You know the fury that comes over you when you’re affected by other people’s prejudice? The coldness, shock, or devastation when they put you or your loved ones down over race, sexual orientation, age, gender, size, class or ability? Maybe you felt it when your folks wouldn’t let you bring your partner to a family celebration, when a white woman crashed your MLK event to announce that she deals with racism too, or when a classmate blocked your path to stare at your walking aid. Despite what a lot of defensive apologists might try to tell you, these incidents do matter: They’re called microaggressions.
The amazing Tumblr-based website Microaggressions: Power, privilege and everyday life began as a Google document between friends at Columbia University. Now, the site is completely submission-driven and anonymous, and co-founder Vivian Lu says contributors range from high school students to people over sixty, and they live all over the world. Originally created to describe actions stemming from the belief of white superiority, the term “microaggressions” is used here to refer to acts of kyriarchal prejudice against othered people. In an email, co-founder David Zhou elaborated on the site’s mission:
We thought it was important to show that both marginalization and identity consciousness do not come from thin air; they are formed from structures of power and privilege that are both very personal and hard to see. The concept of microaggressions makes them a lot more tangible and less abstract.
Strikingly, the typical Tumblr format—entries in a vertical list, one on top of another—is absent. Instead, blurbs are laid out montage-style, fitting together to fill your screen. (Think of a newspaper’s classified ads, but way more fascinating.) Quotes and experiences appear in either black-on-white or bright fuchsia-on-black, occasionally incorporating photos or videos, followed by a component of microaggressions all too often left out even when they are discussed: how they made the speaker feel. About the unique layout, Lu had this to say:
[T]he website is as close as we could come (with our budget) to showing visually how microaggressions (short, few word/sentence snippets) add up over time & really impact people’s everyday lives.
Screenshot from microaggressions.com homepage
Indeed, though each visual representation of a microaggression may look small, they quickly become overwhelming, resembling a wall of building blocks growing by the day. For those of us who have been told, be it by catcalling strangers or stubborn family members, that we’re being oversensitive (or the ever-awful “You just want to be offended”) hearing variations on our own painful memories—and connecting with other people who dare to speak up—is strangely cathartic:
“That’s okay, no judgment. Just, don’t tell anyone yet.” My mother after I explained to her that I am attracted to other women. Made me feel shamed, confused.
“My daughter said, ‘Mom, I hate Mexicans!’ I told her you can’t judge all Mexicans because of one but, you can say they are all short.” This was said by my fiance’s aunt tonight. I’m 22, cis female, Mexican. Made me feel ashamed, isolated, upset, and angry.
“Do you have a man? Write back!” A note left on my desk in my office. Made me feel insecure, flabbergasted.
Perhaps best of all, each post has the potential to reach a wider audience via reblogging or conversations in the comments section. On a number of occasions, I have read posts that spoke to my experience and clicked past the homepage onto the posts’ individual pages to see a chorus of support from other visitors. (Don’t worry: They’re good at keeping out trolls.) Recognizing and sharing our stories is cleansing and enlightening, giving words to familiar encounters with everyday hate.
Screenshot from microaggressions.com/post/2826007581/a-christmas-gift-from-and-drawn-by-my, split into two parts
Lu and Zhou, who are “constantly trying to see how [they] can make the project more accessible & expansive,” recently began taking donations for the project. You can also keep up with Microaggressions on Facebook and Twitter.
“More Than A Meme: Microaggressions offers a safe space for sharing short, painful stories” [Racialicious]
“Awesome blog alert: Microaggressions” [Feministing]