Incorporating Micro-Aggressions in Writing
Since you’ve asked about racism geared specifically towards Black people take a look at the post Common Micro-aggressions: African Americans and/or Black People.
As for including micro-aggressions into a story, here are some pointers:
Mind Intersectionality: Many things factor in and how and what racism a PoC might face such as being a Black man vs. a woman due to associated stereotypes, being fat, trans, gay, dark-skinned vs. light-skinned and so on.
For example: a middle to upper-class Black person who dresses, speaks, and acts in a way that conforms to society ideals of upstanding will likely be slapped with respectability politics more regularly (she’s not like those other Black girls/ I’m Blacker than you/you’re an oreo/) versus one who doesn’t.
They might be more often be viewed as ghetto and trashy, have AAVE spoken back to them mockingly, their speech corrected, overall treated more poorly, but note: respectability doesn’t save even the most “socially-acceptable” Black people, especially the moment one acts in a way they don’t like (e.g. passion or any raise of the emotion = angry, sassy, a violent threat).
Anti-Blackness is a Thing: Prejudice doesn’t just come from White
people, but from People of Color too, especially towards Black people
(there’s a version of the n-word through multiple cultures). Solidarity among PoC is not a given. I’ve faced
store-following, stereotyping, and lack of understanding of my struggles from Non-white people
too. I don’t encourage placing much of this in your story, but it feels like omission to leave out this fact. Although I’d actually like to see more POC solidarity and relationships in stories.
Don’t overdo it. If the character’s arc is not meant to be about racism, then don’t make it about racism. Facing micro aggressions is a part of their life, but not the subplot of their story. I don’t have a magical number of how many you should include (though 1-4 is plenty), however every situation they stumble in shouldn’t include a racist encounter.
They Can Come from Anyone: You really never know where you’re going to get hit with racism and from whom. I’ve encountered extremely kind old white men and extremely racist purse-clutching middle-aged white woman (and the exact reverse!). Realistically, one can’t necessarily know who will be/say racist things. Location is a factor too, such as being in a place where people aren’t use to PoC being around (which often onsets staring and suspicion, though it can happen anywhere).
Consider other daily struggles: I once read a story where a Black woman, being held against her will, was given provisions and being forced to ‘be comfortable’ and make any requests she wished, to which she noted how the provided shampoos wouldn’t work for her hair and requested the right products.
If micro-aggressions are being included for realism’s sake, note that blatant micro-aggressions are not the only way to go when including indicators for that ‘authentic’ touch. Sometimes it’s a matter of not being able to find your foundation color at a store or, alternatively, being surprised when you do (stores seem to be getting better at this these days).
Writing Reactions to Micro-Aggressions
Reactions to micro-aggressions vary. Consider a character’s situation and/or personality on what you feel their reaction might be to racism. Sometimes it’s not possible to act on the way one feels inside, such as in a work, formal situation, or given power dynamics.
Here are some starters:
- Condemning silence, frown or look
- Closed-off behavior (Crossing arms, looking away)
- Visual discomfort (Uncomfortable laughter, shifting stance)
- Questioning self (Did that just happen? Did he really just call me that?)
- Brushing it off. “Whatever.” “This happens all the time.” “Let’s just go.”
- Forced friendliness (Like smiling, but gritting your teeth at the ignorance)
- Snarky refute of comment (You call me chocolate? I’ll call you mayo.)
- Telling off or calling out the behavior (“That was rude.” “Why would you say that?”)
- Verge of tears or having some fall (whether in frustration, sadness or both. More likely if they’re not used to this treatment, but everyone is different. I teared up the first time a white woman clutched her purse when I walked by. Now I roll my eyes to outer space.)
NOTE: No matter what reaction an affected character has, you, the author, should not dismiss this behavior and therefore ‘okay’ it to the audience. Showing it is wrong in some way or another (using another character, refuting the prejudice thought later) is ideal.
I hope this was helpful to you and happy writing,