Dictionaries commonly define micro as extremely small. When I think of micro, my mind conjures up images if things that can only be seen with an electron-microscope, too small for the eye to naturally perceive. Of course, most of us know there are social situations that are appropriately defined using the prefix micro. Of late (recent years), we hear the term micro-aggression being used to refer to the isms that plague our society. Stories where people of color are confronted with various comments, actions that pierce to the very heart of their being by someone who is troubled, it would seem, by their very existence on the planet. For example, asking an Asian American where they’re from or informing them that they speak English well, without assuming that they were born in Kansas and grew up next door to Dorothy.
Before I poor any more words unto this little blue screen, let me confess from where the prompt for this blog comes. Last evening, in our living room, my oldest child, my middle child, my better half (Chris) and I were sitting around talking. Of course, we couldn’t have done this a year ago; however, we’ve all been vaccinated (two shots) and we feel comfortable socializing as in days of old. Somehow our conversation meandered into politics, racism, and a few other topics that many families forbid being broached at the dinner table, for fear of familial civil discord. One thing we got bogged down in was whether minorities can technically be defined as racists, or would the term prejudiced be more accurate. The prevailing definition of a racist speaks to one from a socially predominate group who has power to deprive someone of another group of life, liberty, etc. because of their race, ethnicity. I’m not going to divulge the full dynamics of our lively discussion hear but let me just say I was troubled by the bridge of life experience that divides our generations.
As I think back to twelve hours ago, I can see that much of our conversation dealt with microaggression, and the degree of sensitivity each of us has to it. We even had a labored discussion about whether Black folks should speak up when uncomplimentary things are said about white folks in a conversation among Black folks. This stemmed from what is often thought to be the reluctance or uncertainty of some socially conscience white person to do the same when they find themselves having such a conversation in a group of white folks.
At almost 71 years of age, I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve gone from a time when Black folks couldn’t go to a lot of public places; to being granted entre’ to many of those places; to being granted the opportunity to pursue many of the material things that don’t define happiness well; to experiencing life in ways that my grandparents and great grandparents couldn’t even imagine. And now, it seems there are forces afoot that want to turn back the clock to a time when they thought America was great. Anger, confusion, disgust, exhaustion is but a few of the deleterious emotions that just won’t go away.
I started this piece with what I thought to be a clear direction of where I was going, but do we ever really know where we’re going when we talk of isms and micro aggressive behavior that too often accompanies them. Our conversation left more questions than answers, but that doesn’t mean it was worthless. I’ve heard many times that this conversation needs to be had in the public square. I agree. But it must be a conversation with no end. The conversation must be a part of a process that encompasses families, neighborhoods, regions, the entire country. Will we feel good, having it? No. But we can’t have gain without pain.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.