Microaggression & Systematic Racism

Microaggressions  “are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities … that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group” (Sue et al., 2007, p. 273). While they are brief, intentional, and sometimes unintentional, they are harmful as they perpetuate racism, sexism, classism, and ableism in a covert and seemingly undetected way (Sue et al., 2007). It is widespread for most people to participate in these small but harmful microaggressions without acknowledging the discriminatory foundation of their actions or words. Raising awareness about microaggression and how it presents itself in our day-to-day conversations and social interactions is vital for social harmony and social cohesion. By being aware of our bias thoughts, feelings, and actions, we can work on our ability to co-exist and interact positively with others, leading us to break down the impact of systematic racism.

Systematic racism is commonly referred to as institutional racism and refers to how marginalized groups are disenfranchised in the systems that operate within society. Institutional racism can be conscious or unconscious, which means that people work in a system that may or may not be aware of the practices’ existence and impact. It can also be intended or unintended, which means institutional racism may or may not have been purposely created. Still, they exist and substantially affect the social and psychological lives of people of color and their integration into the community. 

Educational, healthcare, judicial, criminal, and policing institutions are among the various systems that exhibit systematic racism forms. While not all of us may work in these institutions, we are affected by them as they govern the way we live, how our societies are structured, and how we come to make decisions that impact large groups of people. Systemic racism does not just look at individual biases in the social systems. It examines the institutional policies and procedures and how they have been structured over the years. The center explores the progress we have made toward a more inclusive society and highlights how we can improve our social systems and get closer to that goal.

The main objectives of this pillar are to:

  • Promote equality and inclusivity to reduce the impact of microaggressive behavior and systematic racism. 
  • Educate the general public and community-based workers about the fundamental characteristics of microaggression and systematic racism. 
  • Provide Canadians with essential skills that will enable them to be aware of their own biases, address peer biases effectively and digestibly, and advocate for systemic change.
  • Develop workshops and academic educational materials related to microaggression and systematic racism. 
  • Develop methodological tools to measure the impact of micro-aggression and systematic discrimination on social and psychological well-being.
  • Develop a new generation of qualified facilitators of micro-aggression and systematic racism workshops from university and college students and community-based workers.

Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271–286. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.62.4.271