Over the last few months, I’ve seen an increasing number of articles start highlighting an issue that has been percolating at college campuses: The theory of “Microaggression”.

Not familiar with the term?

The New York Times has recently written about the term become the “word du jour”:

A tone-deaf inquiry into an Asian-American’s ethnic origin. Cringe-inducing praise for how articulate a black student is. An unwanted conversation about a Latino’s ability to speak English without an accent.

This is not exactly the language of traditional racism, but in an avalanche of blogs, student discourse, campus theater and academic papers, they all reflect the murky terrain of the social justice word du jour — microaggressions — used to describe the subtle ways that racial, ethnic, gender and other stereotypes can play out painfully in an increasingly diverse culture.

In reading Time magazine over the weekend, there was a similar piece which suggested that “you’re about to start hearing it everywhere.”

Microaggressions, as these academics describe them, are quiet, often unintended slights — racist or sexist — that make a person feel underestimated on the basis of their color or gender.

Of course, in reading these pieces, I couldn’t help but wonder if we’ll start to see the influence of this academic theory in employment discrimination cases.

Before you suggest that I am reach for straws, understand that academics are already looking at this theory and have been for over 25 years in articles or books (here, here and here, for example).


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Time and again, pundits suggest that the U.S. Supreme Court now is among the most conservative in decades and, by extension, pro-business.

If that’s the case, they’re going to be awfully surprised with today’s 8-0 ruling in Staub v. Proctor Hospital (download here) in which the court broadened the methods that an employee can use