We want to believe that we live in a society where the colour of someone’s skin does not mean they are treated differently. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and within our Annual Bullying Survey 2019 we learnt that one in ten people believed that they were bullied because of attitudes towards their race.
We know that people of colour are disproportionately disadvantaged in society with oppression in the workplace and institutions such as schools and with authorities. This may be out of our hands, but what we can control is the language that we use and create a more inclusive space around us for everyone.
Obviously, some racism is intentional and in your face. But there is another thing that people of colour are just plain fed up with: microaggressions. Microaggressions are subtle, regular, subconscious discriminations made towards marginalised groups that may not seem like a big deal on their own but together they are a recipe for causing offence. They can be pretty rubbish to hear all the time because it basically means that, despite it being 2019, a lot of stereotypes are still alive and kicking.
Here are some of the top culprits for microaggressions you may not even realise you are saying:
1) “Your hair is so cool, can I touch it?”
Just because someone’s hair is different from your own, you should never pet them. Appreciate from afar like a work of art.
2) “So when did you move here?”
Assuming someone wasn’t born in the country just because of the colour of their skin is not a good look. In the UK we are a cultural melting pot and you can still be British and be lots of different races.
3) “Where are you actually from?”
Same as above duh!?
4) “Wow! Your English is just so good”
This person could be a native speaker, they could speak 4 languages, you never know.
5) “It’s weird, I’ve never really seen you as black.”
THIS. Is something a lot of black people are fed up of hearing. There is no right or wrong way to be black and you saying that you don’t see someone’s race makes them feel erased.
6) “What kind of food do your people eat?”
…..We all love pizza bro.
7) “Hey, can you tell us what the Indian perspective is on this issue?”
It is not the responsibility of people of colour to speak for their entire race and educate you. We are all separate people with unique thoughts and feelings.
8) “Wow, you really sound…different….than on the phone”
What were you expecting? The common rhetoric that people of colour all sound a certain way or use ebonics is so reductive. The way you talk is usually influenced by your family or your social group/ where you grew up.
9) “So is your Dad black and your Mum white?”
So many people jump to thinking that mixed-race people all follow this formula in their genetic make-up. There are so many different variations of mixed race out there and assuming there is only one makes us all feel a bit crappy.
10) “That’s a weird name, its hard to pronounce is it okay if I call you Jim?”
A name is only weird to you because it’s not what you are used to. Learn someones name, learn how to say it, it will mean a lot to them and never just rename them to something you can pronounce!
11) Any variation of “Damn girl you are so sassy/fierce/strong/ *finger snap* you tell em sista!”
Recognise any of these?
Don’t worry if you were guilty of making one of these mistakes. A lot of us are. Remember lots of different micro-aggressions built up over time can become mega-aggressions. So have a look at our tips to help de-programme your unconscious bias and try to communicate with empathy. Finally just remember the number 1 rule – don’t be a dick!
Not sure if you have unconscious bias, take our quiz to find out!
Have you been affected by bullying? You can speak to one of pour trained Digital Mentors here for one-to-one support and advice.