Microaggression comes in all forms, from all cultures. If you say you have never encountered microaggression – sorry, my friend. You are lying!
Microaggression hurt the most when it is unintentional. We speak faster than we think. We act faster than we think. THINK.
On my last flight, I sat next to a woman. I immediately put her in the Asian box, as her appearance was Asian. In the first 15 minutes of the flight I was gathering my thoughts on how to approach her as I know some basic words in Korean and Chinese and our flight was heading to Korea…so I assumed. Me not finding a topic to start a conversation, waited until I was approached. When it was time for our food, she said in very perfect English, would you like some extra water, since she got two bottles. Out of nowhere, I blurted, “Oh, you speak English.” With a slight smile she nodded and said: “Yes, I was born in the States.” I wish the world could suck me in. She saw my reaction of instant regret and apologized and said that it was okay, she gets it a lot. AGAIN – please, world, swallow me in. SHE apologized for MY reaction.
This is a common mistake I find people making a lot. Especially when traveling in Asian countries. She was nice enough to brush it off her shoulder, but if this is a regular occurrence, this would make her feel like “When will I ever belong!” “When will I ever be excepted!”
As humans, it is in our nature to judge, to classify and to speak before we think. We need to make the world realize that with the simplest gestures we can hurt so many. We might not be able to bring this attention to all people around the world, but what if we could implement learning about more cultures in school and especially focus on empathy for others? Every country now, as far as I know, have their own educational system, and only (mostly) teach about their own country and the history of their country. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to learn about your own country, but maybe if we can create understanding for people that are different from us, children could be the carrier of great hope for our world!!
Here are some pictures to think about next time you want to ask something about someone else: