American University
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"Is It Because I'm Black?": A Study of the African American Perception of Microaggressions Depending on Aggressor Race

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posted on 2023-10-09, 16:52 authored by Tamia Hayes
Microaggressions are subtle, often unconscious expressions of prejudice that negatively impact the lives of ethnic minorities. Wong-Padoongpatt et al. (2017) discovered the racial identity of a microaggressor significantly impacted participants' stress response, indicating that race may play a role in whether microaggressions are considered offensive by the recipient. The current study expanded their work by exploring how African Americans perceived microaggressions from minorities compared to same race and White aggressors. This study of 250 African American participants compared White, Latino, and Black aggressors on video to assess perceptual differences of microaggressions, based on condition. Using Social Identity Theory, participants were predicted to view both the Latino and White aggressor as a racial outgroup, leading to comparable results between the two conditions. The Black video condition was predicted to lean towards significantly more favorable results in each measure. Findings indicated participants viewed microaggressions as offensive significantly more often when the perpetrator's race did not match the recipient's. Both the Latino and White video conditions were reported as offensive significantly more often than the Black video condition. Furthermore, women in the Latino video condition reported the interaction offensive significantly more often than men in the same condition. With actors in the video being exclusively male, women may have perceived the aggressor as more hostile, as they were both a racial and sex outgroup. Findings also showed participants in the Black video condition reported a significantly better mood than those in the White condition. They also viewed the Black aggressor significantly more positively than both the White and Latino aggressor. These findings suggest ingroup leniency and preference for the participants' own racial ingroup. Microaggression research should expand beyond its focus on White aggressors and shift to larger discussions about interpersonal discrimination between and within minority groups. Future research should explore alternative interethnic comparisons, assessing varying interpretations, effects, and responses to other racial combinations.






Committee chair

Michele M. Carter

Committee member(s)

Nathaniel Herr; Noemi Enchautegui de Jesús

Degree discipline


Degree grantor

American University. College of Arts and Sciences

Degree level

  • Masters

Degree name

M.A. in Psychology

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60 pages

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