My title raises several issues that need clarification
- I will offer a way to define and understand racism that
I hope will facilitate understanding it effects. And that
can help promote racial justice.
- I will discuss how racism is a stressor.
- I will distinguish between disorder and injury.
- I will report on findings of research to highlight the
points noted above.
Racism has many definitions and types
- Jones (1997) presented some 18-20 types and definitions
of racism offered by various scholars.
- Some elements involved are; (1) beliefs in biological
traits and own group superiority and out-group inferiority,
(2) Rejection of in-group customs and beliefs; (3)In-group
cultural systems that advantages the in-group in power;
(4) evidence is offered to validate race difference to justify
policies and social structures based on racial beliefs.
- Thus, racism involves individual, institutional, and cultural
practices used by the group in power to maintain the inferior
status of the out-group (usually with little power).
Racism and Confusion About Its Meaning
- Some confuse racism with prejudice.
- While others contend that targets of racism can be racists.
- Legal definitions of racism vary and are hard to connect
to a person’s daily life or psychological experience.
Legally discrimination captures many aspects of racism where
group (disparate impact) and individual treatment because
of race (disparate treatment) is redressed.
- To win a legal case it necessary toshow that the acts
of discrimination were intentional and were specific to
one’s race - and not taken for some other reason.
Racism and Psychological Meaning
- If one consults a mental health professional s/he will
use assessment and diagnostic criteria usually the DSM.
- Yet most mental disorders have to do with intrapsychic
process and behavior that results from internal issues.
- There are DSM criteria that list over 40 stressors associated
with Acute stress, Post-traumatic stress and Adjustment
reactions none include race or racism.
- There is less recognition for environmental causes of
stress or distress that are race-related. In fact, the word
racism does not exist in the DSM and discrimination is used
- Should racism be considered a stressor? And does it led
to psychological and emotional injury? It would help to
review briefly the concept of stress and to offer a distinguish
injury from damage or disorder.
Injury or Disorder
- Injure - means t”o harm, impair - to give pain
to -to inflict bodily hurt on - to impair the soundness
of (e.g., injure one’s health).”
- Injury - is defined in the dictionary as “an act
that damages or hurts. And as a violation of another’s
rights for which the law allows an action to recover damages”.
- Disorder - is defined in the dictionary “as an
abnormal physical or mental condition or not functioning
in a normal healthy orderly way.” (Merriam-Webster,
- I believe that it is more accurate to discuss the effects
of racism as injury then as disorder since the effects of
racism come from the sociocultural environmentt not from
any abnormality of its targets.
Defining and Distinguishing Terms: Racial Discrimination
- Carter and Helms (2002) have argued that racial discrimination
should be distinguished from racial harassment in the following
- Racial Discrimination – is a form of “Aversive”
or avoidant racism – behaviors, actions, policies,
and strategies that have the intended or unintended effects
of maintaining distance or minimizing contact between members
of the dominant and non-dominant racial groups.
Defining and Distinguishing Terms: Racial Harassment
- Racial Harassment - is a form of “Domination or
Hostile Racism” that involve actions, strategies,
and policies whose intended purpose is to communicate or
make salient the subordinate or inferior status due to the
race of non-dominant racial group members.
- Racial Harassment may be characterized by active hostility,
which may include commission or implied or actual permission
to commit flagrant acts of racism.
- Racial Harassment – may also be characterized by
“quid pro quo” pressure or threats to “fall-in-line”
with institutional racial policies.
Health professionals have acknowledged for many years that
people who are subjugated to particular types of physical,
psychological, and emotional experiences - may experience
a stress reaction.
Stress is defined as a psychological, emotional and physiological
response to perceived particular event(s). Stressors are environmental
events that require some coping or adaptation. In this sense,
stress is a person-environment interaction. If one’s
coping fails stress reactions occur.
At the same time there has been debate about the role of
culture and race in prevalence and incidence of traumatic
stress and post-traumatic stress disorders.
Definitions of Stress and Traumatic Stress
There are currently two ways to understand and identify extreme
- One is to use diagnostic criteria of post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD) or Acute Stress Reactions or other diagnosis
- The other way to understand strong stress reactions which
may not fit DSM criteria would be to use broader signs and
symptom and consider the person’s evaluation of the
event as an important component of the experience.
- The latter is thought of as traumatic stress reactions.
Need for broader model of trauma
The criteria for PTSD focuses on the reactions to life threatening
events. Some life-events may not threaten life but may produce
a traumatic stress reaction. Also, the person’s assessment
may be less important is the evaluation of PTSD.
