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 Anatomy of Racism 101


How Blacks get psyched out


The Firpo Files Digital Newsmagazine

Psych Series: Article 7

by Dr. Firpo Carr, PhD, Health Psychologist

Member: American 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 and

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 documentation.

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,[1] and psychologically.[2] 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.[3] Unsurprisingly, Blacks experience feelings of anger and hostility after encountering racial discrimination.[4]

It gets even more interesting.

Two meta-analyses (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”[5]) 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.[6]

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).”[7]

Microaggressions are particularly insidious because systemic racism and discrimination orchestrated by Whites against Blacks are done unwittingly or subconsciously on a daily basis.[8]

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.”[9]

Harmful Expectation: Merely anticipating prejudiced reactions can harm African Americans.[10] 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 depressive symptoms.[11]

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.”[12]

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.[13]

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.[14] Prayer used in this way equated with positive religious coping.

Timely Texts: 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.


[1] “Perceived Discrimination and Health: A Meta-Analytic Review” (2009) by E. A. Pascoe and L. Smart Richman in Psychological Bulletin,

[2] “Perceiving Pervasive Discrimination Among African Americans: Implications for Group Identification and Well-Being” (1999) by N. R. Branscombe, M. T. Schmitt, and R. D. Harvey in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

[3] “The Experience and Consequences of Perceived Racial Discrimination: A Study of African Americans” (2000) by C. L. Broman, R. Mavaddar, and S. Y. Hsu in The Journal of Black Psychology, Volume 26, pp. 165-180.

[4] See the book Black Rage (1968) by W. H. Grier and P. M. Cobbs, Basic Books Hacker, Andrew, New York, N.Y.

[6] “The Consequences of Perceived Discrimination for Psychological Well-Being: A Meta-Analytic Review” (2014) by M. T. Schmitt N. R. Branscombe, T. Postmes and A. Garcia in Psychological Bulletin, 140, pp. 921-948.    

[8] “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice” (2007) by D. W. Sue, C. M. Capodilupo, G. C. Torino, J. M. Bucceri, A. M. Holder, K. L. Nadal, and M. Esquilin in American Psychologist, 62, pp. 271-286.

[9] “Invisibility Syndrome: A Clinical Model of the Effects of Racism on African-American males” (2000) by A. J. Franklin and N. Boyd-Franklin in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 70, pp. 33-41; also, see Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Vintage Books; 2nd edition (January 1, 1995).

[10] “Stigma: Barrier to Mental Health Care Among Ethnic Minorities” (2005) by F. A. Gary in Issues in Mental Health Nursing, Volume 26, pp. 979-999.

[11] “Getting There is Only Half the Battle: Stigma Consciousness and Maintaining Diversity in Higher Education” (2005) by E. C. Pinel, L. R. Warner, and P. P. Chua in Journal of Social Issues, 61, pp. 481-506.

[12] “Negative Religious Coping as a Mediator Between Perceived Prejudice and Psychological Distress Among African Americans: A Structural Equation Modeling Approach” (August 2019) by Asia T. McCleary-Gaddy and Carol T. Miller in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, published by the American Psychological Association, Volume 11, Number 3, p. 258.

[13] “Turning to Prayer: Social and Situational Antecedents of Religious Coping among African Americans” (1996) by C. G. Ellison and R. J. Taylor in Review of Religious Research.

[14] “Religious Coping Among African Americans, Caribbean Blacks and Non-Hispanic Whites” (2008) by L. M. Chatters, R. J. Taylor, J. S. Jackson, and K. D. Lincoln in the Journal of Community Psychology, 36, pp. 371-386.