If you’ve ever been told that you only got into a college because of affirmative action, asked where you were born despite being American or were served after others deliberately at a restaurant, then you’ve experienced a microaggression — a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group.
Microaggressions are difficult to recognize because the person often doesn’t fully grasp how harmful the insult they have dealt is and the the impact it has, said Aaron Epps, president of The Black Student Movement.
“Microaggressions can affect minority populations’ mental health because they end up internalizing the disdain of the dominant community,” Epps said. “That puts the responsibility onto the people who are being oppressed and not onto the people who are oppressing, since they don’t realize why what they said was hurtful.”
UNC is a predominantly white institution, with over 60 percent of the student population identifying as white.
“There is a disconnect or an ‘othering’ and that othering automatically makes you less than that person dealing out the microaggression,” Epps said. “Someone might think, 'Oh, they’re less intelligent,' or treat their opinions as less valuable because of their gender or skin color.”