Six Microagressions People Use in Everyday Conversation

Microaggressions are everyday insults that, whether intentional or not, target someone who is part of a marginalized group. The problem with microaggressions is that we typically don’t realize that we’re saying something offensive. They might seem small, but the consequences add up and can have dangerous effects. Studies found that microaggressions can lead to lower self-esteem, depression, and higher rates of alcoholism, according to a 2012 American Psychological Association article.

But the good news is it’s something that can be easily targeted. If you educate yourself and use what you learned to call out friends and family, people will realize that what they’re saying is offensive and awareness will quickly spread.

These six microaggressions are unfortunately super common in everyday conversation. Hopefully we can change that by avoiding them in the future.

1. “That’s crazy!” or “She’s insane!”

I’m definitely guilty of saying this, and I know most of my friends are too. It’s something that’s so ingrained in our daily life that we probably don’t even think that it’s offensive. But saying things like “crazy,” “insane,” and “delusional” are ableist and stigmatize people who have mental illnesses.

2. “What’s your real name?”


This is a common one that targets a few groups. Oftentimes when transgender people transition, they choose to change their name. It’s disrespectful and harmful to purposely call them their old name if you know they prefer a different one. And if you don’t know their birth name, don’t ask.

The same goes for a lot of people who were born in another country but move to America. They might choose an “American name,” but you shouldn’t assume that everyone who isn’t born in America has a name in their native language as well as an American name. Just respect what people ask you to call them, just like they do to you

3. “Where are you really from?”

Just because someone doesn’t look like a typical American doesn’t mean they’re not. Saying something like this implies that they’re not a true American because of their racial or ethnic identity. America is a melting pot, after all, and there shouldn’t be just one idea for what an American should look like.

4. “Do you have a boyfriend?"

Whenever I’m with family, they always seem to ask whether I have a boyfriend. And they’ll ask my brother whether he has a girlfriend. They don’t mean to be offensive, but asking questions like this is heteronormative. Even if you think someone is straight, it’s best to be safe and use gender-neutral terms like “partner” or simply asking if someone is “in a relationship.”

5. “That’s so ghetto”

Ghetto is typically used to describe something that is makeshift, low-class, etc. Historically, minorities like Jews and African Americans have lived in crowded, low-class neighborhoods called “ghettos,” whether it was by choice or they were forced their by law. Either way, using that word to describe anything is inappropriate.

6. “You’re pretty for…”

How about you just stop at “you’re pretty?” Calling someone pretty in relation to their race or ethnicity implies that you think most other people in that group are not pretty, and that this one person is the exception. Our Western-centric, limited ideals of beauty are problematic enough.

When you think about it, a lot of the words and phrases are pretty obvious. The problem is that some things are so common in our vernacular that we just don’t think about it. Remember when people said “gay” and “retarded” all the time? If it’s not as common as it was a few years ago, you might be able to thank the ad campaigns and nonprofits that spread information about those offensive words.

Check out some more common microaggressions here.

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