Where microaggressions really come from


I haven’t read all of this yet, but it seems very interesting:

I just read the most extraordinary paper by two sociologists — Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning — explaining why concerns about microaggressions have erupted on many American college campuses in just the past few years. In brief: We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.

Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim. This is why we have seen the recent explosion of concerns about microaggressions, combined with demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces, that Greg Lukianoff and I wrote about in The Coddling of the American Mind.




“A lot of this new speech policing is justified through reference to psychological frailty, and I’m trying to make the point that this is not a positive way to look at people,” Lukianoff says. “It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”




This article is a really interesting counter to the book and the view that microaggressions are just people being frail. It suggests that criticism of microaggressions is really just a way to stiffle complaint and maintain the status quo. I think that microaggressions are all tied in to privilege and this blogpost has a wonderful parable to explain privilege that can’t be easily paraphrased but is well worth reading.



Microagressions: What’s the Big Deal?
I love this analogy.

Imagine if someone suddenly jabbed you with a pin. Not very hard, it didn’t even break the skin, but enough to still inflict a quick stab of pain…