In recognition of the United Nation’s Human Rights Day, the encyclopedia is designed to highlight the pervasiveness and harm of microaggressions with tips to help change behaviours.
“That’s so gay,” “I don’t see colour,” “Where are you really from,” ”You don’t look trans,” these are just some of the entries in a new encyclopedia called The Micropedia of Microaggressions which launched today to equip people around the world with an understanding of one of the most common forms of discrimination—microaggressions—and to support training on equity, diversity and inclusion.
The comprehensive tool was co-created with a community of Canada’s diversity advocacy groups to identify microaggressions, understand their harmful impact, and give steps to unlearn behaviours.
Microaggressions are everyday subtle put-downs, assumptions, and comments that, regardless of intentions, are hurtful, insulting and damaging. Research has shown that while less obvious than overt forms of discrimination, microaggressions take a significant toll on mental and physical health.
Microaggressions can take many forms and are part of the ongoing experience of discrimination many individuals experience regularly. A high rate of microaggression happens daily and the impact is extremely harmful. A high rate of microaggression happens daily and the impact is extremely harmful. Here are just a few facts:
- 59% of individuals of Black or Afro-descent have observed an individual(s) from a certain background being treated favourably compared with those of other racial identities or ethnic origins
- 45% of Multi-racial individuals have heard comments or jokes that mock persons of a certain racial identity or ethnic origin
- 1 in 4 sexual minority people have experienced unwanted sexual attention while at work, the most common behaviour after inappropriate sexual jokes
- University graduates with severe disabilities on average have worse employment outcomes than high school dropouts.
- 60% of Americans have witnessed or potentially witnessed microaggression in the workplace.
“Unlike overt anti-Black racism, microaggressions are more subtle. Often, they are harder to ‘prove’ and we second guess ourselves, adding to the negative effects,” says Nadine Spencer, CEO of the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA). “Microaggressions are part of the daily experience of many women, non-binary, Black, racialized and Indigenous people. They also affect persons with disabilities, as well as those in the LGBTQ2S+ community. It can be exhausting to decide what to call out and when or how to explain why something is harmful. This is especially true when comments may be the result of ignorance rather than malice. This resource explains the harm a person might unknowingly cause and includes real-life examples. We hope that it will help individuals to become more aware of bias, stereotypes and offensive comments and behaviours.”
The digital tool was created on behalf of a community of Canada’s leading Diversity & Inclusion advocacy groups – including The Black Business and Professional Association, The Canadian Congress on Diversity and Workplace Equity, Pride at Work Canada, and Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute. Toronto’s digital and design firm Zulu Alpha Kilo developed the site and campaign.
Whether you’re facing microaggressions and need a tool to share with others or are committed to being an ally and combating them, the collaborators hope this resource will spark necessary conversations and action.
“Our research and work with equity-deserving groups has shown just how damaging microaggressions can be,” said Wendy Cukier, Founder of the Diversity Institute. “Not only can they have negative mental health impacts, but research from the Wellesley Institute shows physical harm as well. At the same time, we know that organizations trying to create more inclusive work environments often struggle with balancing the need to address microaggressions with the concern that they not place an undue burden or ‘emotional tax’ on those on the receiving end. The Micropedia tool may be useful in supporting the identification and understanding of the subtle and very harmful form of discrimination.”
The Micropedia is looking for more organizations and individuals to join the community and continue adding entries to the resource. To contribute to the project, please visit www.TheMicropedia.org.
About the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA):
Founded in 1983, the BBPA is a charitable organization whose mission is to advance Canada's Black community by facilitating the delivery of programs that support business and professional excellence, higher education, and economic development. Along with the BBPA National Scholarships, the BBPA presents the Annual Harry Jerome Awards, the National Black Business Convention (NBBPC), and workshops and programs at the BBPA Centre of Excellence.
About the Diversity Institute:
The Diversity Institute conducts and coordinates multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder research to address the needs of diverse Canadians, the changing nature of skills and competencies, and the policies, processes and tools that advance economic inclusion and success. Our action-oriented, evidence-based approach is advancing knowledge of the complex barriers faced by underrepresented groups, leading practices to effect change, and producing concrete results. The Diversity Institute is a research lead for the Future Skills Centre.
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1 United Nations. “Task Force on Addressing Racism and Promoting Dignity for all in the UN.” March 2021
2 United Nations. “Task Force on Addressing Racism and Promoting Dignity for all in the UN.” March 2021
3 Statistics Canada. “Experiences of violent victimization and unwanted sexual behaviours among gay, lesbian, bisexual and other sexual minority people, and the transgender population, in Canada, 2018.” 2020
4 Cukier, W. “The Future of Work is Based on Assumptions We Need to Challenge.” 2020
5 SurveyMonkey. “Study: Microaggressions in the workplace.” 2019