The term “Microaggression” may seem like a new buzzword that has emerged over the past few years as systemic racism and issues around equity, diversity, and inclusion have become very public topics of discussion and debate, but the term has been around since 1970, when Chester Pierce, Ph.D., psychiatrist, scientist, and professor at the University of Harvard, coined the term to identify derogatory acts which he described as “subtle and astounding.”
So, what are the subtleties? that they can know As brief, familiar and everyday insults they convey hostility towards the affected group or community. They can be gross and intentional, such as using a racial slur or drawing a swastika on a synagogue wall, or they can be unintentional insults against an individual or group, such as repeatedly mispronouncing a person’s name even after correcting them or taking on the person’s role. in an organization based on their appearance.
According to Rory G. James, MPH, director of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion at Indiana University-Bloomington and a special advisor to the American Council on Exercise, microaggressions grow from assumptions people make about racial identities and people of different cultures.
It is important to highlight the fact that microaggressions are not “small” events of individuals or groups on the receiving end, and the terms should not be misinterpreted to mean that the assaults are not powerful and influential. In a Facebook Live event titled “Recognizing Racial Micro Assaults and Creating an Inclusive Health and Fitness Space,” hosted by Mr. James, he explained that the word “micro” refers to the frequency of these events and how they accumulate over time in a pattern that can become a major and emotionally stressful problem.
Micro-aggressions can also have real-world repercussions beyond the emotional and mental impact they have on an individual or group. During a Facebook Live event, James used a scenario in which a hiring committee discusses candidates for a senior position at their fitness facility. A member of that committee is concerned about whether a black candidate is a good fit for his community and facility members. This kind of partial aggression, if allowed to go unchallenged by other members of the committee, affects that individual’s career prospects, not to mention those of any other person of color who might pursue an opportunity with that employer.
Su and her colleagues He expanded on Dr. Pearce’s work by establishing a taxonomy of the three types of microaggressions.
The first is microassault, which can be verbal or non-verbal. Microassault is an obvious form of bias intended to harm. It could be slander or even a physical attack. For example, threatening to call the police at people when they are doing innocent activities like hiking or having a barbecue in a public park is a microassault and a threat of harm.
The second is microinsult. Micro insults are often committed unconsciously and can take the form of insensitive remarks or rude and insulting actions. For example, commenting on the smell of someone’s lunch when heated in the break room is a microscopic finding, especially if their meal is from a different culture than the speaker’s. Another example would include the comment that a person of color speaks well or clearly or, on the other side of that coin, assumes that someone is less intelligent because of the use of slang or because they speak with an accent.
The third is micro-validation, a comment or behavior that negates another person’s feelings or experiences. James provided some examples of micro-authentication during a Facebook Live event. People will sometimes say they are “colorblind” to explain that they do not see or take into account a person’s skin color in their daily interactions, and this can be said with the best of intentions. However, it negates the complexities of a person’s identity. An acknowledgment of race is needed when something differential happens to another person. Take, for example, a black man who says security is following them while they are shopping in the mall. Not believing them or telling everyone what is happening invalidates the experience, as well as telling them that they are very sensitive.
“The insidious nature of micro-aggressions, is the fact that when it happens to you, you take hold of it” and you begin to question your understanding of the experience, James says. Maybe the security guard was doing his job or maybe I just imagined it. If you want to be an advocate or an ally, it is essential to acknowledge that others may have a different living experience than you because of their ethnic identity.
What does this all mean for the fitness industry
Whether you work as an independent contractor, in facility management, or in any of the myriad other roles that the fitness industry has to offer, the primary goal should be to provide enjoyable physical activity experiences for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity or sexuality. , gender, age, etc.
With this in mind, negative interpersonal interactions and micro-aggressions occurring in and around the facility can be barriers to public health, along with other social determinants of health, such as economic stability, level of education, access to healthy foods and access to adequate health care. The last thing you want to do as a professional or business owner is give people a reason not to use your services. On a more humane level, treating everyone with respect and dignity and in an enabling and welcoming manner is essential.
Think about how your organization, colleagues, or even how you yourself can establish certain beliefs and practices. It is important to note that micro-aggressions occurring anywhere in your facility—at the front desk, in locker rooms, or on the gym floor—can be barriers to participation and negatively affect your relationship with clients or gym members.
Also, denying racism or individual prejudice is itself simple aggression. We all have biases and beliefs that influence our interactions with others. Denying that your words or actions can negatively affect another person without even realizing it is miniaturizing the lived experience of the person you are interacting with. With this in mind, it is clear that minimizing the incidence of microaggressions is a challenging and ongoing business for any individual, organization or industry.
What can you do when you commit, see, or be the target of precision aggression?
- If you are the target of micro-aggression: The person on the receiving end of subtle aggression is often overburdened with his speech, and this leads to emotional exhaustion. As James said, no one should be forced to teach someone who offended them!
- If you witness minute aggression: There is no easy answer to this question, as your role in the organization and the power dynamics at play may affect your ability to speak in certain situations. Having said that, you can often pull someone aside in a group manner and point out issues with what you heard. You could say something like, “Even if it was unintentional, the way you said it was problematic. There was a better way to handle that.” It can be a powerful moment when a colleague steps forward to be an ally of a precise aggression target.
- If you commit a precision aggression: If you ever find yourself committing false aggression, don’t just sit around in embarrassment and let the relationship suffer. Acknowledge what you just said and take the opportunity to learn. Apologize sincerely and do not try to explain the incident. Remember, denying your bias—no matter how unintended your words or actions may be—is in itself simple aggression.
Being a better individual and professional requires cultural intelligence and humility. Educate yourself to feel empowered to defend and ally with people of color or any other target of micro-aggression. Remember that clients come to you because of your professional experience and as a partner in their wellness journey, so if you downplay their experience or show a lack of interest, it can be very detrimental to that relationship. Again, this is a work in progress, from the individual level to society as a whole. It begins with acknowledging the existence of micro-aggression and its impact on those in your facility and community.