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Microinvalidations: The Subtle Plague

Quote:Treat people as you would like to be treated."

Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group. Almost all inter-racial encounters are prone to microaggressions. Perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware that they engage in such communications when they interact with racial/ethnic minorities.

Microinvalidations are characterized by communications that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts,feelings, or experiential reality of a person of color. When Asian (born and raised in the United Kingdom) are complimented for speaking good English or are repeatedly asked where they were born, the effect is to negate their English heritage and to convey that they are perpetual foreigners; When foreigners are complimented"you speak good English.You must have been raised here,or been in the country for a long time/you must be a student;" for good diction Blacks are told that “I don’t see color” or “We are all human beings,” the effect is to negatetheir experiences as racial/cultural beings (Helms, 1992).

Subtle and subversive discrimination has also been identified as one of the most common ways racialized people experience unequal treatment. Subtle forms of discrimination can often only be detected upon examining all of the circumstances. As well, contrasting how a racialized person was treated with how others were treated in a comparable situation, or looking for patterns of behaviour will help to determine whether subtle discrimination was at play.This is part of the “invisible plague” of microinvalidation, and is inflicted on millions of people of color by negating their experiences through everyday language.

Types of Microinvalidations

  1. The most prevalent microinvalidation in school and the workplace according to Dr. Sue is labelled as the “myth of meritocracy.” “Men and women are paid the same, they just choose the one is the most qualified,” or “You can succeed in America as long as you work hard,” blantly assumes that the only thing holding back marginalized groups is their capability, dismissing recognition that they are not privy to the same privilege as groups like straight, white men.

  2. Denial of individual racism/sexism/heterosexism,” where people employ logic that suggests they are allowed to be racist just because they have friends who struggled, and thus understand the struggle by association. Saying things like, “I can’t be racist! My best friend is black,” is an example of this form in practice.

  3. The term "color blindness,” wherein people claim they “can’t see color,” that the one race is “the human race,” basically negating the racism people know they face. This suggests that the person’s history and experiences based upon their race are unimportant and irrelevant.

  4. Questions like, “Where are you from?”, “How do you speak English so well?” or “Can you teach me a few words in your native tongue?” imply that someone’s racial identity negates their status as a citizen of the country.

Impacts of Microinvalidations

  1. A person can begin to experience depression, anxiety, fear of social interaction, and self-esteem and confidence issues if exposed to such degrading comments for an extended period of time.

  2. Victims are shamed and made to think that they are being paranoid or oversensitive.

  3. People feel invisible,cold and alone like the world is caving in on you.The individual work,health even career is adversely affected. REMEDY

  4. standing up to casual racism or sexism by being willing to acknowledge the problem, and educate others when they make such comments.

  5. Do not be patronising.Being a minority is not a disadvantage or disease.

  6. We must challenge ourselves and pay closer attention to the various microinvalidations as they occur around us, even if not the target.


Microinvalidations in the society has become so normal that it is most times overlooked.As humans who are aware of each others differences,we should accept, celebrate and not overstep our bounds as we journey through life.


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