We hear a lot about campus and workplace microaggressions — small, casual, almost unnoticeable degradations of people in marginalized groups such as ethnic minorities, women, disabled people or transgender people. Microaggressions are a real diversity issue with real consequences.
But if people are expressing negative attitudes in passing, aren’t they also expressing positive attitudes in passing? Yes — those are microaffirmations. In a new article for Kappan, Stony Brook University Professor Todd L. Pittinsky emphasizes what social scientists, administrators, advocates and policy makers have been ignoring — the small actions in everyday life that make people feel welcome, valued and encouraged. Microaffirmations, too, have consequences. They can create a virtuous cycle leading to better outcomes in classrooms and anywhere else there is diversity.
“Why go to so much trouble to get rid of prejudice,” asks Professor Pittinsky, “and not try to build in some allophilia? Why study small offenses we do not want, and ignore the many small kindnesses we do?”
Professor Pittinsky is the author of Us Plus Them: Tapping the Positive Power of Difference and editor of Crossing the Divide: Intergroup Leadership in a World of Difference.