the worst form of microaggressions women of color experience. They are usually excluded from major projects, and their opinion is not validated, while promotions and leading positions in the company are often reserved for men and women that belong to the majority.

A young woman standing on some stairs and pondering
Microaggression is all around us

How to Deal With Microaggressions in the Workplace?

Learning how to deal with racism is the first step women must take to reduce work stress. Because work relationships and a toxic atmosphere in the workplace are probably one of the biggest reasons why black women are facing an overwhelming mental health crisis. If these situations become part of your everyday life at work, the best course of action is to talk to HR.

Reach out to someone who is working in HR and introduce them to the problem that is bothering you. Explain the exact situations and comments in detail. Ask for advice and guidance and demand that these situations are dealt with. If you don’t feel comfortable pointing a finger toward the perpetrator, you can always address this issue as a general atmosphere in the office that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Two women talking
Talk to a friend or colleague about the problems you have

Microaggressions at Work Can Have a Major Impact on Our Well Being

Microaggression is harmful behavior that can lead to serious mental health issues. From anxiety symptoms and feeling worthless to depression symptoms that can even lead to suicidal thoughts. This is why it is important to recognize these situations because no matter how strong you are if you are put down daily, it will leave a psychological impact on you.

Maybe it will not be serious like depression, but it will lead to some sort of mental exhaustion that will impact you and the people around you. You can learn some self-care tips to prevent these situations from harming your physical and mental health. Here are some of the major risks people who are dealing with this situation are exposed to:

  • Depression,
  • Suicidal thoughts,
  • Panic attacks,
  • Anxiety about going back to work,
  • Hyperventilation symptoms,
  • Identity crisis,
  • The feeling of worthlessness.

How to Overcome Microaggressions in Everyday Life?

Whether you are experiencing latent racism at work or in everyday life, you can start implementing some self-care ideas for women in order to spare yourself from these harmful influences on your health. There are plenty of things you can do to deal with these situations in a healthy way.

For starters, you can stand up for yourself and confront that colleague who has been treating you disrespectfully. But do not confront anybody if you are not feeling comfortable and safe doing so. If you are not feeling safe, seek support from friends and family and, in the end, from institutions. Also, before you make any move, consider answering these questions first:

  • If I respond, will my safety be in danger?
  • If I respond, will this lead to an argument?
  • If I don’t respond, will I regret not saying anything?
  • If I don’t respond, does this mean I accept this behavior?

If You Are Overwhelmed, Seek Counseling for Women

One of the things we must realize is that we alone can not fight all the bad in the world, we must learn to share the burden with others. No matter how strong and accomplished we are, sometimes we need women’s therapy and all the emotional support we can get from these sessions. Because only the person who has experienced racism on their own skin can understand us completely.

And what is great about therapy for women is that aside from support and understanding, you will get professional guidance from the best experts that can help you heal and make you feel great about yourself once again.

Another great way to deal with daily racism is to seek counseling for women and workshops they arrange. In a workshop, you will learn some important self-care tips, how to deal with stress, how to share your emotions, and you will meet wonderful women that are struggling with the same or similar issues.

A sad girl sitting on the bed, wiping tears and looking at her phone
There is nothing wrong with seeking help

When Should You Seek Therapy for Women of Color?

Taking a step towards a better tomorrow and visiting a therapist is something we all should do from time to time, if not regularly. You don’t need to have any mental health issues to visit a counselor for women. Visiting therapists should be a normal and healthy thing everybody should do for themselves. But why is visiting a therapist of color or women’s therapy so different?

For starters, they will address the issue of microaggression and discrimination as something that is present and tangible in our society. You will not be dismissed as a woman of color who is “overreacting or imagining things.” You will be treated with respect and compassion. Another important thing to mention, our counselors for women are specialized in dealing with the harmful impact of racism and discrimination on women’s health.

In women’s counseling, you will work with the best professionals who know how to approach the issue without making you feel uncomfortable or guilty. Also, they know how to help you and give you guidance that will actually be helpful and practical. So don’t hesitate and seek therapy to start your self-healing journey supported by licensed professionals today.

WOC Reflections features weekly interviews and wellness tips delivered to your inbox. 

© 2021 Designed by Woctherapy | All rights reserved.