Although this is rarely said out loud, both Culver and Sue explain how this unconscious thought often translates into action when it comes to where people sit in a meeting or classroom.
"My African-American students tell me that on the first day when they sit in class the seats next to them are often the last to be taken," says Sue. "Or when they come late and sit next to a white student they notice less communication."
He adds, "if you confront someone, they will say it was just a random act. But therein lies the difficulty, because the experiences of racism are lived by people of color and white Americans normally don't see what is going on."
As a professor and author of the book, "Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation," Sue uses his research to educate businesses and corporations about the intervention trainings they can do to prevent these issues from reoccurring.
"A lot of people see these individual acts as harmless, trivial or insignificant," he says. "But what we have found is when employees are in this type of environment, their work productivity declines, and they have a harder time learning."
He adds that some of the employees he has worked with talk about racial battle fatigue, which he says "is the constant battle of thinking, 'Did what I think really happen? Was it an intentional or unintentional slight? If I confront the person, then what are the consequences?'"
"The thing that is damaging about microaggressions is that if you don't know how to respond to them, or feel like you can't, then you feel disempowered," says Sue. "But when you have the right strategies, you feel empowered."
Whether you experience these microaggressions on a regular basis or a more isolated basis, dealing with them is a pain. And if you're a minority, Sue says you'll likely be told that the issue isn't a big deal.
"Many employees of color tell me that when they raise a microaggression issue, their well-intentioned coworker tells them, 'You are being sensitive,'" he says. "Or, why are you making a big deal about that? Then they begin to second guess themselves."
That's why, Sue says, it's important for workers to not only seek allies outside of their racial group, but also allies within their racial group who will help to validate their experience.
"When the support group comes from other people of color they can validate the fact that you aren't crazy and what you are experiencing is legitimate," he adds.
To ensure that you're always protected, Sue suggests keeping documentation of each incident, in case it should become a pattern or escalate to a personal threat that becomes a legal issue.
Culver adds that you should also do some personal research on implicit bias and gender and racial stereotyping in order to better identify these tiny, harmful acts.
"People need to get better educated on what it looks like," she says, "so they can be empowered to understand."
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