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Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation

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A transformative look at covert bias, prejudice, and discrimination with hopeful solutions for their eventual dissolution

Written by bestselling author Derald Wing Sue, Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation is a first-of-its-kind guide on the subject of microaggressions. This book insightfully looks at the various kinds of microaggressions and their psychological effects on both perpetrators and their targets. Thought provoking and timely, Dr. Sue suggests realistic and optimistic guidance for combating--and ending--microaggressions in our society.

Praise for Microaggressions in Everyday Life:

"In a very constructive way, Dr. Sue provides time-tested psychological suggestions to make our society free of microaggressions. It is a brilliant resource and ideal teaching tool for all those who wish to alter the forces that promote pain for people."
--Melba J. T. Vasquez, PhD, ABPPPresident, American Psychological Association

"Microaggressions in Everyday Life offers an insightful, scholarly, and thought-provoking analysis of the existence of subtle, often unintentional biases, and their profound impact on members of traditionally disadvantaged groups. The concept of microaggressions is one of the most important developments in the study of intergroup relations over the past decade, and this volume is the definitive source on the topic."
--John F. Dovidio, PhD Professor of Psychology, Yale University

"Derald Wing Sue has written a must-read book for anyone who deals with diversity at any level. Microaggressions in Everyday Life will bring great rewards in understanding and awareness along with practical guides to put them to good use."
--James M. Jones, PhD Professor of Psychology and Director of Black American Studies, University of Delaware

"This is a major contribution to the multicultural discourse and to understanding the myriad ways that discrimination can be represented and its insidious effects. Accessible and well documented, it is a pleasure to read."
--Beverly Greene, PhD, ABPP Diplomate in Clinical Psychology and Professor of Psychology, St. John's University

352 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2010

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About the author

Derald Wing Sue

49 books37 followers
Derald Wing Sue is a professor of counseling psychology at Columbia University. He has authored several books, including Counseling the Culturally Diverse: Theory and Practice, Overcoming our Racism, and Understanding Abnormal Behavior.

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5 stars
113 (46%)
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79 (32%)
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38 (15%)
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8 (3%)
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Displaying 1 - 29 of 29 reviews
Profile Image for Gayle Pitman.
Author 12 books60 followers
July 19, 2012
Derald Wing Sue is a rock star in the world of multicultural psychology and anti-racism work. He was one of my graduate-level professors and is a class act. The concept of microaggressions is a relatively new idea in the psychology of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression, and Sue addresses this phenomenon - the experience of subtle, covert, under-the-radar forms of discrimination and marginalization - and backs it with the latest scientific findings. While Sue addresses race, gender, and sexual orientation in this book, Sue's experience base is with race and ethnicity, and to me race seemed to be handled more comfortably and seamlessly than gender and sexual orientation. Nevertheless, an excellent read.
Profile Image for mis.
287 reviews30 followers
June 25, 2014
someone already commented: this is a must read for anyone who interacts with other people. Yep, it's absolutely true.

this book gave me a really invaluable framework for understanding some of the messed up, ambiguous things that go on in social interaction and how people react to them. it helps to be able to identify microaggressions as such and recognize myself as both a perpetrator and target. i mean, i saw myself a lot in this book. i think it's a great contribution to understanding and challenging the psychological and the sort of face-to-face sides of oppression, and i highly recommend it to anybody and everybody....
Profile Image for Harold.
21 reviews
May 18, 2017
I suppose that I haven't finished the entire book but I can't help but feel this book is being over hyped. Yes, microaggressions exist. And Dr. Sue does a wonderful job in illustrating what microaggressions are and how they can cause harm. And for a lot of people that is enough. But when I bought this book I at least expected a more thought out explanation of why microaggressions exist the "hurr durr racism."

And that is my big problem with the book. I like psychology. I like to read books about psychology. I, as a reader, should not be able to read about this topic and guess that microaggressions are caused by group psychology and application of stereotypes upon individuals and not have that thought at least denied by him. The closest he ever gets is in explaining how oppression hurts the opposser too but he stops at racism, as if that is the only answer. This book feels like its applicable to one country (U.S.A.) at one point in time (Now).

This book also feels very anti-white. I know that might seem narrow-minded of me but he does a very poor job of illustrating microaggressions against anything except a minority group. He doesn't provide one example of a microaggression against a white person based off the color of their skin. He provides one example of a microaggression against a predominately white group (Jews) and that was more towards ethnicity then the fact they were male or white. He doesn't provide one to reflect maleness or really any against those that he states are in power. Which makes his statement that microaggression effect all of us a bit hollow.

