I experience microaggressions constantly. Most of them are race-based, but occasionally I’ll get one that’s gender-based, like “why don’t you consult with your husband about what kind of windows to get”. (Of course, he gets his fair share of “men are domestically useless” microaggressions, which also sucks.) If you’re not hip to microaggressions, which is totally okay, they are the brief and common interactions with somebody who is Other to you that involve subtle and often unintentional but engrained bigotry. I found this paper to be good reading.
In any case, while I’m generally not upset by individual occurrences, it is exhausting and painful on the whole, and I do find myself getting defensive about the “where are you from (no really where are you from ORIGINALLY)” questions. I’m aware of said defensiveness, and try to be good about giving people a chance to move past it, but I’ll admit that sometimes I end up just stopping cold and staring at the asker. As we hung out with other musician friends at our favorite little dive bar during our brief stint in Wichita, it happened. But it didn’t go as I expected, at all.
White girl: “Hey, where are you from?”
Me: *stares* “Uh….”
Girl: (louder) “Where are you from?”
Me: *still staring*
Husband: (walks over to rescue me from being mean) Um… well, we are from the symphony orchestra.
Girl: “Oh. Cool! I thought maybe you guys were with the Disney on Ice people. I’ve never seen such a big group of skinny attractive people together at a bar here.”
So, microaggressions and aggressive racism aren’t going to stop happening, and I probably won’t stop bristling at THAT question, but I have to admit: she got me, and she made our night. For all the demoralizing and demeaning experiences, it’s nice to remember a positive one instead, even if she probably figured I was Mulan. 🙂