The concept of microaggressions gained prominence with the publication of Sue et al.’s 2007, “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life,” which defined microaggressions as communicative, somatic, environmental or relational cues that demean and/or disempower members of minority groups in virtue of their minority status. Microaggressions, they asserted, are typically subtle and ambiguous. Often, they are inadvertent or altogether unconscious. For these reasons, they are also far more pervasive than other, more overt, forms of bigotry (which are less-tolerated in contemporary America).
The authors propose a tripartite taxonomy of microaggressions:
Microassaults involve explicit and intentional racial derogation;
Microinsults involve rudeness or insensitivity towards another’s heritage or identity;
Microinvalidations occur when the thoughts and feelings of a minority group member seem to be excluded, negated or nullified as a result of their minority status.
The authors then present anecdotal evidence suggesting that repeated exposure to microaggressions is detrimental to the well-being of minorities. Moreover, they assert, a lack of awareness about the prevalence and impact of microaggressions among mental health professionals could undermine the practice of clinical psychology—reducing the quality and accessibility of care for those who may need it most.