Culture

Harvard Study Suggests Microaggressions Might Make People Die Sooner

It’s a hard-knock life at Harvard.
New work cites the professor who invented the term arguing they can mean “diminished mortality.”

A new study by Harvard University’s Voices of Diversity project suggests that microaggressions are so harmful that they might even shorten your life.

The idea of the study was to examine what kind of impact microaggressions, minor slights against minority groups, were having on the students at four different higher-ed institutions, and concluded that it was pretty severe.

The authors, Harvard’s DuBois Institute associate Paula J. Caplan and research assistant Jordan C. Ford, wrote that although microaggressions “might seem minor” they are “so numerous that trying to function in such a setting is ‘like lifting a ton of feathers.’”

To further explain their point, they cited an excerpt of the writings of Chester M. Pierce, a Harvard professor credited for coming up with the term “microaggression:”

“The cumulative burden of a lifetime of microaggressions can theoretically contribute to diminished mortality, augmented morbidity, and flattened confidence,” Pierce wrote in the segment they quote.

Caplan clarified in an e-mail that the phrase “diminished mortality”  here refers to people’s living shorter lives due to microaggressions.

Based on the meaning of each word, it might seem as though the phrase “diminished mortality” meant that people were actually living longer lives due to microaggressions, but Caplan assured NRO that the phrase here actually means “the opposite.”  

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.

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