Academics Discover New Way To Get Offended: ‘Invisibility Microaggressions’

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Ian Miles Cheong Contributor
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Two professors claim to have discovered a new form of politically incorrect offense called “invisibility microaggressions,” which are said to be even more subtle than regular microaggressions. Their proposed solution for these offenses is to get rid of meritocracy.

In social justice jargon, a “microaggression” is when someone — say a white person — asks an Asian person where they’re from. While the question isn’t offensive in and of itself, the act of asking a person who may get the same question repeatedly throughout the week can be annoying and therefore offensive.

Campus Reform reported on Thursday that a recent study by two professors, Jasmine Mena, who teaches psychology at Bucknell University, and Annemarie Vaccaro of the University of Rhode Island, claim that they are the first academics to discover that “invisibility” is a form of microaggressions not previously described in feminist academia.

“There is a growing body of literature that suggests invisibility is a common form of exclusion — or microaggression,” Mena and Vaccaro say. “However, no studies have focused deeply on the ways women faculty and staff experience invisibility microaggressions on college campuses.”

The two professors interviewed 13 non-white women at “predominantly white institutions” and found five different forms of “invisibility microaggressions.” Three were “environmental” and two were “interpersonal.”

Publishing their findings in the NASPA Journal About Women In Higher Education on Aug. 29, the professors claim that the environment-based “invisibility microaggressions” occur when they are “among the few, or only” non-whites in a workplace or communal context.

Meanwhile, interpersonal “invisibility microaggressions” are said to hinder non-white people in “everyday work roles” because their ethnicity or gender is being ignored or because they don’t see other non-white people there.

The participants reported “campus invisibility,” where non-white faculty members say they experienced invisibility for being one of the few non-white faculty members on campus.

Unlike regular microaggressions, which require at least two parties for them to occur, invisibility microaggressions only needs for one person to feel invisible in an environment. A lone black person among a sea of white faces could qualify as one of these invisibility microaggressions — especially if he or she isn’t singled out for being black. But if that happens, then it can possibly be a macroaggression.

The professors say that the only way to deal with invisibility microaggressions is for campuses and workplaces to single out minorities and shower them with positive attention, to make them feel less invisible.

Rather than commend them on the merits of their work like any other employee, the professors suggest deliberately selecting non-white women for high-profile awards and celebrate them on alumni magazines, newsletters, and other materials.

The professors also recommend that campus leaders “must be especially vigilant in considering and recommending Women of Color for leadership roles.”

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.