- It may be helpful to consider using a broader perspective
- Because the DSM framework for understanding stress reactions
is based on the rather narrow criteria for diagnosis of
PTSD or Acute Stress
DSM - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Criteria A: An event is life threatening and results in
a reaction of intense fear or helplessness or horror, and
leads to impairment of functioning (also needed are
Criteria B,C,D,E and F). The criteria uses a exposure or dose
response model. Relying on external factors and less on subjective
Criteria B: Requires that the person re-experiences or has
Criteria C: The person engages in avoidance behavior and/or
thoughts or tries to numb or push away the experience.
Criteria D: The person has reactions characterized by hyper
arousal or startle responses or sleeplessness.
Criteria E: Involves determining the duration of symptoms
and requires that all of the symptoms (B, C, & D) must
last for more than 1 month.
Criteria F: Used to determine if the symptoms caused clinically
significant impairment in life and work
Carlson’s (1997) Conceptual Model for Understanding
and Assessing Trauma
Carlson offered a model of traumatic stress because DSM-definitions
of PTSD, Acute Stress Reactions and other diagnoses are not
applicable to all possible traumatic experiences.
- According to Carlson a variety of potentially traumatic
experiences such as physical and sexual assaults, disasters,
accidents, war, aggression, sudden death, and witnessing
assaults, death and violence share three common elements
that qualify a single or chronic event(s) as traumatic.
The Common Elements Are:
- The perception that the event is negative.
- The suddenness of its occurrence.
- and the uncontrollable nature of the event(s).
Identification of Responses to Traumatic Stress:
- Researchers have found wide variation in responses to
trauma. Common to all are: Reexperiencing, Arousal and Avoidance
or Numbing - (Carlson, 1997).
- Reexperiencing and avoidance are common and are expressed
through cognitive, affective, behavioral and physiological
- Such as intrusive thoughts or images (reexperiencing)
and Loss of memory for the event(s) (avoidance) - Anxiety
and/or anger (reexperience) and emotional numbing (avoidance)
- as well as aggression or hyperactivity (arousal) - denial
of situation or place of trauma (avoidance)
- Sleepleness, startle response, inability to concentrate
(reexperience) - less pain sensitivity or numbing of senses
- flashbacks/nightmares (reexperience), dissociative states
(avoidance) [combinations of modalities]
Associated and Related Responses To Traumatic Stress
- In addition to reexperiencing, arousal and avoidance people
are likely to also have associated responses such as:
- Depression as reflected in inactivity, negative thinking,
hopelessness, depressed mood and so on.
- Aggression - such as frustration about inability to control
anxiety or self-harm as a way to relieve numbing.
- Self-esteem - loss of self-worth - especially for children
wherein the trauma disrupts developmental processes.
- Identity Confusion or disturbance - dissociative symptoms
led to feeling detached from oneself.
- Interpersonal relationships--trauma might led to difficulty
in intimate, family and friendships relationships.
- Guilt and Shame - Blaming one’s self for the traumatic
event(s) and feeling responsible and disgraced by the experience
can often led to feeling shame and guilt.
Research Literature on Traumatic Stress
Falls into three broad categories:
- Studies that investigate responses of war veterans to
exposure to potentially stressful experiences.
- Studies of the general population that included both
clinical and non-clinical groups, to assess reactions to
life events such as natural disasters (hurricanes), car
accidents, interpersonal violence. And to document the prevalence
and incidence of PTSD.
- The third set of studies examined explored peoples reactions
to racial discrimination.
Studies of PTSD - Veterans of Color
- Studies have found that 21% of Black, 28% of Hispanic
and 14% of White Vietnam veterans had elevated rates of
PTSD and other psychological symptoms.
- Another Vietnam project found the lifetime rates of PTSD
among Southwest American Indians to be 45% and 57% among
Northern Plains Indians and 38% among Native Hawaiians.
These finding have been replicated in other studies. And
combat stress did not account for the higher stress levels.
- Loo and colleagues (2001) did study the possible effects
of race-related stress in Asian American Vietnam veterans
and found that the rate for PTSD to be 37% and that the
factor that was the best predictor of PTSD was exposure
to race-related stress over and above combat exposure and
- In one study of military personnel it was found that
a majority of active duty military were exposed to race-related
Epidemiological Studies of Stress
- Norris (1992) studied a range of events that might produce
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms or that could
cause considerable stress.
- Norris found that 69% of her sample reported being exposed
to at least one potentially traumic event in their lifetime
and 21% had such an experience within the last year.
- Analysis of demographic variables found that lifetime
exposure was highest for Whites and men.Past year exposure
was highest for younger adults.
