Resilience And Microaggressions

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Resilience in the Face of Racial-Ethnic Microaggressions

Discriminatory behavior is easily recognized due to the unconcealed nature of it. On the contrary, microaggressions are a new category that refers to the subtle yet harmful forms of discriminatory behavior experienced by members of oppressed groups. Such behavior often results from implicit bias, leaving individual perpetrators unaware of the harm they have caused (Friedlaender, 2018). Similarly Sue (2007) further explains that ethnic microaggressions also communicate rudeness and insults or negate the experiential reality of ethnic minority individuals. It has been suggested that the psychological effects of microaggressions can lead to more severe psychological consequences than blatant discrimination. These effects may be due to the state of these exchanges, which can either be more ambiguous, denied, or rationalized as well-intentioned, thus, resulting in a more active or complicated appraisal of the scenario (Torres & Taknint, 2015). Microaggressions are deemed to not constitute a real or a significant harm due to the inexplicit nature of it. Previous research found a significant relationship between ethnic discrimination and increased traumatic stress symptoms among the Latino population. Subsequently, individuals who reported experiencing ethnic microaggressions have also indicated elevated istrusive, avoidance, and hyperarousal symptoms (Torres & Taknint, 2015). In a study conducted by Khaylis, Waelde & Bruce (2007) their findings suggested that ethnic identity moderated the relationship between ethnic/racial discrimination and traumatic stress symptoms among a multiethnic sample of college students such that high levels were associated with greater symptoms. These findings show that holding a strong racial/ethnic identity will help indiviuals be more resilient in the face of traumatic stress such as discrimination. Forster et. al. (2019) suggest that promoting a positive ethnic identity may be a promising prevention strategy that could bolster resilience among at‐risk, urban minority youth. In this literature review, a deeper analysis as to whether holding a strong/positive ethnic identity will provide more resilient approaches to microaggressions to racial-ethnic minorities.

Effects of Microaggressions

Fully understanding the harm that follows microaggressions is necessary to properly combat them. Friedlaender (2019) suggests 4 harm principles necessary to be acquainted with microaggression. First, a single microaggression can cause negative emotional, behavioral, and cognitive responses in the target.. Second, attributional ambiguity itself causes targets harm in their having to second‐guess whether their social group categorization motivated the act.. Third, when a microaggression occurs, targets are socially burdened with feeling as if they must suppress their reaction to the slight. Because of attributional ambiguity, the reactions of victims are often regarded as disproportionate, socially unacceptable, or cases of false perception (that is, seeing oppression where there is none).. Fourth, microaggressions produce material harms and reinforce larger structural problems (for example, race/gender wage gaps). Microaggressions can affect everything from employment , to education, to health‐care access and treatment. For example, microaggressions can produce a hostile working environment and negatively affect hiring, retention, and promotion (Friedlaender, 2019). The effects can also include systematic discriminatory laws or regulations that don’t allow individuals to thrive or expand their network. Having hostile work environments also makes work a less pleasurable time.

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Fostering Resilience

Extensive research on resilience suggests the necessity to be able to engage appropriately, effectively, respectfully in intercultural interactions and converse with individuals from different cultural backgrounds are invaluable skills promoting the well-being of individuals and societies in a highly diverse and globalizing world (Motti-Stefanidi, 2019). Fostering resilience is a profound ability to have in the face of microaggressions. Ungar, Connelly, Liebenberg, and Theron (2019) suggest that resilience, when viewed ecologically has been shown to result from a set of interactions that help children navigate towards, and negotiate access to, seven broad categories: (1) material resources; (2) supportive relationships; (3) a desirable personal identity; (4) experiences of power and control; (5) adherence to cultural traditions; (6) experiences of social justice; and (7) experiences of social cohesion with others. These seven resources can be affected by the experiences a child lives through at school in ways that make it more or less likely that the child will experience forms of resilience. Of the seven suggested, a desirable personal identity is mentioned as one that will help a child experience resilience. This shows the importance of building a personal identity and its influence on resilience.

Although the positive light shed on resilience and upholding resilient techniques, practices, and methods into an individual’s daily life, It isn’t always a positive approach. (Anderson 2019) describes the potential harm that is visible in promotions of resilience and provides practical concepts to consider as to why resilience should be taken into deeper consideration. It is noted that Families are often encouraged to demonstrate perseverance, regardless of the conditions in which they live, to model resilience. However, temporary positive adaptations displayed by African American families could be fostering greater, more damaging future vulnerabilities. The concept of rethinking resilience implies family scientists and practitioners to think critically about how processes of resilience may be imposing risk on families when they are expected continuously to adapt internally but, externally, their adverse environments remain unchanged (Anderson, 2019). This is a necessary consideration to put when considering solutions to discrimination and microaggressions. Often when discussing healing from trauma it is a person-based approach as to how an individual can work with themself to heal themself through scientific techniques and approaches. Rather when the discussion comes to microaggressions and discrimination, these ongoing traumas are not temporary, they are rather continous. Likewise these traumas inflicted are not from situations individuals were put in, rather situations that were put onto them. Due to the differences microaggressions and discrimination hold as a trauma, it is necessary to approach and treat them differently, from an internal and external perspective being social justice as was mentioned by Anderson (2009).

Promoting a Positive Ethnic-racial identity

Ethnic and racial identity help to cope with racial discrimination/ microaggressions. In a study within the African American population the ways in which girls perceptions of their school climate and racial identity beliefs related to achievement motivation beliefs as well as how racial identity beliefs and school climate interacted to explain achievement motivation beliefs was tested. Researchers found that feeling positive about being black and feeling support and belonging at school may be especially important for African American girls classroom engagement and curiosity(Butler-Barnes, et. al. 2018). The findings of this study also suggested that girls with a stronger sense of racial centrality and where they stood in society were buffered against the negative impact of peer-based racial disrimination on their academic beliefs. Similarly, Forster et al. (2019) tested the association between familal incarceration and suicide behaviors and examined ethnic identity as a potential moderator. They found that promoting a positive ethnic identity may be a promising prevention strategy that could bolster resilience among at-risk, urban minority youth.

Within the context of ethnic discrimination, inconsistencies have emerged in the empirical literature with some evidence that ethnic identity was an important buffer to psychological problems, while others have found significant coorelations (Torres & Taknint, 2015). This being the case, the ability of ethnic identity to indluence psychological outcomes that are associated with ethnic discrimination remain unclear. Discrimination as one ourcome, morevover, microaggresions can reinforce sterotypes about opressed groups, putting indiviuals more at risk for stereotype threat (Friedlaender 2018). The psychological effects as mentioned can deeply affect ethnic-racial minorities. White people rarely have the experience of having to question whether a particular slight was racially motivated, whereas people of color disproportionately engage in the second-guessing (Ungar, et. al., 2019). The role of ethnic identity in relation to discrimination and microaggressions still needs more extensive research to serve as a coping mechanism. Character building through individuals being fully comfortable with identifying as what they are allows for a more steadfast approach to the oppressor. In turn hoping to minimize the psychological affects in which accompany microaggressions and discrimination. It can be concluded from this analysis that a positive racial-ethnic identity can be a helpful intervention in the face of microaggressions and discrimination and foster resilient attitudes.


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