He also tends to use poor examples. The first paragraph in the book is an excellent example of three people failing to communicate. His first anecdotal example in chapter 2 shows more that he was an aggressor rather then the victim when confronting someone about microaggressions. Really, the conclusion that the victim decides when he or she is a victim is sketchy at best. It takes away from the point when I can look at what he's referencing and go "you called her a racist in a passive aggressive manner and you can't understand why she's being defensive."

Overall this book angered me more then enlightened me. I would have loved it if he combined more branches of psychology such as social psychology or evolutionary psychology to explain why microaggression exist. At least then I wouldn't read the book hearing "You're white. You're male. You're the problem." As it stands, might be a good introduction to confirm your suspicions but if you didn't think they were a thing to being with its more likely to turn your off rather then on.
42 reviews1 follower
February 12, 2013
Must read for anyone in relationship or who
Interacts with other people. Period.
Profile Image for Tammy.
70 reviews2 followers
June 26, 2015
If you work with people, you should read this. A deep look into what we say and how it's perceived.
79 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2021
邦訳版を読了。人種、ジェンダー、性的指向に基づくマイクロアグレッションについて具体例をふんだんに盛り込みながら詳細に論じられている。マイクロアグレッションの中にも種類があり、特にマイクロインバリデーション(無効化)については、一番わかりにくいが頻繁に起こっている事象なのではないかと考えた。カラーブラインドはマイクロインバーリデーションの一形態で、メリトクラシーの神話とも相まってマイノリティが評価されない状況を正当化してしまう。アカデミー賞で「ミナリ」がアジア系アメリカ人の監督作品として初めて最優秀作品賞としてノミネートされ、Steven Yuenが主演男優賞にノミネートされたのもアジア系として史上初というニュースが数日前に報道された。この本を読み進めているところだったので、ハリウッドに蔓延する白人至上主義は深刻であり、マイノリティが排除され続けてきたという指摘が腑に落ちた。翻訳もわかりやすく、今のタイミングで読めて良かったと思える一冊だった。
Profile Image for Wendy.
207 reviews4 followers
March 9, 2022
While I’m probably not the target audience for this book, it was an effective nudge to encourage self reflection. A co-worker uses some of the author’s videos in her senior high classroom. I look forward to watching them and learning more.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
784 reviews4 followers
November 29, 2019
MICROAGGRESSIONS: Commonplace, brief verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial, gender, sexual-orientation, and religious slights and insults to the target person or group. Perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware that they engage in such communications when they interact with racial/ethnic minorities.

This book was informative in so many ways. Because I had it on loan from the library and not on a kindle, I typed up the highlights and things I wanted to remember and be able to reference...to the tune of 12 single spaced pages in Word. If you are interested in reading the "Morain Notes" I can send it to you. There was a lot to unpack.

So how to summarize? I'll do my best here! I'll note first that whereas the author tried to incorporate not just race but also gender and LGBT microaggressions, most of the book focused on race, and therefore many of my comments will, too.

Three forms of Microaggressions were defined:

1. Microassaults are conscious, deliberate, and either subtle or explicit racial, gender, or sexual-orientation biased attitudes, believes, or behaviors that are communicated to marginalized groups through environmental cues, verbalizations, or behaviors. These are the "old fashioned racism" statements and you know them when you hear or see them - they are blatant and obvious.

2. Microinsults are characterized by interpersonal or environmental communications that convey stereotypes, rudeness, and insensitivity and that demean a person's racial, gender, or sexual orientation, heritage, or identity. Microinsults represent subtle snubs, frequently outside of conscious awareness of the perpetrator, but they convey an oftentimes hidden insulting message to the recipient of these groups. Example: You are so articulate.

3. Microinvalidations are characterized by communications or environmental cues that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of certain groups, such as people of color, women, and LGBTs. Example: I don't see color. In many ways, microinvalidations may potentially represent the most damaging form of the three microaggressions because they directly and insidiously deny the racial, gender, or sexual orientation reality of these groups.

What I found interesting is that we may THINK there is less racism now than before, and to a certain extent that may be true, but what this book illustrates is that Whites still communicate their implicit bias in ways that which they are not even aware. And that is what makes it so damaging - because it is seemingly invisible.

The book discusses the Catch-22 about if the person should say something to the perpetrator or not. It can be very tiring for a person who encounters microaggressions day in and day out to take the time to speak up for themselves, never mind the fact that in doing so, the perpetrator often becomes defensive, explains that "they didn't mean anything by it" and in the end, the conversation becomes about them instead of the victim. On the other hand, by not saying anything, there is damage done to the victim explained as a death by 1,000 cuts.

