Death by a thousand cuts: How to Deal with Microaggressions AKA Subtle Acts of Exclusion

Death by a thousand cuts: How to Deal with Microaggressions AKA Subtle Acts of Exclusion

We gave the incredible book Subtle Acts of Exclusion a read so you don't have to.

The first chapter of "Subtle Acts of Exclusion" dives straight into the discussion on "microaggressions," which have garnered varied responses. It elucidates the authors' approach to objections surrounding this concept and offers a framework for understanding and addressing these subtle yet impactful acts of exclusion.

Chapter 1: There's Nothing Micro about it

The chapter presents four common objections to the idea of microaggressions:

  1. Scientific Rigor: Some argue that the concept lacks scientific validity.
  2. Free Expression: Others believe it encroaches upon free expression.
  3. Victim Culture: There's concern that it promotes a culture of victimization.
  4. Political Correctness: It's sometimes dismissed as an aspect of political correctness.

The authors, while acknowledging both agreement and disagreement with these objections, propose renaming "microaggressions" to "subtle acts of exclusion" (SAE) to foster inclusivity and clarity. They stress the significance of addressing SAE and provide a framework for categorizing different types, emphasizing their subtle, act-based, and exclusionary nature.

Framework of SAE Types

  1. You are invisible.
  2. You (or people like you) are inadequate.
  3. You are not an individual.
  4. You don't belong.
  5. You are not normal.
  6. You are a curiosity.
  7. You are a threat.
  8. You are a burden.

The authors shed light on how SAE often occurs even with good intentions, such as when people attempt to compliment, show curiosity, express comfort, or attempt humor. 

Here are some examples of each: 

  1. compliment: "You're so professional," 
  2. be curious: "Where are you really from?"
  3. show comfort: "You're from Jamaica? I love Bob Marley!" and
  4. be funny: "Can we get el mucho discounto?

Confronting and Lessening SAE

The chapter emphasizes the prevalence of SAE in the workplace and offers insights on how individuals and organizations can confront and mitigate these acts. It highlights the significance of recognizing these behaviors and provides guidance on fostering an environment that values inclusivity and actively combats subtle exclusion.

As "Subtle Acts of Exclusion" progresses, it delves deeper into specific facets of SAE, providing actionable insights for addressing these pervasive yet often overlooked behaviors.

Chapter 1 of "Subtle Acts of Exclusion" sets the stage for understanding and addressing subtle exclusionary behaviors. By acknowledging the impact of SAE and offering a framework for identification, the book provides a crucial starting point for confronting these issues and fostering more inclusive environments.