State Dept. Warns Employees: ‘Microaggressions’ May Count As Harassment

(REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

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Following the example set by elite liberal universities, the U.S. State Department has begun cracking down on “microaggressions” in the workplace. According to a newsletter from State Department chief diversity officer John Robinson, employees who commit “microaggressions” may risk violating harassment laws in doing so.

Robinson published the letter in the November edition of State Magazine with the title “The New Face of Exclusion: Microaggressions.” The magazine is meant to “facilitate communication between management and employees” and “acquaint employees with developments that may affect operations or personnel,” according to the State Department website. In the letter, Robinson explained to employees that microaggressions “are much harder to spot than overt discrimination” and “are often brushed off as lack of tact or an act of nonmalicious ignorance.”

“Microaggressions can be detrimental to employee morale and engagement,” Robinson insisted. “Left unaddressed, microaggressions can over time lead to workplace conflict and eventually affect operations.”

“Severe or pervasive microaggressions based on protected Equal Employment Opportunity categories may rise to the level of harassment under certain circumstances,” Robinson warned.

The State Department website also lists “jokes,” “offensive conduct,” “offensive comments,” and “verbal or physical conduct based on an individual’s race/color” as examples of harassment.

In his letter, Robinson borrows Columbia professor Derald Wing Sue’s definition of “microaggressions,” which Sue defines as “everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons.”

In his book “Microaggressions In Everyday Life,” Sue claims that saying “Merry Christmas” to a Jewish person is a clear “microaggression.” The Daily Caller reached out to the State Department to clarify whether the agency also considers “Merry Christmas” a microaggression but did not hear back by press time.

Robinson did put forth a handful of example microaggressions in the letter, such as asking an Asian person “Where are you from?” He also offered his own definition of microaggressions: “insensitive questions and comments that leave you feeling a bit uneasy or slighted.”

The idea of microaggressions has so far been largely confined to left-leaning academia. Liberal universities have generated controversy for seeing to eliminate certain “microaggressive” phrases and ideas from students’ vocabulary. Referring to Americans as “Americans,” saying “the most qualified person should get the job,” or announcing your belief that “America is a land of opportunity” are all common examples of “microaggressions” in academia.

It remains unknown if Robinson will seek to eliminate these phrases, although he has previously declared war on phrases such as “holding down the fort” or “rule of thumb.” The reason? He thinks they’re too offensive.

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