Where Is my Life Raft? Microaggressions in the Workplace

By Caroline Houchins posted 10-12-2017 08:36

Walking into a room, looking around at the audience, I think:  “Am I the only one?  Where is my life raft?”

The life raft for a someone who is a minority is that person you can find a commonality with in a sea of people. In walking into a room full of people, the life raft is finding another minority in the audience in order to feel more comfortable in that setting. Needing a life raft can sometimes be a terrible feeling, but one many people do not realize a minority person does. It is a common for a minority.

As a minority, it is already tough to deal with daily issues about race, but being in the workplace dealing with these things is difficult as well. Depending on where you work, it is sometimes hard to find a person that you can find common ground with. Then comes the uncomfortable feeling of having people around you that are not like you. 

Microaggressions begin to surface. Microaggressions are defined as “a brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, that could be intentional or unintentional that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” 

Here are some examples of microaggressions that some people may not be aware is happening or even that is a microaggression:

1.       Just because I am black does not mean that I should speak for all black people or lead the topic on diversity.

2.       Just because I am a woman does not mean that I can only be someone else’s assistant.

3.       In changing up my hair to my natural hair or using a weave, I often am asked if this is my hair.

4.       I do not know every rap or R&B song. I also like pop.

5.       I am not being hostile or difficult.

6.       My work is just as good as that of the non-minority.

Culture competence is important in the workplace. I do believe that some of the time the microaggressions are unintentional. It is always good to be aware of gestures or comments one is doing, and once it is realized, fix/address it.