I loved the section about the point of view of the perpetrator because I have been that perpetrator and I have said many of the things this book explains I should NOT do! I bet if you are reading this you may relate to what I will share next and I will close with sharing what to do instead.

When someone brings up a microaggression either that you (if you are White) made or another White made, the immediate reaction is defensiveness. There is a fear of appearing racist and Whites often overcompensate by becoming "color-blind" and say things like "I don't see color" or "I treat everyone equally". Next, there is an aversion toward acknowledging one's racism. Quote from book: " White Euro Americans have been taught on a conscious level and genuinely believe in egalitarian values, that everyone should be treated equally, and that they would never intentionally discriminate against others. Their self-identity is encased in a strong belief in their own morality and decency as human beings. To acknowledge they harbor anti-minority feelings and have acted in ways that oppress other shatters their self-concept as good an moral humans." Next, there is a fear of acknowledging White privilege. It may be hard for some to entertain that they achieved any of their success not from their own individual efforts. This is where people will say things like "people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps" without acknowledging that it is easier for Whites to do so by virtue of the color of their skin. Lastly, the is a fear of taking personal responsibility to end racism because it makes taking risks and potentially alienating family, friends and colleagues.

Picture the last time you experienced or where part of a discussion about racism. Did you or someone else use any of these phrases?
• I /she/he/they didn't MEAN anything by it! Can't they understand there was no negative intention?
• I understand what you are going through as a Black person because I am discriminated against because I am a woman.
• I have Black friends!
• Why do they have to be so angry all the time?
• Why is everyone so sensitive these days?

Try not to get angry or defensive if someone gets angry with you for using a microaggression - listen to what they are saying and think about THEIR perspective and then say you are sorry. Do not invalidate their experience by saying they are being overly sensitive or be quick to dismiss it by saying you didn't mean anything by it. You don't need to make an excuse or try to explain - just apologize and shut up. It took courage for them to speak up about how they were feeling. Don't make the conversation all about you and use that time to defend who you are and what you meant. Don't take it personally - the victim is NOT trying to say you are a horrible person. They are simply sharing how what you said made them feel. Give the person grace if they exhibit frustration or anger in how they express what they are thinking or feeling because this is not just something that happened one time. It is always happening....and just because we cannot see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. In the moment, you do not need to even fully understand what you did. Again, just say you are sorry and if you want to learn more, educate yourself....you can read this book, for example! :)
Profile Image for Madeline.
897 reviews178 followers
Shelved as 'incomplete'
July 24, 2016
I think this is a really great book, and I didn't read all of it. So naturally I'm going to talk about two tiny things that don't actually have much of an impact on the value of this book.

1) I'm not sure street harassment and racial slurs count as micro aggressions.

2) President Obama's first name is misspelled every time it appears [that I saw]. Maybe the copy editor should be taken aside?
Profile Image for Elaina.
4 reviews2 followers
May 28, 2019
Very informative

I used this book as a reference to give a presentation about Microaggressions and how to deal with them constructively. It was very useful and made for a productive presentation.
Profile Image for Deedee.
37 reviews
January 2, 2020
I turned a little sour on him when at the beginning of his book, he himself falls into the microagression trap when he talks about females. I've got the place marked but I'm not interested enough right now in going to my book shelf, plucking down the book, and giving you the page number.
1,600 reviews10 followers
June 18, 2015
Tad expensive but worth every penny. Blew my mind and helped me understand so much
Profile Image for Jessica.
2,063 reviews60 followers
June 13, 2021
I read the 2nd edition, from 2020, which seems to have been substantially revised and reformatted.

This challenged me to be better in some areas, validated me in other areas, and made me aware that some changes in my own behavior were to avoid gender-based microaggressions. Some of the recommendations to reduce/address microaggressions will be really useful in the classroom and other areas of my work.

This also included sanist and other ableist microaggressions. (tbh, I think to revise this to adequately account for sanism and ableism and how those things are mutually constituted with racialization and gender norms would directly challenge a lot of the field of psychology so I'm not holding my breath on it getting addressed. But if anyone reading this is curious, check out the Disability Justice movement Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice .)

