It is reported that Maya Angelou has likened racial microaggressions or petty humiliations to “small murders,” in contrast to the blatant forms of oppressions called “grand executions,” in which the lethal nature of biased acts is obvious (Greene, 2000). Microaggressions have the lifelong insidious effects of silencing, invalidating, and humiliating the identity and/or voices of those who are oppressed. Although their lethality is less obvious, they nevertheless grind down and wear out the victims.
Studies reveal that a lifetime of microaggressions takes a major toll on the psychological functioning of marginalized groups in our society (Constantine & Sue, 2007; Crocker & Major, 1989; Herek, Gillis, & Cogan, 2009; Lyness & Thompson, 2000; National Academies, 2006; Pierce, 1978, 1988, 1995; Salvatore & Shelton, 2007; Solórzano et al., 2000; Steele, Spencer, & Aronson, 2002; Symanski, 2009). When speaking about the Black experience, for example, microaggressions have been described as “offensive mechanisms used against blacks”; they are “often innocuous,” but the “cumulative weight of their never-ending burden” may result in “diminished mortality, augmented morbidity, and flattened confidence” (Pierce, Carew, Pierce-Gonzalez, & Willis, 1978).
—Derald Wing Sue, Microaggressions in Everyday Life