The Not So Micro Aggression.

It is ironic…the term MICRO-aggression.  My personal experiences have made me a bit hypervigilant when it comes to the comments and behaviors of non-Black folks in my space, so when it happens (a microaggression that is), it feels like anything but MICRO.  As I have gotten older and gained better understanding of intention and nuance, it feels more like a punch in the gut.  I often find my internal voice responding: “What the F$#* did you just say to me??!!”.  But more on that later.

Dr. Henry Pierce was a Black man. A psychiatrist. A professor of education and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. A consultant to the long running Sesame Street. And the person who coined the term that I am here to talk about today: MICRO-AGGRESSION.  Much of what Pierce wrote regarding the subject was based on personal experience and observations specifically between Blacks and Whites. He highlighted the effects of the cumulative nature of the intentional or unintentional acts of insult or dismissal made against Blacks by their non-Black counterparts.

Derald Wing Sue is a Chinese-American professor of counseling psychology at Columbia University and expanded on Dr. Pierce’s work.  In a 2007 article in the American Psychologist (Vol. 2, No. 4), Sue discusses three types of racial transgressions and their relevance to clinical practice:

Micro-assaults: Conscious and intentional actions or slurs, such as using racial epithets, displaying swastikas or deliberately serving a white person before a person of color in a restaurant.

Micro-insults: Verbal and nonverbal communications that subtly convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person’s racial heritage or identity. An example is an employee who asks a colleague of color how she got her job, implying she may have landed it through an affirmative action or quota system.

Micro-invalidations: Communications that subtly exclude, negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of color. For instance, white people often ask Asian-Americans where they were born, conveying the message that they are perpetual foreigners in their own land.

There is a pronounced intersection of my racial identity with the other areas of my life.  As a young person, I did not quite understand it.  It was more like moments where something happened that might have made me a little confused or have a feeling that something was not quite right.  But as I got older and gained a clearer understanding of  bias, ignorance, privilege, and all of the “isms”, deciphering these moments became second nature.

As I mentioned above, what once seemed like confusion is now a spectrum ranging from  annoyance à woosahhhh à Oh she got me f*$&ked up!  To make it simple, I have outlined three examples below of my own experiences.  Things that have happened more times than I can count, each time rendering a reaction further and further up that spectrum.   As you read along, I encourage you to think about your own experiences.  As a person of a marginalized group, what has been your interpretation and reactions to these types of interactions?  As a person outside of these marginalized groups, what has been your level of personal awareness?  The following are my most frequently experienced:

  1. THE WELL SPOKEN ONE: Since I can remember, I have gotten the “you are so well spoken” or “she is so articulate” or even the look of COMPLETE and UTTER SHOCK when I finally meet face to face with someone for whom I had only interacted with via email. The insinuation that it is not the norm for a Black person to be able to communicate in complete sentences or dare I say, articulately, is offensive.  And while I admit my response these days is typically a passive aggressive fake smile of acknowledgement, in my head I am saying “Yes B$*%H I am BLACK!”.  The icing on the cake…and the thing that I IMPLORE people (including US) stop saying, is the notorious “You sound white”.  I should not even have to explain, but for those wondering…the exclamation dictates that “speaking white” is the equivalent of speaking with articulation.  So let us all agree to stop It.
    1. WHAT YOU CAN DO INSTEAD: If you find yourself impressed by the way that a person speaks, just have that conversation with yourself in your head…no need to say it aloud. And then ask yourself, why am I so impressed? What was my expectation and why?
  1. YOU’RE NOT BLACK, BLACK: One too many times I have been in conversations with non-Black folks who are speaking about their experiences with Black folks.  Typically, it is some reference of “them” doing things that “they” do.  And when I remind my non-Black counterpart that I too am one of “them”, they respond with something along the lines of:
    1. No, not like you
    2. Come on, you know what I mean
    3. Well, you’re not Black, Black
    4. Well I know you’re different
    5. No, you are not like that

Each response just as offensive as the next, I typically use these moments as an opportunity to teach.  Teach my non-Black counterpart a lesson in “if you say that to the wrong person you will get smacked”.  The over-generalization of Black people is a symptom of a much larger problem and what often fuels what has come to be known as microaggressions.

