Microaggressions and Mental Health

September 2, 2021

Understanding Microaggressions and Privilege

Privilege is something that many people have without realizing it. In reality, privilege does exist due to systematic oppression from the dominant culture. It has many roots, such as white supremacy, ableism, colonialism, and patriarchy.

Daily life can be full of unintentional and subtle acts of discrimination known as microaggressions. Most people don’t even realize when they are a part of a microaggression. The term microaggression refers to a comment or a statement that is not meant to be offensive but is perceived as offensive when made to someone from a marginalized group.

Microaggressions are often subtle and can be challenging to spot. Examples of microaggressions include:

  • Asking an Asian person where they are “really” from.
  • Telling someone they are “smart for their race/gender.”

Our first step should be acknowledging that we all have biases, even if we don’t realize it. To make room for equality, dominant groups need to appreciate their privilege and exercise it responsibly.

The Relationship between Microaggressions and Mental Health

Although microaggressions may not seem like a big deal, they can be very harmful to a person. Microaggressions can disempower people, causing them to feel excluded from society. Numerous mental health risks go along with experiencing microaggressions.

As a result of frequent microaggressions, individuals may suffer from low self-esteem, feelings of exclusion from their communities, and a general sense of inferiority. As the saying goes, “death by a thousand cuts”. Although each incident may seem minor, the cumulative impact can cause mental harm to those affected. 


Words can divide, create barriers, and cause misunderstandings. However, these words can also offer healing, unite us in purpose, and propel us forward.

The way we communicate with one another is very important. It is vital to choose our words carefully since they can empower or disempower people. Our speech affects how others perceive themselves and their abilities, and we should always strive to keep that in mind. 

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