While I consistently discuss the built environment with anyone who sits still enough for long enough, another consideration about the built environment is the relationships between the people within it. A lot of people are curious about racial migroaggressions. A buddy of mine posted this on social media, and I could not stop thinking about how accurate this is and why so many people are in pain. First and foremost, this is actually a metaphor for any human relationship that exists, and can also be a metaphor for humanity’s relationship with the earth. There is no interaction that could not be improved by acknowledging this point, and refusing to acknowledge it is why there is so much psychic damage in the world. However, consider what a racial microaggression is: someone decides that a BIPOCQ (Black/Indigenous/Person of Color/Queer) ought to have the mental/emotional/physical acuity for something to which the BIPOCQ never consented. Consequently, that BIPOCQ is forced to internally contend with whatever consequent emotion while maintaining the relationship.
One of the most stressful examples of microaggressions is not communicating, either not providing information or not the correct information. The BIPOCQ continues to act on whatever is available, and then is told that said action was incorrect. Frequently, the BIPOCQ is held publicly accountable for incomplete information and is subjected to the consequences while those who hoarded the information are protected. Therefore, even without having all the information, the BIPOCQ is held responsible because somebody did not care enough to make the necessary information known. If organizations are losing BIPOCQ in the tokenized positions being filled, this is almost exclusively why.
The flip side of not communicating is not acting unless the conditions for actions are almost entirely not on the terms of the BIPOCQ. The BIPOCQ is working to complete an action, especially Black women, but those around the BIPOCQ keep changing the terms, changing their minds, and/or ignoring the BIPOCQ until all their autonomy is diminished. Many of the recent articles about White feminism touch on this, but this cannot be stressed enough: no one who cannot be humble to BIPOCQ authority is an ally/accomplice. The end. If being in charge and having all authority is the point of the exercise, then control is the goal, not justice.
The second most egregious example of a microaggression is treating BIPOCQ as disposable when problems are communicated because of the mindset that either party can leave at any time. Most people are unaware of this, but BIPOCQ internalize so many emotions that when problems are finally shared, the BIPOCQ is almost at a breaking point. Nevertheless, people will continue to ignore the idea that it takes any effort to maintain/restore a wrong done, demonstrating a clear lack of remorse. Making an effort to communicate relationship breakdowns causes so many stressful questions in a BIPOCQ’s mind: “Will I lose my job?” “Will I be shunned?” “Will I lose my home?” “Will my kids get picked on?” “Will people close to me get picked on?” “Do I really need this [person/organization]?” “Is there any way to avoid this conversation?” Because of a lack of capital, most BIPOCQ do not have much autonomy; oppression makes it extremely difficult to change circumstances for most. There are parts of Austin that I do my best to avoid being alone in because they stress me out so much due to the fear that I could face discrimination without any consequence.
But what is the most egregious microaggression of all, you ask? Normalizing bad behavior towards BIPOCQ, making one think that no matter what person, what entity they interact with, there will never be relief from that behavior. The myth is that segregated entities would be safe; how does anyone figure that, when everyone has conditioned themselves and BIPOCQ that BIPOCQ should be able to handle a little mistreatment? Hurt people hurt people. Why are Black women the highest educated and the lowest paid? Because everyone accepts that. Why does nothing change when Black women point that out? Because everyone has decided that Black women must have done something to deserve it. I am not even touching any of the other struggles because there are things to do.
The next time someone says that people need to “toughen up,” it is now the time to start asking why. Literally no BIPOCQ needs anyone offering little nuggets of poison for us to have to deal with right now. Life is just too stressful.
Examples of microaggressions:
“Are you sure we need to do that? We could just [action nothing like the one described].”
“[BIPOCQ] is having a meltdown.”
“You’re not really having a problem with [person/organization]. It’s all in your mindset.”
“I can’t hurt you. Only you can hurt you.”
“That’s just the way things are.” — Person who has the capacity to change how things are
“If you don’t like it, you can leave.” Translation: My conditions are the only ones that matter.