  1. WHAT YOU CAN DO INSTEAD: Do not generalize groups of people.   And as a general rule, do not have conversations with a member of a marginalized group about the behaviors of other members of that marginalized group, because you feel that it is somehow safe to do so.  It is not.


  1. HOW DO YOU GET YOUR HAIR LIKE THAT?: Hair is a thing in the Black culture. Like, a big thing.  Like I got a note to get out of swim class in middle school because I argued that I cannot get my hair wet type of thing.  And while we understand that the way that we change our hair like some people change their drawls is fascinating to some outside of the culture, there is a huge boundary issue that exists which has resulted in everything from folks getting cussed out to mushed in the face.  Let me break it down:
    1. I do not want you to touch me anywhere without permission.
    2. Even with permission, I do not want you to PET my head as if I am a dog
    3. I do not want you to say “it is so fascinating” or “it is so interesting”
    4. I do not want you to tell me about your other Black friend and their hair
    5. I am also not interested in your cornrows that you got on vacation one time
    6. I do not feel like explaining to you how my hair went from short to long overnight
    7. Or how the braid is attached
    8. Or how/if I wash it
    9. Or how long it took
    10. Or how heavy it is
    11. Or if it hurt

It may be difficult to fully understand from an outside perspective, but after years and years and yearssssss of the exact same questions and reactions from folks,  it begins to feel like I am here on display for your entertainment.  Like something so typical within my culture is highlighted in such a way (often in front of an audience of other non-Black folks) to make me feel like not only am I different but most certainly not the standard (which by the way I would never want to be).

  1. WHAT YOU CAN DO INSTEAD: If you see your Black friend or associate has changed their hairstyle yet again (because we will), just give it a cool “I love your hair”. Allow them to open up the conversation if they choose.  Let your Black friend invite the conversation OR not.  Don’t assume they’re in the mood to educate you on our mane.

My focus here has been my own experiences as a Black woman, but these types of interactions occur in each and every marginalized group of people for reasons ranging from privileged curiosity to blatant racism (or other ism).  Folks on the other side may say things like “I didn’t even mean it like that” or “Why does it always have to become about color”…and to them I would say to check your privilege.  To not even be able to conceptualize how one might be offended by your unintentional comment or gesture is the definition of privilege.  It is okay to be curious and even welcomed in some circumstances, but for folks who may unintentionally engage in these micro aggressive behaviors, I challenge you to educate yourself.  To explore that intersection of your privilege and your curiosity to determine how you can become more self-aware, culturally informed, and generally respectful of those different from you.

Dr. Pierce opened up a pandoras box of sorts when putting a name to all of this.  I would imagine if one were to interview members of the many marginalized groups on this planet, each would have a story that may create some new category under the MICROAGGRESSION umbrella.  And we all have probably been guilty at one time or another of committing the act toward someone different than us, because as it says, it can often be unintentional.  Just a natural curiosity.  But we ALL have to remember that sometimes our curiosity can be at the expense of another person’s wellbeing.  And that is on US (me, you, the offender) and not THEM.

SIDENOTE: I often tell groups that I work with in professional capacities that if we are not willing to have the difficult conversations then we are never going to grow past and through where we are.  So if you find yourself taking offense when you read pieces like this, I urge you to ask yourself why.  What is it about correcting of our collective offenses toward one another that makes you uncomfortable?  And if you need help figuring that out, you can hire me or someone like me to talk it out!

An Open Letter to Breonna Taylor and The Stages of Our Collective Grief

Hey Bre,

Girl!!! Let me tell you…well, you probably already know since I am guessing you can see everything from up there. But for real, can you believe this s*#t?  You’re lying in your own bed, minding your business, trying to sleep!!!…and these motherf*#%!s come in YOUR house and…smh. It just doesn’t make any sense…

It’s been damn near four months now. When we first heard, we were legit in DENIAL. We couldn’t believe when we saw the story on the news and all-over social media that not only had it happened, but they were acting as if there was some question as to whether people needed to be held accountable! As if there may be some version of this where you deserved to be slain in your own home…some version that they deem justifiable…smh. I avoided social media for an entire week at one point thinking maybe if I didn’t see it then it wouldn’t continue.  That maybe somehow disconnecting would make it less true, would make all of the feelings no longer exist.  No luck.

