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The Impact Of Microagressions And Tips For Avoiding Them

Microaggressions, which are subtle but offensive words or actions, come in many different shapes and forms. Below are a few of the most common microaggressions and some suggestions for how to be more aware. DISCLAIMER: this is highly subjective, and you can never assume what someone’s experience is. Some of these suggestions will not work for every person and every situation – keep your wits about you and just remember, it’s all about mutual respect! We’re more alike than we are different. If you want to learn more about this topic, come to the Counseling Center Paraprofessionals’ Workshop on Tuesday, November 29 at 7p.m. in- Illini Union room 406!

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1. "No, but like, where are you really from?"

“May I ask what your ethnicity is?” And don’t be offended if the answer is no; everyone is entitled to choosing whether or not to discuss their heritage.

2. “You’re really pretty for a ____________!”

What on earth is stopping you from ending it at “you’re really pretty!”? It just takes a possibly-genuine compliment into a without-a-doubt insult.

3. “You sound really white” or “you speak English really well.”

You can’t assume that just because someone has a certain skin color that they come from a background where well-spoken English isn’t common. If you really admire the way someone speaks, try saying “you’re so articulate/well-spoken/eloquent.”

4. “Why are you such a girl?”

Regardless of who you’re saying this to, you’re not only insulting them, but also the entire female gender. Instead, try to find an actual adjective to describe what you’re attempting to say: for example, if someone is in a bad mood, just try asking “why are you in a bad mood?”

5. "You're being so gay."

Pretty much the exact same as the previous one. Try to articulate what you’re attempting to say rather than using a word in a derogatory manner and insulting an entire population of people.

6. "NEVER touch a black person's hair!"

Or how about, just don’t touch anyone’s hair (or any body part) without asking their permission. You may think you’re sounding helpful by standing up for someone with this statement, but it’s a microaggression in itself.

7. "But you look totally fine!"

Saying “but you look totally fine!” to someone who is disabled not only minimizes what they shared with you, but also insults others with disabilities that don’t fit your description of “fine.” If you must comment (and perhaps you just shouldn’t), try saying something like “you’re an awesome person no matter what.”

8. "Do you speak Chinese?"

Not every language in the world is a derivation of the country’s name. China, for example, has two main languages: Cantonese and Mandarin – neither of which are called “Chinese.” If you want to know what languages someone speaks, try asking “do you speak any other languages?” or “are you bi/tri-lingual?”

9. "You don't look Jewish."

How does one “look” like a type of religion? It’s best not to comment on someone’s religious choices and beliefs, but if it’s in context, try something instead like “are you religious?” or “are you very involved in your church/temple/etc.?”

AND remember, one person is not representative of the rest of a certain subpopulation! Whatever you may have learned or experienced in the past does not necessarily apply to everyone. Just be respectful and promote inclusivity!

For more of these great tips be sure to attend the workshop on Tuesday, November 29 at 7pm at the Illini Union room 406!

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