I was also struck by how odd some of the content was in relation to queer/trans/gender microaggressions. And that made me realize that lateral violence isn't ever acknowledged and nor is colorism. CRT is only mentioned in the citations, but that kind of legalistic, US-based framework seems to undergird a lot of microaggressions theory. (Both useful theories, so long as you remember not to use a hammer when you want to swat a fly.)
Profile Image for Adam Ross.
750 reviews95 followers
May 17, 2016
Microaggressions have gotten a bad rap in the media in the last couple of years, who usually associate them with overly-fragile millennials, who are, if these commentariats are to be believed, the source of all things lazy and pathetic in modern life. Given that this construction of millennials is entirely mythological (as a generation, we are the hardest working, lowest-compensated, most eager to volunteer, most interested in matters of justice, and most concerned about the well-being of others in a long, long time), one can be forgiven for suspecting the objections to the very notion of microaggressions is also bogus. So I got this book.

It turns out I was right. Microaggressions are a real thing, that have been repeatedly proven in the research to cause real, physiological, emotional, and psychological issues for those who must endure them. They are not the refuge of over-sensitive crybabies (though a case could be made that hysterical denunciations of microaggressions may be).

The author gives a number of helpful examples of microaggressions and why they are so difficult to pin down, let alone address. Often they are perceived by the perpetrator as intended to be helpful, or contain no prejudice at all. For example, when then-candidate Joe Biden was asked to remark on Obama's success, he praised the now-President by saying he was well-spoken and dressed well - implying that this was unusual for black Americans as a group, and thus a form of implicit bias. In the same election year, 2008, then-candidate John McCain encountered a woman accusing Obama of being a Muslim. McCain responded by saying that Obama wasn't a Muslim, he was a good family man and a patriotic American - implicitly saying that Muslims could not be good family men or patriotic Americans. The author (an Asian-American) then gave an example from his personal life - he and a colleague, a black woman, were on a small airplane where passengers could sit anywhere they wanted. They chose the front of the plane. A number of white businessmen got on as well. The Stewardess got on the plane and asked the two people of color to please move to the back of the airplane to balance the weight distribution without looking at or asking anyone else, or simply asking the group as a whole if there would be any volunteers. This is an example of simply not being aware of prejudice or of context (asking the people of color to "go to the back of the bus," essentially).

A lot of good material here for paying attention to our words, and to look and listen to the experiences of others who see the world differently.
Profile Image for Tyff.
194 reviews8 followers
October 29, 2013
This book would be a great tool for introducing intercultural communication in the USA and for students to question their assumptions of others.

If you have ever locked your car doors when you see a group of black kids approaching you then this book is a MUST read.

If you are a person of color you will relate to soo much discussed here. Basically it explains what you feel in some situations yet cannot quite determine why it feels racist.

Don't believe microagression exists? Check out this story about a college student who was arrested because the store clerk didn't "think" he could afford the item he just purchased. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10...

Profile Image for Whitney.
324 reviews5 followers
November 1, 2014
So good! I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 only because I think the lay reader only needs to really read the first half or so to get Sue's argument. Racial microaggressions explain so much about the persistence of racism in a world that claims to deplore racism. Every year I tell my students that the (only) good thing about the fact that race is a social construct is that if we made it, we can get rid of it. And while understanding microaggressions helps me see the problem so much more clearly, it also confirms for me that race and racism are powerful and universal parts of our psyche and will be incredibly hard to dismantle. We have a lot of work to do.
Profile Image for Rants and Bants.
434 reviews3 followers
Shelved as 'will-never-read'
September 20, 2016
If "microaggressions" are a thing (usually they're nothing more than an SJW getting their panties twisted over a mere disagreement or something equally harmless), then they exist against everyone. NOT just the "traditionally disadvantaged groups." Which by that they probably mean women, minorities, and lgbt peoples despite the fact that many of them have decent well-off lives and plenty of straight white males out there are poor, and THAT is what disadvantaged truly means. But I digress.
Profile Image for Kim.
13 reviews
June 9, 2013
I enjoyed reading this book and learning more about a topic that gets thrown around on the internet. I am much more knowledgeable having read this book.

The focus is on microaggressions and how they relate to race, gender, and sexual orientation. Reading the sections on gender and sexual orientation were validating, illuminating, and accurately describe my (or close friends)experiences...the sections on race made me think about how I move throughout the world.
1 review
July 14, 2020
A very informative read!

A very informative book that is very current and educational. I must read for individuals that are struggling to understand how they can make a difference in our current climate of social unrest.
203 reviews1 follower
January 30, 2021
Thought provoking

Thought provoking and depressing in equal measure. The book convincingly explains the extent of damage done by everyday microaggressions and how very common they are. Where it falters is in discussing solutions... possibly because there are too few.
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