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The Everyday Experiences of "Microaggressions"

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SEIZING THE SLIGHTS

Derald Wing Sue evaluates the collective toll taken by microagressions

SEIZING THE SLIGHTS

Derald Wing Sue evaluates the collective toll taken by microagressions

Teachers College psychologist Derald Wing Sue, one of the world’s most frequently cited multicultural scholars and an expert on issues of discrimination, has published a new book, Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation (John Wiley and Sons, 2010).
Sue, born to a Chinese-American family in Portland, Oregon, is the author of several previous books, including Counseling the Culturally Diverse: Theory and Practice, Overcoming our Racism, and Understanding Abnormal Behavior. Sue has served on President Bill Clinton’s President’s Advisory Board on Race in 1996. He is a past president of the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues, a co-founder and first president of the Asian American Psychological Association, and the past president of the Society of Counseling Psychology of the American Psychological Association. He has written over 150 publications, including many on microaggressions—a term coined by psychologist Chester Pierce in the 1970s, but which Sue has since refined as a description of unintended slights or social cues by members of a dominant group that make members of minority groups uncomfortable. As Sue has documented in his new book and elsewhere, microaggressions take a collective toll on their mental, emotional and even physical health.
 
Sue has also consulted with a wide range of organizations on ways of acknowledging, confronting and eliminating microaggressions.
 
“Our psychological studies indicate that it is racial micro-aggressions that have the most devastating impact on people of color, even more terrible than overt acts of conscious racism or hate crimes,” Sue has said. “Their life is most affected by ordinary, well-intentioned decent individuals who are unaware that they are giving micro-aggressions.”

Microaggressions in Everyday Life
is the product of five years’ of research conducted by Sue and his students in their “microaggressions laboratory” at Teachers College where they have interviewed a wide cross-section of faculty, students and staff about their experiences and perceptions of microaggressions. The book includes a “taxonomy of microaggressions,” classifying these slights into categories such as microassaults (conscious and intentional actions or slurs, such as using racial epithets), microinsults (verbal and nonverbal communications that subtly convey rudeness and insensitivity) and microinvalidations (communications that subtly exclude, negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of color). The book also features a five-phase model for deconstructing the microaggression process. Sections also examine manifestations of various microaggressions and their psychological effects on both the perpetrators and target person. The book closes with a discussion of microaggressions in education, employment, and health care along with suggestions and guidelines for combating microaggressions.

Microaggressions in Everyday Life
is written with an unusual combination of scholarly care and accessibility for a lay audience—a feature that owes much to Sue’s own connection to his topic.
 
“There is a marked synergy between Dr. Sue as a scholar and author and as an individual, authentic person,” writes Fordham University professor Joseph G. Ponterotto, in his foreward to the book. “One definable characteristic of his work and role modeling is his openness and courage. Dr. Sue has personally experienced countless microaggressions (as well as blatant macroaggressions) in his personal life and career, a number of which he candidly, vividly, and poignantly describes in his published life story as well as in the current text. Dr. Sue discusses the impact of these racist incidents on himself and his family and he describes the actions he took and the resources he drew on to cope with these experiences.” v
 
See a video interview with Professor Sue at www.tc.edu/news/7375.
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