What is a microaggression? And why the need to come up with a new issue? Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say: a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority). I would add the majority gender, women, are also included in the definition of microaggression targets.
Why was the term microaggression invented?
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What is a microaggression? And why the need to come up with a new issue? Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say: “A comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).” I would add the majority gender, women, are also included in the definition of microaggression targets.
Why was the term microaggression invented?
Notice the terms in the definition, including subtle, unconscious or unintentional. And in the term itself: micro. Have we come to the point in the US where we have solved so many of our society’s major and minor problems that we need to create and highlight micro problems in order to keep attention-getting issues like outrage and victimization in the news? Answer: Yes. I will expound and explain as I go along.
Okay, I can hear you beginning to sit up and want to take me on. “Will, do you really, really believe that we have solved all or even nearly all of the ills in our country?” No. No. Not at all. Not even close. But we have solved enough of the major issues that activists can no longer credibly point to egregious examples of either unfairness or discrimination, hence the need for a new category. And this is a perfect new category. Again, note words like subtle, unconscious and unintentional. It is very hard to prove or disprove claims like these. And that’s part of the point of inventing this issue; allegations of microaggressions are easy to make, and almost impossible to defend.
These next two paragraphs are taken from an earlier podcast and repeated for effect. Much of my worldview is based on my conviction that America is an exceptional country, having made unique, powerful and vital contributions to the world in its relatively short history. Is America perfect? Of course not. Ity is deeply flawed. Are all great men and women deeply flawed? Yes. Are they still great? Yes. America is deeply flawed, and on balance clearly exceptional. These repeated excerpts are not at all the whole case for my belief; these are just the portions that pertains to today’s podcast. The US has been on a unique and successful mission since 1776 starting with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. America was founded on an astonishing principle; all men were created equal: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The most astonishing part is that this principled stand was indeed astonishing in 1776. The Declaration of Independence was an international game changer, written at a time that hereditary monarchs and dictators ruled most of the world, and concepts such as private property for all and rights given to people by a Creator were almost unthinkable. In the process, the Founders created the world’s oldest democracy; yes, that’s us–the world’s oldest democracy. The Constitution did allow slaves, and women were not allowed to vote. In 1789, only white, land-owning males were allowed to vote in most states. Had the abolitionists held out for no slavery from the beginning, there would have been no union, no America; the US would have been stillborn. But the Declaration was an all-important statement of direction. A direction we have been committed to and have been following ever since 1776.
Even prior to the Civil War (the ultimate oxymoron), the struggle between the North and South was fierce and continuing, with the South wanting more states to be slave states, and the North wanting to cap the number of slave-holding states. Over 600,000 Americans died in the war that liberated the slaves. That’s more deaths than in all of our other wars combined, including defeating the Nazis and Imperial Japan in WWII. Post the Civil War, the struggle continued as the South instituted the Black Codes as way of continuing to use blacks for free or near-free labor. It was not until 1948 that the US military was integrated. And it took until the mid-60s for black civil rights to rise to the top of the nation’s attention and be addressed.
The progress toward fulfilling our nation’s original mission statements, the Declaration and Constitution, continues. It will never be finished. Perfection is always a target, and never a reality. As society changed, allowing social progress albeit sometimes with tremendous pain, America has frequently stepped up to take the next step toward fulfilling its original calling. America has made terrible mistakes, some of them over extended time, like the virtual elimination of Native Americans. But on balance, we come out well. And compared to other countries, we look very good. Winston Churchill famously said, “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…” let’s paraphrase, “No one pretends that America is perfect, or has always done the right thing. However, on balance throughout its history America has been exceptional, and has contributed massively and positively to the world.”
Okay, I promised to come back to why the microaggression issue was invented. Further, needed, progress in our country will take hard work. And all progress starts with hard work, people getting personally involved; legislation is not where the work starts. The Civil War was hard work. The long battle by the Abolitionists and others leading up to the Civil War was hard work. Anti-slavery legislation simply capped all that necessary work. Winning the vote for women, still not yet 100 years old in the US, was hard work. The suffragette movement leading up the to the 19th Amendment took hard work over time. Working for civil rights in the South in the ‘60s and ‘70s was hard work. Again, this needed work led to the needed legislation.
Stopping homicides in inner cities will take work. Getting more parents to take responsibility for their kids will take work. Holding our politicians and others in government accountable for the country’s success and not theirs will take work. This kind of work is best done one-on-one. It is not done by “others” and it is not done by the government. The others are us. And no government ever changed a heart. Dealing with people individually is the only way to change hearts. And only changed hearts change minds, and changed minds change societies and governments.
Focusing on issues like microaggressions distracts us from the work ahead of us. Microaggressions are real, but they are, well, micro. Let’s focus on the more macro issues, even if we need to do the heavy lifting ourselves. And if we don’t, who do we expect will do the work for us?
Today’s key points:
- Our country, the US, continues successfully, with all of its successes and failures, to fulfill its bold, unique and example-setting mission first laid out in the late 1700s.
- Microaggressions are real, but are being used as a intentionally easy distraction from 250 years of overall American progress and a distraction from the hard, one-on-one work that remains to continue to fulfill the American mission.
Let’s apply the two Results With Reason main tenets to today’s issues. The two main tenets that we believe in at Results With Reason are:
- Personal Responsibility; practice it, teach it and
- Be Your Brother’s Keeper.
Today’s application is again straightforward:
- Personal Responsibility. Engage in the political conversation. Talk to people about what the priorities are and why they need to get involved. Show them love and trust as you do.
- Be your Brother’s Keeper. Be patient with each other; some will understand what you saying immediately, others will not. Teach and encourage; don’t criticize and reject. Love and lead. Remember, we are all in this together.
Now it is time for our usual parting thought. It is not enough to be informed. We need to act. And if we, you and I, don’t do something, then the others who are doing something, will continue to run the show.
Remember: Knowledge by itself is the booby prize.
Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.