- Perceived stress from exposure was highest for Blacks
and in particular, for Black men. Some evidence of delayed
onset of PTSD for Black men.
- Racism or race-related events were not part of the stressful
Epidemiological Study of Trauma A Decade Later
- Breslau (2001) studied 10 traumatic events experienced
by 1,000 people from 4 southern cities divided equally by
age, race and gender replicated earlier findings.
- She found that 69% of her sample were exposed to at least
one potentially traumic event in their lifetime and 21%
had such an experience within the last year.
- Prevalence rates for PTSD after exposure to traumatic
event(s) were between about 9% for people exposed to violent
crimes, accidents, and death and 5% of those exposed to
- Lifetime exposure was higher for White, younger people
had higher rates of PTSD and Black men “appeared to
be the most vulnerable to the effects of traumatic events”
Studies of PTSD - People of Color -Citizens
- Perilla, et al (2002), found six months after a hurricane
that Whites had the lowest rate of PTSD 15%, Latino’s
who spoke Spanish the highest rate 38%, and Blacks had a
rate of 23%.
- In a study of 50 Cambodian adults 94% of sample endorsed
50% of 14 PTSD items. Eight six percent (43) met the DSM-III-R
criteria for PTSD Eighty percent (80%) had high scores for
depression, anxiety and disassociation. and emotional distress.
Many of the symptoms that were reported tended to be somatic.
- In a study of 124 Black and Hispanic men (33%) and women
(76%, investigator found that 14.5% of the sample met criteria
for PTSD symptoms. Respondents reported 4.5 symptoms of
PTSD on average.
Research Literature on Traumatic Stress
Height et al (1996) studied exposure to violence and PTSD
in Urban adolescents they found that 29% of the racially diverse
(75% were Black and Hispanic) sample met the clinical standards
for PTSD. Self-reported exposure to violence was the main
predictor variable. “Subjective experience and interpretation
of events play and important role in the determination of
traumatic stress responses”
Bowman (1999) contends that:
- Definitions and descriptions of traumatic stress events
do not consider the person’s subjective experience
- Found that a dose-response model or consideration of
the severity of the event alone does not explain the exposure
to traumatic or toxic events and the development of PTSD.
- She also found that the cultural groups’ history,
beliefs and emotional reactions contribute to both adaptive
and less adaptive responses.
- And the role of culture is particularly strong for groups
or individuals who hold strong cultural beliefs about the
power of external forces.
Studies of Discrimination -More Evidence
- Researchers (e.g. Feagin et. al, 1996) have shown that
Black people, who experience acts of racial discrimination
experience the events as painful, damaging, and distressful.
- People of Color who experience discrimination, in laboratory
and naturalistic situations have high levels of psychological
distress, lower levels of life satisfaction, and poorer
physical health (Lark, Anderson, Lark, & Williams, 1999)
- Utsey, et al (2002) found that for People of Color cultural
racism as a stressor was related to lower levels of quality
of life and that Blacks reported more experiences of individual
and cultural race-related stress and were equal to Asians
in reporting institutional race-related stress.
Studies of Discrimination
- Davis (2003) found that stressors associated with perceptions
of discrimination compromise physical and mental health
and that African-American men have reported higher levels
of chronic and acute experiences of discrimination than
- Fang & Myers (2001) found that Blacks reports of
racial discrimination, as well as holding in (internalizing)
responses to discrimination were related to higher blood
- Guyll, et al (2001) measured self-reported mistreatment
the findings revealed that AA women who experience racial
discrimination had higher risk for CVD.
- Sellers and Shelton (2003) found that more than 50% of
their sample reported over a dozen (13) daily racial hassles,
experienced as discrimination, most involving strangers.
Men reported such incidents more frequently than did women.
The more frequent the experience of discrimination, the
more negative the psychological outcomes. Racial identity
was found to moderate the negative psychological effects.
- For instance, in one study, 96% of the Black respondents
reported an experience of racial discrimination or harassment
in the past year that left them feeling stressed (Klonoff
& Landrine, 1999).
Research Literature in Summary
- That people are exposed to life events which are experienced
by some as traumatic. Not all who are exposed develop psychological
- The general rates of developing PTSD after exposure are
- Black people, and Black men in particular, experienced
fewer traumatic events but their reactions were more severe.
Black men were found to be more vulnerable to higher rates
of PTSD symptoms
- Veterans of Color have higher rates of PTSD and other
psychological symptom of distress not explained by the specific
exposure to trauma
- Researchers suggested that People of Color are confronted
with racism which may heighten the effects of a life event
- Studies of discrimination show that people have physical,
psychological, and emotional reactions that appear to have
brought harm or injury.
