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Power Grid Blog

Micro-Aggression: It's Bullying.

January 24, 2012  |  AAPD Power Grid Blog Team

By Youth Transitions Fellow Leah Katz-Hernandez and Megan Erasmus, BA in Psychology 2010 and MA in Mental Health 2012

Bullying takes many forms. One of the more unnoticed forms, however prevalent, is micro-aggression. AAPD is taking a very proactive approach in combating bullying and to ensure safer schools for all our children, including our next generation of kids with disabilities.

One of the most harmful things about micro-aggression is that it’s very difficult to point it out when it’s actually happening. Frequently, people realize that micro-aggression threats have happened only in retrospection. This is why it’s all the more important to recognize these kind of bullying behavior, identify it and know that it is not acceptable under any circumstances to condone. The harm inflicted by micro-aggression is as equal as to overt bullying actions, which makes it powerful, serious, and “silent” threat in our nation.

Sometimes, the hardest person you may have to stand up to is not the one who is an overt bully. It may be the person who claims to be against bullying, who claims to be your ally, but still exhibits behavior of a bully through micro-aggression. Micro-aggression can occur through intentional or unintentional behavior. This type of bullying is also frequently exhibited by not only our own peers but also by people in assumed authority. Thus, teachers and administrators in school hallways are also bullies when they act cruelly via micro-aggressive behavior. Professionals in the workplace and caretakers can also fall in this category.

I am happy to have Megan Erasmus, BA in Psychology 2010 and MA in Mental Health 2012 from Gallaudet University, contribute her knowledge and expertise to AAPD’s Power Grid blog in educating us all about the different forms of micro-aggression. Here, we give you examples of micro-aggressive bullying:

Microaggression: Subtle, often automatic, stereotypical, and insensitive behavior or comments or assumptions about a person’s identity, background, ethnicity, or disability. It might be presented politely or negatively. “I don’t think your daughter is capable of doing that because of her disability,” a school principal may say to a parent in front of the student - ignoring her presence completely.

Microassult: A form of verbal attack. “Why do you need a wheelchair? I saw you walk… You can walk, right?” to a person who uses wheelchair for long distance travel. “I don’t like how dogs smell” to a blind person using a guide dog.

Microinsult: A form of verbal or silent demeaning through insensitive comments or behavior. A person may exhibit an obstinate, begrudging attitude with recalcitrant slant but say in all professionalism, that they will accommodate your needs for accessibility. The verbalization is appropriate but the tone is insulting.

Microinvalidation: Essentially degrading a person’s wholeness through making false assumptions about the other’s ability, causing a sense of invalidation. “You have a learning disability? How can you be a lawyer?” to a person with learning disability.

In the majority of cases, micro-aggressive behavior tends to happen because people are not aware that their comments, tone, and behavior are insensitive and harmful. Thus, it’s critical for YOU to spread the awareness about micro-aggressive behavior. Greater awareness will help people identify and reduce the prevalence of micro-aggression in our nation’s schools, playing fields, and workplaces. People who commit micro-aggression are bullies and YOU can do your part to reduce the number of bullies for the next generation. Starting now, spread the awareness.


We will not be bullied.


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Submitted by horseprof at 02:34 PM on December 17, 2012
I think education and appreciation of microaggressions should not only be directed toward the aggressors, but also the targets. Unfortunately in our competative society, microaggressions may sporadically arise from certain personalities under many cercumstances. As mentioned in the article, the majority of the occurrances are unintentional and the purpetrator is unaware that an offense has occurred. One key solution may be to offer specific opportunities to help targets recognize and develop constructive stategies to either verbally address or dismiss these instances. This could thereby reducing the potential impact of a careless and insensitive uterance.
Submitted by mvfasdfasdfsd at 08:23 PM on October 12, 2012
this makes no sense "i don't like how dogs smell", this just makes no sense.
Submitted by asddsasdfsdf at 08:22 PM on October 12, 2012
This is the stupidest thing i've ever heard.
Submitted by Naomi Ruth at 09:40 AM on September 25, 2012
Thank you for this. I am using it as a teaching tool for the Diversity Advisory Council in the community mental health agency where I work.
Submitted by A Man in Black at 01:18 PM on March 17, 2012
As we implement mandated anti-bullying policy in Michigan ["Matt's Safe School Law"], it appears some school districts are content with a standardized "NEOLA" type policy to shield themselve from having to address these micro-aggression issues. I've seen 'insensative disregard' and aggressive 'tones' many times from some elected and appointed "Public Officials" who are supposed to be there helping the situation. I'm with You!!! We do need to change the "culture" of people who are bullies [And] the folks who are bullied, because we are the peolpe who are most willing and most likely to change the course of history in a positive way. Former bullies are welcome!!! I think we need to start calling them out, students and adults alike, for what they are..."A Bully". Thanks for Caring!!! 'A Man in Black' Marquette,Michigan.

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