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How to Take Offense: Responding to Microaggression

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 November 2018



A microaggression is a small insulting act made disproportionately harmful by its part in an oppressive pattern of similar insults. How should you respond when made the victim of a microaggression? In this paper I survey several morally salient factors, including effects upon victims, perpetrators, and third parties. I argue, contrary to popular views, that ‘growing a thicker skin’ is not good advice nor is expressing reasonable anger always the best way to contribute to confronting oppression. Instead, appropriately responding to microaggression involves difficult application of practical wisdom that does not easily fall under a simple prescription.

Copyright © American Philosophical Association 2018 

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I want to thank the editors and referees for JAPA for extensive and helpful feedback on this paper. Parts of the paper were presented at a Brooklyn Public Philosophers event at the Brooklyn Public Library and at a Binghamton University Philosophy colloquium. A full version was presented at the 2017 Pacific APA in Seattle, where it benefited enormously from engagement by commenter Lauren Ashwell, copanelist Allan Hazlett, and chair Lani Watson. Thanks also to Samuel Gates, Rebecca Harrison, Ian Olasov, and Lisa Tessman for helpful discussion.


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