Well let me tell you girl, that denial quickly turned to ANGER and people all over the world started screaming your name! We were and continue demanding that they arrest the cops who murdered you. I’m talking about out in Cali to here in Philly, all the way over in London! I find myself irritated at anyone saying anything slightly sideways these days. I have been deleting people left and right off of social media for any hint of ignorance or privilege.  My tolerance is at an all-time low.  And while some days I may find the need to dig deep into my professionalism and educate someone on their ignorance, more times than not I just choose to leave people right where they’re at!  I have decided my skills are best used educating and uplifting those on the same side of the fight.  It just hit home Bre…yet another slap in the face of how much we are not valued.  They do not value our lives. They did not value your life! It is beyond frustrating.

There are times I find myself BARGAINING with a higher power just asking that another mother doesn’t have to lose their child. That another child doesn’t have to watch their parent being murdered over and over and over because it has been captured on video. That another Black man, woman, or child gain recognition due to a damn hashtag!  Every time something else happens I find myself asking for protection over my own Black daughter, nieces, and nephews.  I find myself thinking of new ways to have the same conversation with the little people in my life in such a way that they are informed but not afraid.  In a way that they are educated but not jaded….because it is a fine line, right?

So here we are. Posting and protesting and petitioning and making calls and writing letters. Some days we are anger fueled, many days we are focused, and other days…well. It all is just so overwhelming. Some days it catches up to you and it is DEPRESSING. It’s just too much. I’ve shed real tears for y’all.  You, Ahmaud, George, Elijah and everyone that came before you all.  People are being lynched in 2020 for God’s sake and it is not even given a second thought! Suicide they say…yea, ok. There are moments I feel helpless. Because it keeps happening. Even after you Bre…the s*%t just keeps happening.

So, I have ACCEPTED the finality of it all. That you are gone. That you all are gone. That the feelings are real and need to be felt.  That it is okay to have moments where I may cycle through all of these feelings.  But I know we cannot afford to get stuck in them.  I know that in order to stay vigilant, we have to stay focused. And while we can accept your passing, what we cannot accept is that no one is held accountable for you…for them, for us. So, we will continue to say your name. We will continue to find our roles, big or small, in this fight, understanding that we are in it for the long haul as those were who came before us. We will continue to create healthier boundaries, higher standards, and greater expectations for continued growth as a people.

I cannot promise that I won’t have my days where I lead with anger, or have moments of helplessness, or “log out” for a while…but I can promise to continue to be your voice. Because Bre, even though we never actually met while you were on this earth, I know you. We all know you. You are our sisters, best friends, mothers, and aunties…

You are us…and we are you.

Love you girl,


For information on the stages of grief from a cultural perspective, click on the link:


Does Representation Really Matter?

In short, hell yea representation matters!  The End.

Professionally speaking however, I would say that having providers that are representative of your own cultural identity provides an added layer of both comfort and qualified care.

The helping professions span from your dentist to your gynecologist, primary care doctor, ER physician, teacher, school counselor, chiropractor, mental health therapist, pain specialist, massage therapist, entomologist, etc.  And considering that each of these professions began during a time that people of color were valued even less than they are today, we must consider what role racism and bias played in their development.

Now while I would love to explore and am actually really interested in the history of each of these disciplines, I don’t have the time to do the research… soooo, I will task you do that for both of us lol!

But regarding my field, mental health and wellness spaces, let’s get into it!!  So Boom (insert hand clap) …

The next section is a lot of text, but it is soooooo worth the read.  So please bear with me!  Below are a few bullet points taken directly from an article entitled The historical roots of racial disparities in the mental health systemBy Tahmi Perzichilli and published as an online exclusive in Counseling Today:

