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Small ‘micro-affections’ can have a big impact against social and political injustices

It is easy to feel overwhelmed as an individual in the face of massive acts of institutional injustice. The problems — racism, hatred, violence, oppression, poverty — are so big.

And as an individual, you can feel so small.

But the personal really is political.

Social and political injustice can evoke the range of human emotional experiences like few other things. Anger, rage, helplessness, hopelessness, fear, sadness, hope, courage. And so much more.

Considering all of this brought to my mind the concept of microaggressions. Originally coined in the 1970s, the term was updated in the 2000s by psychologist Dr. Derald Wing Sue, who described microaggressions as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership.” This can be applied to any marginalized or disempowered group. It is often likened to experiencing “death by a thousand cuts.”

I thought about microaggressions because of the notion of the cumulative effect of small actions. This concept has long fascinated me — and informed my work as a therapist and coach. Small adjustments and experiences can and do have life-changing impacts.

To counteract the insidious senses of helplessness and hopelessness that can creep in when we feel outsized and overpowered, I started to think: What’s the opposite of a microaggression? What are the “micro-contributions” we can make in the face of massive problems?

What came to me were five alternatives to microaggressions, listed below.

None are particularly innovative.

But my hope is that taken together they can empower individuals to be effective micro-agents for change; to fight death by a thousand cuts by living a life of a thousand kindnesses.

1) Micro-protections

Stand up for someone or something that could use a little extra power or protection. Chances are, if you are safe and privileged, then you have some to give.

2) Micro-affections

Small, simple acts of caring and kindness, in word or in deed. Tell people you love them. Hug or kiss when welcomed, appropriate and safe in the age of COVID-19. Give, expecting nothing in return.

3) Micro-concessions

Accept personal responsibility and even apologize where maybe you have been stubbornly holding your ground. “Saving face” is overrated.

4) Micro-progressions

Take even one small step in the direction of truth, health, justice and healing. Knowledge definitely can be power. Actions can be even more powerful.

5) Micro-connections

Actually meet someone in your midst, like a neighbor or colleague or employee at your grocery store. Slightly deepen an existing surface-level connection.

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Source: Orange County Register

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