It’s meant as a compliment, but what it really says is, ‘You don't fit in.’
When teens talk, something meant to be a compliment can painfully remind someone else that they're different.
Microaggression is a form of "unintended discrimination."
It's a seemingly friendly comment that unintentionally reveals a nasty — and often painful — underlying prejudice.
Sometimes people are just clueless.
When someone tells you you're better in some way than others of your kind, what they're really saying is that there's usually something wrong with people like you.
Sometimes they're hiding their own feelings from themselves.
The person talking may be trying so hard to show how unconcerned she or he is about someone's color or background that they end up revealing the opposite, just by the simple fact they are dwelling on it.
It's painful to hear.
Speaking up about a microaggression can require bravery.
Because a microaggression can be subtle, the person hearing it may not feel like they have a right to be offended and feel uncomfortable bringing it up.
And when a victim of microagression speaks up, they may be made fun of.
The person who made the comment may not realize what they've done, so they may deny that there's anything wrong with what they've said. This leaves the victim with no way to resolve the hurt feelings and sometimes even wondering if the problem is their own — a toxic situation.
But microaggressions can have a powerful impact, especially on teens.
Because they can be hard pin down, microaggressions may be even worse than more obvious prejudice. They can worm their way into a teen's soul and lodge there, building up over time and doing some real damage. Microaggressions have been associated with anxiety and binge-drinking.
They can get right to the core of a kid.
We have to speak more thoughtfully.
It's as much about what our words might mean to the person we're talking to as it is about what we want to say.
If you have kids, talk to them about microaggression, and feel free to share this with other parents.