If Microaggressions Were Mosquito Bites

It’s the time of year when mosquitos are out in force where I live in New England. And mosquitos love me. Much more than I love them. At any one point during late Summer I can have dozens of mosquito bites on my body. And while I’ve been telling people for years that it’s because my blood is so sweet or because my skin is so fair, it turns out that these are myths; it’s more likely that I simply exude odors that are extremely attractive to mosquitos. Aren’t I lucky? But mosquito season will end, and in a few months I won’t have to think about it again until next year. But if you’re someone who experiences microaggressions, you probably don’t have the luxury of that break.

[CW: Strong language. Here’s a version without curse words.]

If you’ve never seen the 2-minute video above on “How Microaggressions are like Moquito Bites,” it is well worth a watch. Although it was created by Fusion Comedy and is told using cartoony animation, it makes a serious point, and often leads to thought-provoking conversation from program participants in any program with a focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Itching my mosquito bites this month is a constant reminder to me of my privilege as a legally-residing English-speaking able-bodied cisgender straight white male – and a reminder of the microaggressions that so many people around me face on a daily basis.

There is not one ‘right’ way to respond to microaggressions for someone on the receiving end – each situation is unique, and the power dynamics and personal relationships at play call for a unique response. The same can be true for bystanders to microaggressions. There are plentiful resources online to help anyone looking to stand up to microaggressions as a bystander. If your workplace has introduced the “Ouch” and “Oops” protocol or any other “safe space” supports, these can be useful to refer to on a regular basis. Primarily, though, the key as a bystander is not so much what you do to respond to microaggressions but that you do respond to them.

How can this be helpful for you and your team this week?

This Week’s Tips:

Consider your experiences of microaggressions, as someone on the receiving end, as a bystander, and perhaps also as a perpetrator:

  1. Reflect on your own experiences. Write down – and/or speak to someone you trust – about your experiences of microaggressions, as someone on the receiving end, as a bystander, and perhaps also as a perpetrator. How have those experiences impacted you, and others around you?
  2. Consider sharing the “How Microaggressions are like Mosquito Bites” video. If you found it helpful or thought-provoking, consider sharing it with your team, your colleagues, or friends. If you’d like a ‘clean’ version, click here.
  3. Ask what “safe space” procedures your team has in place, especially if you hold authority over others. If you haven’t introduced the “Ouch” and “Oops” protocol, consider doing so this week. Consider how anyone on your team would respond when witnessing microaggressions as they happen; if you don’t know, this is worth more focus in future weeks. Contact us if you’d like some support!

Try these out this week, and let us know how it goes in our Facebook group! We’d love to hear from you. As always, you can subscribe to our feed here, or sign up for our weekly newsletter to get these articles directly in your inbox.

Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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