Understanding microaggression and racial battle fatigue

In the 10 days following the Nov. 8 election, the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded more than 860 incidents, mostly anecdotal, of hateful harassment. A majority targeted perceived immigrants, followed by anti-black, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT intimidation. Many of these incidents are microaggressions—slights, insults and stigmatizations that target race, gender, class, religion, ability, sexual orientation, class and other minority statutes. While such acts may be intentional, often those who engage in these behaviors are unaware of their stereotypical and hurtful nature. William A. Smith, an associate professor in the Department of Education, Culture & Society and the Division of Ethnic Studies, coined the term “racial battle fatigue” in 2003 to describe the psychophysiological symptoms people of color may experience in navigating historically white environments. He has written extensively about the topics of microaggression and racial battle fatigue and says now, given the current climate, it is vitally important to understand this phenomenon.

William A. Smith | associate professor, Department of Education, Culture & Society and Division of Ethnic Studies | 801-587-7814 | William.smith@utah.edu