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Moments with Mimi: Marginalized people face microaggressions every day

Mimi Calhoun

If you’re a part of any minority or marginalized group in the U.S., you’ve been the victim of a microaggression. Even if you think you haven’t, you probably have and just didn’t realize. The thing about microaggressions is that you never realize that you experienced one until it’s after the fact, and you’ve had time to think about it. That’s the thing that gets you: microaggressions are specific and normalized actions or words that seem casual and innocent when there can actually be an underlying message to them.

I’ve been told them ever since I was a child. From, “You’re really pretty… for an Asian girl,” or, “Your English is really good,” despite it being my first language, it’s the little things that people may mean as compliments that could be actually playing into stereotypes. Assuming that I don’t speak English because of my ethnicity or attaching that ethnicity onto a comment on my looks makes the statements feel backhanded or like a hidden insult.

Why can’t I just be pretty? What does being Asian have to do with anything? And what about me besides my looks tells you that I can’t speak English? These questions are usually what I think to myself when people tell me these things. Typically, the root cause of the aggression is from preconceived notions or that the person speaking doesn’t have to think about the implications of their words.

Microaggressions can be actions too. If a white woman holds her bag tighter to her body when a Black man walks past, if a woman is speaking during a meeting and her male coworkers keep interrupting her or if a store owner follows a person of color around as they shop, those can all be examples of microaggressions. Holding your bag closer to you gives off the impression that you’re afraid he’ll mug you, continuously interrupting makes it seem that you don’t value her opinion and following a person of color around shows that you think that they’re going to steal.

Some common microaggressions against people of color are:

“Where are you from? Where are you really from? Where are your parents from? Where were you born? What are you?” Asking where someone is really from is going along with the assumption that they don’t belong in where they’re currently residing. What you may mean to ask is, “What is your ethnicity?”

“You’re really pretty or handsome for an Asian, Black, Hispanic, etc.” Associating a race to a compliment about looks makes it seem that that person is only attractive because of their race. If you think a person of color is attractive, you can just compliment them without the additives.

“You speak good English.” There’s never truly a nice way to take this comment and it feels awkward to hear too. People of color could have English as their first or only language, and hearing that they speak it well seems condescending. Because of the way we look, it seems hard to believe that we could speak English.

My pieces of advice to avoid subjecting people to microaggressions: be conscious of your biases, put effort into improving yourself and take ownership over your mistakes. Recognizing what biases you may have towards or against certain people can help you figure out where these aggressions come from. Putting in the time and effort to get to know people that are different from you can allow you to possibly defuse biases you may have. Lastly, owning up to mistakes and not getting defensive shows that you’re willing to learn and be an ally against discrimination.

Mimi Calhoun is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Email Mimi at or tweet her @mimi_calhoun.

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