Why I Don’t Always Believe Racial ‘Microaggression’ Stories

Because, feminism. And because I’m not going to eat you no matter what happens.

Public domain photo from Pikrepo

I have something in common with black men, which might impel some to yell, “I have NOTHING in common with YOU!”

But here it is: We’re both members of privileged and non-privileged groups.

A black man has male privilege; I’ve got white privilege.

I won’t debate which is more powerful; it differs under the circumstances. White privilege protects me from cops but did nothing for 70% of Bill Cosby’s rape victims.

Oh yeah, speaking of rape, let’s talk about the Mutually Assured Destruction black men and I hold over each other: They have the power to rape and kill me, by virtue of being male, and with my superpower I can have them arrested for existing, maybe even killed with a single 911 call.

It puts me in a unique position to say to another disadvantaged group of nevertheless privilege-blinded humans, “Sometimes you see ‘microaggressions’ where there aren’t any.” OMG I live in such a patriarchy-drenched world!

Reason #1 why I don’t always believe stories of racial microaggressions: Imaginary feminist microaggressions. Women over-interpret sometimes too.

The North American world I live in, as a woman, is one still emerging from the shackles of true patriarchal structure, one set up by men, for men, to serve men. White ones.

The last fifty years have been a whirlwind of feminist change.

In the America I was born into, whatever problems women face now were way worse back then. You could legally rape your wife. Hell, it was still sort-of okay to rape a stranger. A woman needed a husband to get a credit card or a father to co-sign a lease for an apartment, assuming he allowed her to get one, assuming she could find a landlord who’d rent to a single woman who might have SEX EVERYWHERE!!!

Yet some feminists today live in a way more patriarchal world than I do. Wealth/education privilege offers them the opportunity to learn just how oppressed they never knew they were.

‘Patriarchy’ in road signs.



Minor advances made upon them (NOT full-out sexual aggression).

Some women come from real patriarchal lives, be it an ethnic, religious or social culture. Others got ‘woke’, or something.

Maybe I’m still asleep. Or maybe others hallucinate more than I.

Just search Medium on ‘patriarchy’ to find some of the most ridiculous complaints ever. I won’t mention any article or author. I don’t like the idea of picking fights or ‘calling people out’ unless they say something egregiously stupid. And recent.

These are the ones for whom I roll my eyes when they go on about ‘sexist microaggressions’. There are genuine ones, and then there are the manufactured ‘microaggressions’ that live between impressionable ears. Many of these ‘microaggressions’ are hardly gender-specific, since everyone has to deal with them.

There’s patriarchy, and then there’s the Patriarchy Monster.

Writing while white

If you believe the current news channel/social media discourse, everything white people do is a microaggression, connected to ‘White Supremacy’, The Patriarchy’s roommate.

Don’t share memes, white people. Don’t speak out against George Floyd. March in the streets until you drop from heat exhaustion or you’re not a real ally.

Don’t ask black people how they’re doing. Don’t support us, that’s virtual signalling. Don’t not support us, that’s racism.

Photo by Allyce Kranabetter on Flickr

The George Floyd straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back, the Black Lives Matter protests, and the explosion of anger in the bone-dry tinderbox of American patience living resentfully in lockdown behind face masks has made everyone a lot more sensitive to racial injustice, fueled by in-your-face-on-the-news violence against black people.

But also, hypersensitivity to slight rather than real injury is through the roof too.

“Wrong perceptions”

Buddhist psychology teaches us about ‘wrong perceptions’, based on the stories we tell ourselves about how the world works filtered through our own unique, biased perspectives. It leads us to misjudge others and ‘mindread’, thinking we know what they think, what they value, who they are as people.

Most of all, what they might think about me, the most important person in the universe for everyone.

Here’s an example of what a black guy might have suspected was a racial ‘microaggression’ when I was, in fact, in a hurry.

A few months ago I was in a pre-pandemic grocery store where I don’t often shop. As usual, I was preoccupied, not paying attention.

I grew annoyed when I couldn’t find something. I looked around to ask the nearest shelf stocker, turning to find someone in the black-shirt-and-pants uniform of this store’s employees. “Excuse me, can you tell me where I might find thus-and-such?” As he turned I realized his shirt didn’t have a name tag. He was black.

“I don’t work here,” he said, stalking away.

Oh shit, I thought, he thinks I assumed he worked there because he’s black. Fact was, I didn’t see skin, I saw clothes. I hadn’t taken the time to check for a name tag before I opened my mouth. I’ve made this oopsie before, mistaking red-shirted white people for Target salescritters.

It wasn’t a microaggression, just not paying attention. I don’t know if he took it as such but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.

I know racial microaggressions are real, just as sexist ones are, but we’re not always right about it. Sometimes we layer our interpretations on others without knowing (or being able to know, since we can’t mindread) the facts.

‘Microaggressions’ I’ve committed I don’t think are microaggressions:

  • Asking someone where they’re from (I don’t do this anymore now that it’s a cardinal sin). I’m an American-now-dual-citizen living in immigrant-packed Toronto. It used to be a great conversation starter, bonding over our shared experiences of leaving the mother country and starting a new life elsewhere. We still do that, but you have to dance around it more so no one is a ‘racist’.

  • Pointing out we all share 99% of our DNA with each other. The fuss we make about racial differences is skin-deep. Identity politics are as stupid and superficial as racism, the left’s way of dividing the world into groups to increase the number of ‘thems’ while decreasing the number of those one considers ‘us’. Pretty soon, it won’t be Us vs Them, it’ll be You vs Everyone. Then I expect society will break down and we’ll all start eating each other because, as every one of us will know, everyone besides me is a total animal, therefore my inferior.

  • So yes, at some point we have to acknowledge All Lives Matter. Many of the abuses and issues Black Lives Matter confronts affect far more than just black people, and pretending only Black Lives Matter rejects a huge amount of potential allies, including those on the right who haven’t yet ‘woke’ to the reality they’re voting for those abuses not just for ‘others’ but for themselves. But that’s a subject of a future article. For now, rock on with the BLM protests, a great start to ending police brutality for all of us. We can talk about economic inequality and how multicolored the 99% is another day.

  • Calling out black racism. I can point out to deniers it exists even as I acknowledge white racism is the far bigger crisis. I’ve called white racism a festering cancerous tumor, noting you have to kill all the post-surgery residual cancer cells or it comes roaring back. Just because POC racism isn’t anywhere close as bad as white racism doesn’t mean it’s any less toxic. The cancer patient feels a lot better after surgery, too, but she’s not out of the woods until all the cancer is destroyed.

  • ‘S/he said hi to the white guy but not me.’ ‘She tucked her purse under her arm because she thinks I’m going to steal it.’ ‘She walked ahead of me getting on the bus even though I was there first.’