They may not always be ill-intentioned, but the slights illuminate deeper problems in America.
When I was studying at Oberlin College, a fellow student once compared me to her dog.
Because my name is Simba, a name Americans associate with animals, she unhelpfully shared that her dog’s name was also Simba. She froze with embarrassment, realizing that her remark could be perceived as debasing and culturally insensitive.
It’s a good example of what social-justice activists term microaggressions—behaviors or statements that do not necessarily reflect malicious intent but which nevertheless can inflict insult or injury.