Theorizing micro-aggressions as racism 3.0: shifting the discourse

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Author: Augie Fleras
Date: Summer 2016
From: Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal(Vol. 48, Issue 2)
Publisher: Canadian Ethnic Studies Association
Document Type: Report
Length: 7,617 words
Lexile Measure: 1440L

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Awareness is mounting of a new racialized discourse that promises to profoundly challenge how we think and talk about racism. Micro-aggressions consist of those words and interactions perceived as racist by racialized targets that rarely reflect vindictive intent yet inadvertently inflict insult or injury. A theorizing of micro-aggression as racism 3.0 secures a discursive framework that not only situates the definitional locus of racism within the lived-experiences of the micro-aggressed. It also re-positions the debate over who decides what counts as racism, what racisms count by transferring the focus of racism from a set of conditions to a claims-making process. This paper analyzes the distinction between racism 3.0 and racisms 1.0 and 2.0; explores the micro-aggression 'turn' that defines racism 3.0; examines micro-aggressions within the linguistic context of everyday racism; re-conceptualizes racism through the interpretive lens of claims-making ("racism-making"); and demonstrates how racism 3.0 offers a distinctive perspective for understanding contemporary racism. Data for this paper are drawn from a synthesis of existing sources.


La sensibilisation consiste a ressasser un nouveau discours racialise qui promet de profondement remettre en question la facon dont nous pensons et parlons a propos du racisme. Les micro-agressions sont faites de ces mots et interactions percues comme racistes par des cibles racialisees qui refletent rarement une intention vindicative, mais qui pourtant inflige par inadvertance des insultes ou blessures. Une theorisation de micro-agression comme racisme 3.0 assure un cadre discursif qui, non seulement situe le lieu de definition du racisme au sein des experiences vecues des microagresses. Elle repositionne egalement le debat sur qui decide de ce qui compte comme racisme, quel racisme compte, en transferant le centre du racisme a partir d'un ensemble de conditions vers un processus de revendication. Cet article analyse la distinction entre le racisme 3.0 et les racismes 1.0 et 2.0; il explore la micro-agression << tournant >> qui definit le racisme 3.0; examine les micro-agressions dans le contexte linguistique du racisme au quotidien ; re-conceptualise le racisme a travers le regard interpretatif des revendications (<< racialisation >>) ; et demontre comment le racisme 3.0 offre une approche analytique differente pour comprendre le racisme contemporain. Les donnees de ce document sont tirees d'une synthese des sources existantes.


[I]f you want to understand racism, do you want to ask people of colour--or white people?--Derald Wing Sue, 2016.

An actual incident from Derald Wing Sue et al. (2007): Two colleagues--one African American, the other Asian American--board a small plane (a 'hopper' with a single row of seats on one side, a double row on the other) for a flight from Boston to New York. A white flight attendant tells them they can sit anywhere they want in the uncrowded plane; accordingly, they choose seats near the front and across the aisle from each other so they can freely converse. At the last minute, three white males in suits enter the plane and take the seats in front of the colleagues. Just before take-off, the flight attendant asks...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A471474238