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Anatomy of Racism 101
How Blacks get psyched out
The Firpo Files Digital Newsmagazine
Psych Series: Article 7
Dr. Firpo Carr, PhD, Health Psychologist
Psychological Association (APA)
Division 36: Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality
Division 38: Society
for Health Psychology
Division 40: Society for Clinical Neuropsychology
Division 48: Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict
Violence: Peace Psychology Division
Division 52: International Psychology
August 27, 2019
[SPECIAL EDITION: English Only]
Okay, class, today in our online learning environment we’re
going to briefly talk about the effects of racism on Black people, yes, persons of African descent in the diaspora. As usual,
any scholarly peer-reviewed studies I reference is footnoted; and, by way of reminder, I do not accept any work without supporting
Now, I know some of you have complained that you’re tired of always hearing about
racism against Blacks. But I can assure you, Blacks are far more tired of it.
In fact, they’re
really sick of it.
Psychological Sickness: Studies repeatedly
show that racism and discrimination literally make Black people sick physically, emotionally, intellectually, and psychologically. For example, the National Survey of Black Americans revealed that discrimination is associated with higher levels of depression,
anxiety, and somatic symptoms among African Americans. Unsurprisingly, Blacks experience feelings of anger and hostility after encountering racial discrimination.
It gets even more interesting.
(now, you may recall from a previous lesson that Oxford defines a meta-analysis as “examination of data from a number
of independent studies of the same subject, in order to determine overall trends”) designed to explore the psychological effect of discrimination discovered that experiencing discrimination has long-term
effects and is detrimental to psychological health and well-being.
Microaggressions: “Messing with Your Mind”: One Black man
I interviewed complained that clever racist White people “piss you off cause’ they be messing with your mind man,
they try to psych you out.”
Though not stated in the most eloquent way, here’s
what he means:
Racism and discrimination can be and frequently are expressed in subtle ways that either
disregard Blacks or are disrespectful to them. These often come in the form of a microaggression, defined as “a comment
or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized
group (such as a racial minority).”
Microaggressions are particularly insidious because systemic racism and discrimination
orchestrated by Whites against Blacks are done unwittingly or subconsciously on a daily basis.
What do microaggressions look like?
Just two of
a plethora of expressions of microaggressions that communicate racial slights are (1) simply ignoring the presence of a Black
person (as if s/he is invisible), and (2) refusing to acknowledge a Black person’s contribution. Both of these realities
could lead to discouragement and low self-esteem, or to the erroneous conclusion that a Black person’s unique abilities
are hidden by a “cloak of psychological invisibility.”
Harmful Expectation: Merely anticipating prejudiced reactions can harm
African Americans. While one study showed that individuals respond differently to negative stereotypes, African Americans generally can expect
(1) lower grade point averages, (2) a higher degree of academic disengagement, (3) a lower sense of self-worth, and (4) increased
Moreover, even if the expected discriminatory event didn’t occur, African Americans
still feel the negative impact. Indeed, researchers have concluded that “even if they do not actually experience discrimination,
their awareness that they could experience it has adverse effects on psychological well-being.”
Sadly, the racism and discrimination that African Americans experience can be generalized
to all Blacks everywhere.
So, how do some cope?
Rescue by Religion?: Research shows that historically, Blacks have coped with stressors like racism
and discrimination through religious practices such as prayer.
According to data culled from the National Survey of American Life: Coping with Stress
in the 21st Century, 90.4% of African Americans and 86.2% of Caribbean Blacks in the U.S. reported prayer as a way of dealing
with stressful events compared with 66.7% of non-Hispanic Whites. Prayer used in this way equated with positive religious coping.
In support of the studies immediately above, the Bible says, “If any of you needs wisdom to know what you should do,
you should ask God, and he will give it to you. God is generous to everyone and doesn’t find fault with them.”
(James 1:5, God’s Word Translation) The Holy Writ also states: “We are certain God will hear our prayers
when we ask for what pleases him. And if we know God listens when we pray, we are sure our prayers have already been answered.”
(1 John 5:14-15, Contemporary English Version)
Well, kids, there you have it.
Don’t forget your homework.