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Do microaggressions have a psychological impact?

by | May 22, 2019 | Race Discrimination |

Microaggressions are seemingly small slights that call attention to racial and gender differences. While some people believe that minor slights don’t have much of an impact on a person’s health and well-being, research shows that this is not the case. The Center for Health Journalism explains the impact daily microaggressions can have on a person’s body and mind. 

While overt racism is still a problem, microaggressions are seemingly more prevalent these days. Microaggressions are verbal slights that fall short of open discrimination. They can, however, have a significant impact on a person’s mental wellness. Because of this, they’re sometimes referred to as “death by a thousand cuts” by some researchers. Some point to a link between depression and race-based microaggressions among people of color. This is especially damaging when microaggressions are afforded by health care providers, which prevents people from seeking treatment for illnesses.

Additionally, overt racial discrimination has an even greater impact on a person’s health. Mental health is often diminished after being exposed to discrimination on a long-term basis. In some cases, it can cause trauma-related stress, which also has a physical component. For example, high levels of stress hormones in the body can have an effect on heart health. Stress can also cause unhealthy behaviors as coping mechanisms. Issues with diet, including the consumption of fatty foods, only contributes to health problems for those on the receiving end of continuous slights. 

While the problem of microaggressions and racial discrimination is complex, there are steps that can be taken to ensure marginalized groups are treated fairly. It’s suggested that workplaces train staff on how to interact with others so that inclusivity is the focus. The impact of discrimination in all its forms must also be discussed. In some cases, a person may not even be aware of his or her own biases. Calling attention to them is the first step to preventing the many ill-effects caused by prejudice. 

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