I recently learnt a new term after watching an episode of The Agenda with Steve Paikin called Racism: Then and Now
“Microinequity” which according to Sandler, refers to the ways in which individuals are “either singled out, or overlooked, ignored, or otherwise discounted” based on an unchangeable characteristic such asÂ race orÂ gender. A microinequity generally takes the form of a gesture, different kind of language, treatment, or even tone of voice. It is suggested that the perceptions that cause the manifestation of microinequities are deeply rooted andÂ unconscious. The cumulative effect of microinequities can impair a person’s performance in the workplaceÂ or classroom, damageÂ self-esteem, and may eventually lead to that person’s withdrawal from the situation.
An example of microinequality that made it clearer for me was given by one of the panelist Dr. Kwame McKenzie . It was a race related microinequality example. He painted a scenario of the black man who gets into an elevator with white women. As he does so, the women clench their purses closer to their chests. Dr. McKenzie explains that in this instance the black man observes this and begins to obviously wonder whether it’s because he’s a man? Or is it because he’s black? Or is it because he’s a black man that their reacting this way [see "Racism in the Elevator" link below for a visual example].
What was interesting in the dialogue the panel had was the point that most of the time the person[s] displaying this form of discrimination in any given situation are likely unaware that they are doing so i.e don’t notice their clenching their purse. It’s almost a subconscious or reflex action. Furthermore, the “victim” in the situation has no way of actually proving that this is in fact a discriminatory act.
Acknowledging microinequity is a central part of understanding our human behaviors when interacting with those that we perceive to be different from “us”. Marginalized and minority groups often sit at the receiving end of being singled out and stereotyped in this fashion but understand that these same groups exercise this same behavior in different contexts.