Confronting Microaggressions: Standing in Solidarity in the Workplace

I remember entering an office party, and I was very hyper-aware that I was not just the only hijabi in the room but one of the ten people of color in the room. I vividly recall the moment when I walked up to a colleague I had admired, excited to finally meet her, only to be greeted with a name that wasn’t mine. Now, the co-worker she did confuse me with was, in fact, another person of color, but she wasn’t a hijabi, so it definitely left me side-eyeing my colleague. At that moment, I didn’t think much of it; I simply corrected her with a smile and kept the conversation going. But beneath that composed exterior, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of discomfort. It did get me thinking, though, about microaggressions and their role in today’s corporate climate. This blog post aims to provide guidance on how to effectively respond to microaggressions, advocating for Palestine and addressing general microaggressions in the workplace.

Walking into corporate settings can be In today’s corporate environment, microaggressions – those subtle, often unintentional, expressions of bias or prejudice – have become a significant challenge, particularly for minorities. For those of us who are deeply connected to issues like the plight of Palestine, these microaggressions can be both personal and painful. 

A friend of mine recently told me about how angry she felt watching her leadership team belittle the tragedy that Palestine is facing, that when writing emails addressing the issue, they would never even say the name Palestine. It’s watching people’s lack of decency and humanity and still finding a way to ensure your voice is heard in solidarity.

Understanding Microaggressions: Microaggressions can range from insensitive comments about cultural attire to dismissive attitudes towards geopolitical issues like those in Palestine. They often stem from ignorance rather than malice, but their impact can be deeply hurtful. It’s essential to recognize these occurrences not only to protect our well-being but also to educate and foster a more inclusive environment.

Responding to Microaggressions:

  1. Stay Calm and Composed: The initial reaction might be anger or hurt, but responding calmly can be more effective. It allows you to address the issue without escalating the situation.
  2. Clarify the Comment: Sometimes, people are unaware of the implications of their words. Ask them to elaborate, providing an opportunity for them to understand the potential offense. Remember that many microaggressions stem from ignorance rather than malice, and it’s an opportunity to educate.
  3. Express Your Feelings: Explain how their comment made you feel. Use “I” statements, like “I felt hurt when…” to personalize your response without sounding accusatory.
  4. Educate and Inform: Use this as a teaching moment, especially if the microaggression is about Palestine. Share facts or personal experiences that can help the other person understand the sensitivity of the issue.
  5. Seek Support: If microaggressions are frequent or particularly hurtful, please do not dismiss yourself and your feelings. It is time to discuss them with a mentor, HR, or a diversity officer. Please know the intent of HR is to ensure you’re in an environment where you feel safe; however, I understand that not everyone has a good experience with HR to feel safe. If need be, I recommend speaking with them in front of a legal team member or a union representative.

Advocating for Palestine: When addressing comments about Palestine, it’s essential to stick to the facts, dispelling myths and emphasizing the human aspect of the conflict. Supporting Palestine isn’t just a political stance; it’s a commitment to justice and humanity. For more resources, consider looking into The Council on American-Islamic Relations or Palestine Legal.

Creating an Inclusive Environment:

  1. Promote Diversity Training: Encourage your organization to conduct diversity and inclusion training, including sessions on recognizing and avoiding microaggressions.
  2. Lead by Example: Model inclusive behavior. Your approach to handling microaggressions can set a tone for others.
  3. Foster Open Dialogues: Encourage discussions on cultural sensitivity and geopolitical issues in team meetings or special sessions. This can help build understanding and empathy.

Responding to microaggressions, particularly those related to sensitive issues like Palestine, requires patience, emotional intelligence, and a commitment to education and inclusivity. By addressing these issues head-on, we not only stand up for ourselves and our communities but also contribute to creating a more understanding and respectful workplace. Remember, every conversation is an opportunity to bridge gaps and foster a culture of empathy and respect.