Microaggressions and Isolation

The first time I heard the term, “micoaggression,” I thought it was brilliant. Here was a concept that succinctly encapsulated so much of my life.

Since then, the term has been worked to death in the salt mines of political whining.

I kinda hate it when particular terminology ceases to be useful because it has accreted layers of political and social signaling, such that just trying to use the term in a technical sense activates everyone’s “Oh now we’re talking about politics; let’s fight!” sub-routine.

I’m pretty sure a lot of dry, technical, long-winded language is really just an attempt to talk about stuff without triggering that sub-routine.

I seem to have said, “triggering.”


I understand what it is like to be one tiny person in a sea of humanity with whom you have little in common, with whom you struggle to connect on a basic level. People who make no damn sense; people who are too aggressive or too passive; people who might as well be speaking another language for all you can understand them.

I understand immigrants, hoping for a better life but stuck in a community full of people who aren’t like them. I understand adoptees, removed from the families and communities that would have made intuitive sense to them–people who perhaps couldn’t or wouldn’t take care of them, more’s the hurt. I imagine this is what it feels like to be interracial, inter-cultural, or transnational–to feel like nowhere is exactly right for you.

I understand because this is my life, too.

When I feel like I fit in, it is such a relief. My people! My kind! It doesn’t happen often.

I was not raised around most of my family. I like them, but they are still alien to me. What is it like to be raised in one culture and then go back to the culture where you were born, where your family lives, and have no idea how to interact with it? What if you have been raised with prejudices (from your adopted family or society at large) against your birth culture? What if you yourself don’t like your birth culture? How would you know the difference? How do you deal with that?

I feel more comfortable around Asian immigrants than around members of my biological family’s culture.

I took the term microaggression seriously when people first started bandying it about. At the very least, I desire to be polite to people and not annoying.

But eventually I started to wonder, if people hate being around each other so much, if people are constantly hurting each other, annoying each other, or otherwise offending them, then why be around each other?

People should be with the people they like, people they feel comfortable with. People they trust and who make them feel normal and happy. That’s what I want for myself, anyway. I assume it’s what you want for yourself. So why don’t we just let people live, work, and associate among people who make them happy, instead of forcing people among groups of people who are radically different and then yell at them for not spontaneously all acting the same?

The source of most microaggressions, in my experience, is not a conscious desire to be a jerkface to the other person, but differences in personality that cause endless friction. For example, a shy, introverted person may have difficulty dealing with loud, friendly, aggressive extroverts. The shy person finds these interactions excessively antagonistic, overwhelming, and retreats from them. The shy person does not enjoy taking to these people. The shy person who lives among a great many introverts ends up lonely, anxious, and stressed.

By contrast, an extrovert in the land of introverts finds themself constantly shut out of social events and dumped by friends for being “too loud,” “too emotional,” just too intense. Even people they like get suddenly freaked out by them and stop returning their calls. To the extrovert, these people are unfriendly and rude. The extrovert surrounded by introverts is miserable, confused, and lonely.

People who have simply moved from one part of the country to another feel this all the time. It is quite easy to find someone who would be happy in type-A, aggressive NYC, but miserable in laid-back Seattle, or vice versa. It is easy to find people who hate homogeneity and would die of boredom in a rural town, and easy to find people who can’t stand heterogeneity and just want to have simple, familiar people and things in life.

These are fundamental differences in people that I doubt can really be changed. I don’t think a shy person (over the age of 22, anyway,) is likely to transform into a loud, aggressive one. Aggressive people I know have tried to make themselves less aggressive, but just can’t. Deep down, you can’t really change who you are.

And that’s without throwing major racial, ethnic, or gender differences into the mix. (Whites from different parts of the US are genetically/ethnically different from each other; the differences are just a little more subtle.)

The modern world seems bent on forcing people together whether it makes them happy or not. Then we complain about how unhappy we are.

We should all be with the people who make us happy.


5 thoughts on “Microaggressions and Isolation

  1. The same people complaining about micro-aggressions are committing macro-aggressions against the people they complain are committing micro-aggressions against them. Let them stop the macro-aggressions of theft, assault, rape and murder and then we’ll work on the micro-aggressions. The rest about how different people grate on each other is exactly correct. I myself actually like the same type people you do. less loud less aggressive.


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