  • In the United States, scientific racism was used to justify slavery to appease the moral opposition to the Atlantic slave trade. Black men were described as having “primitive psychological organization,” making them “uniquely fitted for bondage.”
  • Benjamin Rush, often referred to as the “father of American psychiatry” and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, described “Negroes as suffering from an affliction calledNegritude.” This “disorder” was thought to be a mild form of leprosy in which the only cure was to become white. Ironically Rush was a leading mental health reformer and co-founder of the first anti-slavery society in America. Rush did observe, however, that “the Africans become insane, we are told, in some instances, soon after they enter upon the toils of perpetual slavery in the West Indies.”
  • In 1851, prominent American physician Samuel Cartwright defined “drapetomania” as a treatable mental illness that caused black slaves to flee captivity. He stated that the disorder was a consequence of slave masters who “made themselves too familiar with the slaves, treating them as equals.” Cartwright used the Bible as support for his position, stating that slaves needed to be kept in a submissive state and treated like children to both prevent and cure them from running away. Treatment included “whipping the devil out of them” as a preventative measure if the warning sign of “sulky and dissatisfied without cause” was present. Remedy included the removal of big toes to make running a physical impossibility.
  • Cartwright also described “dysaethesia aethiopica,” an alleged mental illness that was the proposed cause of laziness, “rascality” and “disrespect for the master’s property” among slaves. Cartwright claimed that the disorder was characterized by symptoms of lesions or insensitivity of the skin and “so great a hebetude [mental dullness or lethargy] of the intellectual faculties, as to be like a person half asleep.” Undoubtedly, whipping was prescribed as treatment. Furthermore, according to Cartwright dysaethesia aethiopica was more prevalent among “free negroes.”
  • Even at the turn of the 20th century, leading academic psychiatrists claimed that “negroes” were “psychologically unfit” for freedom. And as late as 1914, drapetomania was listed in thePractical Medical Dictionary.
  • Researchers further conflated the symptoms of black individuals with perceived schizophrenia of civil rights protests. In a 1968 article in the esteemedArchives of General Psychiatry, schizophrenia was described as a “protest psychosis” in which black men developed “hostile and aggressive feelings” and “delusional anti-whiteness” after listening to or aligning with activist groups such as Black Power, the Black Panthers or the Nation of Islam. The authors wrote that psychiatric treatment was required because symptoms threatened black men’s own sanity as well as the social order of white America.
  • The black psyche was increasingly portrayed as unwell, immoral and inherently criminal. This helped justify the need for police brutality in the civil rights movement, Jim Crow laws, and mass incarceration in prisons and psychiatric hospitals, which at times was an exceedingly thin line. In general, attempts to rehabilitate took a back seat to structural attempts to control. Some state hospitals, presided over by white male superintendents, employed unlicensed doctors to administer massive amounts of electroshock and chemical “therapies,” and put patients to work in the fields. Deplorable conditions went unchallenged as late as 1969 in some states.

Now that we have a little snapshot view into of the roots of racism within mental health, let us fast forward to the mistrust that exists between communities of color and those within the “helping professions”.  The history of the justified vilifying of people of color in America, Black people in particular, has created a dynamic in which many Black folk’s cries go unheard, misheard, mis-assessed, misdiagnosed, and mistreated.  Folks start to rely on a little prayer for healing and cognac for pain because history and experience has left a sour taste in our mouths when it comes to “healthcare”.  And while I am all for God’s healing and His will, I also want God’s most qualified care when it comes to my health!

What does all of this mean?  Well, it means that perhaps part of the solution to ensuring culturally informed healthcare is providing opportunities for individuals of color to have access to education and training within the healthcare fields.  And this starts way before medical school…I am talking elementary school, Doc McStuffins level!  Black and Brown children need to be in STEM programs, have science equipment in their labs, be taught about and shown doctors and therapists of color so that they can see from a young age that the opportunities are endless!  Spark the interest and desires early and cultivate generations of Black and Brown children who grow to level out and eventually fix this broken system.

So…representation more than matters.  It can be the difference between life and death.  The difference between a script for pain meds and an order for an MRI.  The difference between a diagnosis of intermittent explosive disorder and an extended conversation to explore racism in the workplace.  The difference between a hysterectomy and specialized fibroid treatment.  Representation allows for a level of understanding that cannot be taught.  It allows for a feeling that, for some, cannot be understood.  And for those reasons alone I will continue to hashtag #representationmatters!

