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How to Counter Microaggressions and Macroaggressions

By Susan Weiner

NAPFA members can support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in many ways. While looking for ways to incorporate DEI into my life, I attended a webinar on “What Makes a Good Ally” that yielded some techniques that might help you in your everyday life.

Dr. Raul Fernandez of Boston University spoke about how to counter microaggressions and macroaggressions. He defined “microaggressions” as “brief and commonplace daily verbal and behavioral interpersonal indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights, invalidations, and insults to an individual’s behavior because of their marginalized status in society.”1 When you act to counter these indignities, you become an “ally” rather than a mere “bystander,” he said. He urged viewers to act. Fernandez also discussed macroaggressions, which are broader, systemic issues.

Three Techniques to Counter Microaggressions and Macroaggressions

Fernandez suggested three ways to counter microaggressions and macroaggressions.

1. “Make the invisible visible.” For example, say, “That’s a racist stereotype,” or ask the speaker to clarify what they mean by a comment that appears biased to you.

2. “Disarm the micro/macroaggression.” For example, for microaggressions, you can disagree, interrupt and redirect the interaction, or remind participants of relevant rules. For macroaggressions, you can protest or engage in collective action.

3. “Educate stakeholders.” For example, teach people that the negative impact of their microaggressions is more important than any good intentions that underlie their actions, as Arlene Moss says in Building DEI into Your Firm’s Daily Life.” Or provide them with evidence about the benefits of DEI. Another idea is to participate in DEI training like that offered by NAPFA.

DEI in the April NAPFA Advisor

In addition to the Moss article mentioned above, you can learn more about DEI this month in the following articles:

Let’s do everything we can to promote DEI!

1. This appears to be a quote from Microintervention Strategies: What You Can Do to Dismantle Individual and Systemic Racism and Bias by Derald Wing Sue, Cassandra Z. Calle, Narolyn Mendez, Sarah Alsaidi, and Elizabeth Glaeser (Wiley, 2021), which Fernandez referred to earlier in his presentation and recommended for further reading.