“You don’t want to make a big deal out of it, but then again, you said something that offended me.” To rock the boat or not to rock the boat? While most parents hope that this is a choice their teenager will never have to make, it’s important to talk to our kids openly about what to do when even subtle discrimination occurs.
The kids in the SheKnows #Hatch program talked about microaggressions and how harmful they can be to young teens. All too often we hear these things, these unintended discriminations, which are just as harmful as intended discriminations and are incredibly damaging to all people. Especially young people.
Here’s what we’re talking about:
Microaggressions can be even more damaging than overt examples of bigotry, because they tend to make the recipient feel a sense of self-doubt about what they’ve experienced rather than outright anger. This can lead to feelings of isolation and contribute to poor self-image and depression.
What do these microaggressions look like? Well, true to the definition of the word, if you don’t pay attention (and teach your teen what to look for), many small yet damaging signs of discrimination are easy to miss. This is often because we have been culturally trained to ignore them. Among teens and adults alike, microaggression — or demeaning someone based on stereotype — may occur related to race, gender or sexual orientation. And these little jabs aren’t without effect: A 2015 Harvard study suggests microaggressions may be dangerous enough to shorten a life.
Telling a teenager of another skin tone that they speak English well, feigning “colorblindness” to avoid acknowledging a teen’s race, calling a boy “gay” because he prefers to hang out with female friends, telling a girl that she doesn’t need to be good at math, criticizing a boy for having “girlie” long hair — these are all perfect examples of microaggressions that can occur at any high school in America, any day of the week.
You can help your own children understand microaggressions and how to deal with them by downloading this activity PDF here.
Updated by Bethany Ramos on 2/17/16