By Shon Mack | UAB Community Health and Human Services Intern
Being a woman in society is tough but being a black woman in society is even tougher. But why? African American women probably experience the most microaggressions than any other demographic. Microaggressions are comments or actions that unintentionally express a prejudiced attitude towards members of racial minorities. Unfortunately, it happens so often that dealing with them almost seems like an impossible task and trying to ignore constant slick comments and insults can be exhausting.
The most common place for microaggressions against African American women to occur is the workplace. Black women are most likely to face occupational segregation and typically earn 39% less than White men in the U.S. compared to White women (19%) (Barratt, 2022). It is easy for African American women to become overwhelmed, which can cause them to experience lack of motivation and energy when trying to complete different tasks. It is also common for black women to be mistaken as the aggressor under a variety of circumstances. The most common microaggressions that black women experience include:
- Assuming that all Black women have had the same life experiences
- Tone policing based on racial stereotypes
- Judging their appearance
- Opportunity shaming
The way that we react to these types of conflicts is oftentimes described as loud, unprofessional, and even “ghetto”. Describing African American women in this manner is often utilized to coerce us into becoming more submissive in today’s society. In their eyes, black women should be invisible.
However, Black women are strong, powerful individuals. The most resilient of them all. Our identity and culture define who we are, and we shouldn’t have to feel they’re being mocked or made fun of for entertainment. The key to handling microaggressions is to respond as though someone is asking what you had for dinner last night. Explain your point of view first, and then ask them for theirs. This will create room for positive conversations where both parties learn something new in the process.
If someone comes up to you and says, “Oh my, you changed your hair again. How long did it take?” You reply, “Oh, just 4 hours, what about you?” and then ask them about their hair care routine. Let the conversation flow.
It isn’t our responsibility as Black women to speak for all women of color, however, we can all share our own experiences and encourage symmetry among all.
Barratt, B. (2022, October 12). The microaggressions towards black women you might be complicit in at work. Forbes. Retrieved December 7, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/biancabarratt/2020/06/19/the-microaggressions-towards-black-women-you-might-be-complicit-in-at-work/?sh=37594dac2bda
Jones, N. Dr. LPCC (2021)Working While Black- 9 Signs of Microaggressions in the Workplace Against African American Women. https://www.drnataliejones.com/working-while-black-9-signs-of-microaggression-in-the-workplace-against-african-american-women/