Anatomy of a Microaggression

What happens after the harm

Hello friends,

Something a bit different today… I’ve been thinking about what happens when people who face isms experience microaggressions. And so I’ve used my very rudimentary design skills to create a flowchart. Here it is… and here’s the text that inspired it. 

Anatomy of a Microaggression

Here are some ways the experience of a microaggression can play out:

1. You feel the harm

2. You replay the incident over in your mind

3. You gaslight yourself - did it really happen?

4. You check in with someone or people you trust

Then either:

5. You swallow your feelings because you know your experience will be minimized

6. You keep replaying the incident in your mind

7. Eventually the sharp pain becomes a dull ache, but the mental scab is thin and can easily be opened again the next time there’s another microaggression


5. You report the incident, at which point one of two things could happen:


6. You are gaslit, and your pain and hurt are minimized

7. You stop talking about it

8. You keep replaying it in your mind

9. Eventually the sharp pain becomes a dull ache but the mental scab is thin and can easily be opened again next time


6. You are believed and it's dealt with

7. But you keep replaying it in your mind

8. Eventually the sharp pain becomes a dull ache but the mental scab is thin and can easily be opened again next time

What happens next…

Every time there's another microaggression, you are quicker to recognize it, to feel the hurt. Every time you trust your environment a little less. Every time, you die a little inside.

This is just what happens or could happen ONE time. And everyone has their own experience of this.

Now imagine you are a Black or Brown person, a person who faces isms.

Imagine you have been in the workforce for decades. Imagine you've been working 50 weeks a year in the US, or around 46 to 48 in the UK or Europe.

Imagine only ONE microaggression a week (and know that there are likely more).

Do the math.

This is why we are "sensitive", why "we make everything about race", why "we can't take a joke". It isn't effing funny. And it happens way too often.

It's why some people who look like me and people who face isms don't want to rush back to offices. Sure, microaggressions can happen when working remotely, and they sting just as hard, but there are fewer chances and it's much easier to avoid them. Plus nobody looks at you strangely if you cry.

I don’t have any words of wisdom here. If you know, you know. If you didn’t know before, you know now.

The question for would-be allies is: how can you avoid being the person that causes this harm? And how can you be the person that interrupts others who are causing harm in this way?

Thank you for reading,


© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2022. All Rights Reserved.

I am an anti-racism writer, educator and activist, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast. If you value my perspective, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription.

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