Disarming racial microaggressions: Microintervention strategies for targets, White allies, and bystanders

Am Psychol. 2019 Jan;74(1):128-142. doi: 10.1037/amp0000296.


Given the immense harm inflicted on individuals and groups of color via prejudice and discrimination, it becomes imperative for our nation to begin the process of disrupting, dismantling, and disarming the constant onslaught of micro- and macroaggressions. For too long, acceptance, silence, passivity, and inaction have been the predominant, albeit ineffective, strategies for coping with microaggressions. Inaction does nothing but support and proliferate biased perpetrator behaviors which occur at individual, institutional and societal levels. This article introduces a new strategic framework developed for addressing microaggressions that moves beyond coping and survival to concrete action steps and dialogues that targets, allies, and bystanders can perform (microinterventions). A review of responses to racist acts, suggest that microaggression reactions/interventions may be primarily to (a) remain passive, retreat, or give up; (b) strike back or hurt the aggressor; (c) stop, diminish, deflect, or put an end to the harmful act; (d) educate the perpetrator; (e) validate and support the targets; (f) act as an ally; (g) seek social support; (h) enlist outside authority or institutional intervention; or (h) achieve any combination of these objectives. We organize these responses into four major strategic goals of microinterventions: (a) make the invisible visible, (b) disarm the microaggression, (c) educate the perpetrator, and (d) seek external reinforcement or support. The objectives and rationale for each goal are discussed, along with specific microintervention tactics to employ and examples of how they are executed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Minority Groups / psychology
  • Racism / prevention & control*
  • Racism / psychology
  • Social Support*
  • White People / psychology*