I have another case of the niggles.
Please read David Dear’s excellent post “The Moon With Seven of Wands” below from www.MyOwnMinister.com. It might give you the niggles too. More than the niggles, I’m humbled and inspired by David’s insight, compassion and kindness.
David is absolutely right. Offense takes two to tango. As Eleanor Roosevelt famously said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” David, in his wisdom and in the moment took the high road and chose not take the remark personally.
By contrast, I was pretty hacked off at that person’s remark. It was genuinely racist, be it intended, unintended, “micro-aggressive,” passive-aggressive or otherwise. I wanted to grab that other person by the shirt and lecture them like some sort of unhinged banshee.
But that is the fish in my cup.
Maybe it is from having an up-close look at the cultural cloth from which their comment was cut. Maybe it is from the experience of confronting close family members with their racist comments. For whatever reason, it doesn’t feel right to remain silent. A person who says these kinds of dog-whistle code-word things may have no ill intent directed at an individual, but aren’t they still responsible for the broad swaths of fellow humans they demean? David may not take this comment personally, but he need not hear it alone.
Change must come from within on a cultural scale just as much as it must in our individual spiritual growth. Hard as it is, we have to stand up to our own, first and foremost. We all must speak where we have the cache to be heard. We have to stare ourselves in the eye and exorcise the demons, and in so doing add our weight to pull arc of change toward justice.
I admire David’s strength and wisdom, but I’m electing to be offended by the offensive and micro-rant against the micro-aggressive. I get it about not creating unnecessary conflict. I get it about being diplomatic with people you have to deal with on an ongoing basis. Been there, done that. I don’t know the individual or the situation, so it really isn’t my place to comment. Still, late in time and far in space, I feel a need to say something and stand in solidarity with a friend.
So yeah, Mr. “I don’t think of you as…” I DO know what you mean – and it is racist and wrong.
So sayeth the unhinged banshee.
Recently I’ve been hearing the idea of microaggressions tossed about, although the term has actually been around since 1970. I have no desire to chase down Webster or Wikipedia or any sources in an effort to give a nice clean clinical definition for you; however, I will give you a description of how I understand it to be.
I see the idea of a microaggression as an act or statement against a group of people (generally a minority) that could be construed as offensive, whether intended or not, but not necessarily overtly. I’ll give a personal example here. As a biracial person, I have been told several times in my life by one person or another that they don’t think of me as black. That statement could be construed as a microaggression.
What makes it so? In this case, there are implications that can be called into question. What does the person making the statement consider a black person to be? What is the intent behind the statement? Does it hint to how they may view black people, or how they view me in the perspective of that contrast?
In light of the deconstruction of that statement I just gave, it could be considered a microaggressive statement if you choose to chase it down the cultural rabbit hole deep enough. At some point amidst the roots and rocks and hardpan and grub worms is buried the grain of sand that gives way to offense. Therein lies the nerve that has been jabbed to send up a klaxon of psychological antibodies.
I think of such epithets as heat seeking missiles and our unresolved angst in the given cultural genre as the heat signatures. In the example I gave above, I personally find the statement very much a throw-away; it has little to do with who I am and mostly to do with who the bearer of the statement is. But what if I found it deeply offensive? What fragile and delicate part of me did it speak to where I felt a call-to-arms in protection of my ego and definition of self?
I am not making light of people slinging around offensive statements without consideration or forethought. Nor am I condoning it. I am saying that being offended is a cooperative action. We enter into a contract with the offender where we are consenting to being offended. Our offense is often our ego imposing an expectation on all others out in the world to view us the way we insist that we should be viewed.
To flesh out the example I gave earlier, here is how the conversation went:
Microaggressor: You know, I don’t think of you as black.
Me: (facetiously) You know, I don’t think of you as white.
Microaggressor: You know what I mean.
Sad thing is, I actually did. And it had nothing to do with me. At least that’s the way I chose to see it.