Microaggressions Feel Like Broken Glass, So ADL Partnered with MTV

by: Oren Segal

September 04, 2014


I can’t tell Asians apart.

You’re different for a Black guy.

You don’t look Jewish. 

Microaggressions. They are everyday slights, indignities, put-downs and insults that people of color, women, LBGT populations and other marginalized people experience in their day-to-day interactions.  Their impact is often unintended, subtle or seen as innocuous, which makes it easy to dismiss them or tell people who object that they are being “too sensitive.”


Have you experienced them?  Have you said them?

ADL has partnered with MTV on its “Look Different” campaign to address the issue of microaggressions and other aspects of hidden bias.  Because while the name “micro” gives the impression they are small and the intent of the person saying them may be benign, the cumulative impact can be substantial.  And studies reveal that racial microaggressions have powerful detrimental consequences.

MTV’s recent PSAs, Broken Glass, visually illustrate the impact of microaggressions - which can be like a plate of glass hitting you and breaking, creating tiny little cuts that alone can seem harmless, but collectively create a significant negative impact.  This campaign serves not only to educate about the importance of addressing microaggressions, but also to validate those who have experienced microaggressions. Youth have responded on the campaign’s tumblr with comments like “I get ‘You don’t look Jewish!’ a lot. Like it’s something to be happy about. ::shudder::,” “I laugh about it when it happens, but this picture is exactly how it feels” and “the perfect visual representation of microaggressions,” showing the importance of seeing one’s experience affirmed.

We believe it’s important to educate people in a variety of ways and methods.  Whether in the classroom or on tumblr or Twitter, the dialogue is important and can influence people’s self-reflection on their own biases as well as help them develop the skills to educate others.  That’s why, in addition to our own education efforts, like our recent Current Events Classroom on Microaggressions,we joined other experts on race, gender and LGBT issues to support MTV’s Look Different campaign with the potential to reach more than a half-billion households globally and 188 million followers on social media.  We are proud to have representatives on both the Look Different Advisory Board and the “Good Look Panel.”