Find the full article referenced above here:

Black Folks and the Racism Pandemic

In an article posted on May 29, 2020 on the American Psychological Association’s website, their president Sandra L. Shullman stated that “We are living in a racism pandemic which is taking a heavy psychological toll on our African American citizens”.  She goes on to talk about how the stress of the mental consequences are leading to physical consequences such heart and other diseases.

Think about it…We are ingesting things such as the repeated visuals of Black people being murdered by police, the lack of justice and blatant injustice that exists in every city and small town across the country, stories of profiling from the “Karens” of the world to the Starbucks of the world, and the daily microaggressions experienced everywhere from the neighborhood to the workplace.  Where does it end?  Where are we safe?  Shullman mentions in the article that “those who are experiencing trauma in the aftermath of these tragedies [should] practice self-care”.

Self-care is one of those buzz phrases that I feel is thrown out there sooooo much these days!  We see IG posts with offerings of ‘5 things that you can do to practice self-care’.  Your physician may recommend that you engage in self-care to help with your anxiety.  And when I “google it”, the first description that pops up from notes that “self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health”.  There is even an article on my google search that lists100 self-care activities!  ONE HUNDRED!  I mean…. I am thinking a toolbox of maybe 25 will more than suffice, no?

But when I think about the feelings that are evoked in me when I am looking at these horrific images, listening to these maddening stories, and engaging in these frustrating conversations, simply picking an activity to engage in off a self-care list is not going to do the trick of bringing me back down to my baseline (or dare I say put me back in a good mood!).  Instead, what I think often happens is that we mindlessly engage in walks, bubble baths, glasses of wine, and yoga workouts to “relax”.  And while these activities may do the job of relaxation in the moment, these are not the type of self-care activities that are going to necessarily ease the stress of living in this racism pandemic.

My advice to us is to lead with intention.  Do not throw these self-care lists to the side because they can indeed be helpful.  BUT…. we have to be wayyyyy more mindful and intentional when engaging in them.  If you are going for a walk, it is not going to be helpful to listen to the news or scroll IG while doing so.  Instead consider just walking with nature, noticing the smells and sounds and sights that surround you.  Or, if that is not your twist…listen to some uplifting music (or some trap music, which I feel is also uplifting), a comedy podcast or something to make you laugh, or even one of those urban erotica audiobooks (J)!  You know what I mean…something far from anything related to our current climate.

To take it a step further, consider some preventive self-care activities that are specific to the protection of your mental wellness as it relates to Black trauma.  I’m going to give yall a list of TWO…just TWO…ways to engage in preventive self-care, which I would describe as protecting your space and energy by choosing not to participate in the things that may trigger you.

  1. Challenge yourself to disengage from social media for specific periods of time. And when I say disengage, I do not mean just not following certain accounts.  I mean take the app off of your phone!  If we just put a timer on the app or say we will only check it once a day or even log out… it is too tempting to say “imma just hop on real quick and check something”!  Set your own guidelines but be honest with yourself.  If what you are taking in via social media is seriously affecting your mood and affect in a negative way (or even not seriously), you may need more than just a day off.  Maybe it is one week on and one week off?  But take some time to really evaluate the effect that exposure via social media is having on you.  Ask yourself, is this serving me?


  1. Just say no…I was having a conversation recently with someone who was rehearsing the go to phrase they were coming up with for when people tried to engage in race relation conversations with them. Essentially the idea was “RECLAIMING MY TIME…”.  It is okay to NOT engage in these conversations.  Not at home, not at work, not in line at the acme, and not even with friends.  You have the right to decline engagement.  To RSVP NO to the invitation.  You are protecting your energy in that moment.  Some ways that you can go about this:  No thank you.  Not today Satan.    I am not interested in having this conversation.  Ahh-Ah.  Absolutely not.  This is not the time, thank you.  Thanks, but no thanks.  And, of course…Nah.

My challenge to you reading this is two-fold: Firstly, protect your own space by practicing one of these two preventive strategies within 3 days of reading this blog post.  And secondly, and JUST AS IMPORTANT…protect the spaces of those around you by asking first before you try to engage them in a conversation about things that are so heavy.  Because sometimes, at least for me, I just don’t feel like it.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with finding in a balance in the face of all that is happening in the country, in our cities, in our individual lives…please contact me at for a free consultation.