Microaggressions:  Making space for everybody

MetaFilter has Community Guidelines and a Content Policy to help our community be an inclusive and welcoming space for its members. And while meaning well and avoiding discriminatory or exclusionary behavior is an important starting point, it is not enough.

This section covers a bit more in detail something we think we all need to be aware of: Microaggressions.

What are Microaggressions?

Microaggressions are seemingly-small slights, which happen to members of marginalized groups. To some, they won’t seem like a big deal but, in truth, these are insensitive behaviors that work as a constant reminder of being perceived as less, different, or unwelcome, and add up to a larger cumulative harm.

It doesn't matter whether someone intends to be hurtful or not; it still hurts, and that's what counts.

Why is this important?

When something doesn’t negatively affect us directly, we often fail to see how much effort people have to invest, just to reach what might seem like the default comfort level in a social space, especially where systemic power is involved. 

For example, it's easy for an American to overlook how much work and effort others have to put to overcome American-centric assumptions, just to participate here. White people may not notice how whiteness as an assumed default creates extra stress and a sense of exclusion for people of color.

So, in order to foster a really inclusive community, we all need to actively work towards making space for people to participate without being subjected to ongoing friction and harm, however small we perceive it to be. 

What can I do?

Making space means more than just avoiding obviously-inappropriate behavior. It means avoiding casually exclusionary language, harmful generalizations, treating culturally-specific details as global defaults, and, more importantly, it means making an active effort to take a step back, listen, and make space for others to talk. 

If someone points out something that is new to you, you can make the effort to inform yourself and learn instead of asking others to explain or justify it.

If someone points out that you said something racist, US-centric, ableist, misogynist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or otherwise problematic, even if unintentionally, take that information on board without being defensive. 

We're all likely to make mistakes and it's okay to feel uncomfortable when called out. Make the effort to step back, consider what the affected people are saying, and be willing to apologize without centering yourself in the conversation. It's okay to sit with that discomfort and learn from it while you let others lead the conversation.

Common Microaggressions

Here are some common microaggressions to be aware of, and avoid:


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