Racial Discrimination Study: Purpose
- To gain a better understanding of the types of racial
discrimination people of Color experience.
- To discover if people of Color experience psychological
and emotional effects as a result of racial discrimination.
- To determine if there is a relationship between the
types of racial discrimination people of Color experience
and the psychological and emotional effects they report.
Racial Discrimination Study: Design
- Two Part Internet-Based Study:
- Part I: Demographic Information - age, gender, race,
ethnicity, place of birth, religion, socio-economic
status, occupation, years in job, and education level
- Part II: Experiences of Racial Discrimination/Harassment
Questionnaire (10 questions).
- Closed ended questions were used to assess if
the participant had experienced racial discrimination/
harassment and then to determine where and when
the event(s) took place.
- Open ended questions were used to capture each
participant’s experience of racial discrimination/
harassment and the resulting psychological and emotional
Racial Discrimination Study: Methods
- To determine what peoples’ experiences with discrimination/
harassment were, the primary investigator derived 10 categories
from the participants’ narrative responses to the
6) What happened? Please describe, be specific.
- To determine the types of psychological and emotional
effects the participants experienced as a result of racial
discrimination, the primary investigator derived 9 categories
from the participants’ narrative responses to the
8) What were those effects? Please describe, be specific.
- Two independent raters then utilized the categories to
code the participants’ narrative responses to the
Racial Discrimination Study: Coding
- First Round of Coding:
- 68% agreement on question #6: Types of Racial Discrimination
60% agreement on question #8: Psychological and Emotional
- Second Round of Coding:
- 83% agreement on question #6: Types of Racial Discrimination
- 68% agreement on question #8: Psychological and Emotional
- Third round: raters reached 100% consensus agreement
on discrepancies encountered during the second round of
coding for both categories.
Racial Discrimination Study: Categories and Analyses
- Following the coding of the participants responses for
questions 6 and 8 frequencies were generated for each category.
- The participants’ responses were then analyzed
- For each location that was reported, frequencies
were generated on the types of racial discrimination
that took place.
- For each the type of racial discrimination, frequencies
were generated on the resulting psychological and emotional
- For each racial group, frequencies were calculated
on the type of racial discrimination they experienced
as well as the psychological and emotional effect reported.
Reports of Discrimination
Frequency of Events
Coded Types of Racial Discrimination
Experiences of Racial Discrimination (coded)
There were a total of 233 participants who reported an experience
of discrimination. Each response was placed into one of ten
- Multiple Experiences - multiple acts
or discrimination and harassment.
- “At jobs I've often been the sole African-American
in a department. I've had Caucasians group together
to tell me a racial joke. I've had coworkers talk about
my hometown in degrading ways. I've had Black speech
imitated. In stores, I've been followed around and watched.
At some social events, I've been treated as though I
- Hostile Work Environment - low performance
evaluations, demeaned (ability, performance, qualification)
not promoted, lower pay.
- “I have two masters degrees. I worked at a social
service agency conducting research. My boss was a white
male who had not earned a bachelors degree. Although
I did high-quality work, he unjustifiably criticized
me and demeaned me by pointing his finger in my face.
He also accused me of incompetence and of making underhanded
attempts to undermine him.”
Experiences of Racial Discrimination
- Verbal Assault - called a name, racial
slurs, stereotype used in conversation, subject to racist
jokes and false accusation.
- “I was walking down the school hallway and a
white boy said were are you going nigger."
- Denied Access or Service - ignored,
made to wait, not allowed in, told had less ability,advised
not to go to college, told do not have ability to progress.
- “Was told on the phone property was available,
but when showed up it had "just" been rented.”
- Profiled - followed in store, accused
or suspected of theft, stopped by police, searched.
- “Followed by store security, stopped by police,
had my pockets emptied by a store patron who lost his
wallet only for his daughter to find it in his bag.”
- Treated on Basis of Stereotype - should
step aside, pay more for goods,denigrate achievements, deny
personal accomplishments, (school/work/social), failed to
recognize ability,question qualifications.
- “One of my professors was impressed with one
of my papers and ability to express myself so well in
English and was amazed that I speak English well. I
said I was born in the US, she gave me a blank look
and said, "Really, with your accent i thought you
had just moved here. My grade was a C+.”
- Violated Racial Rules - did not belong
(school/job/social), thought to be foreigner (could not
speak english), cross racial dating.
- “Walking down the street, hand-in-hand, we were
harassed by a group of Black people who were hanging
out. They yelled "sell-out!", "look at
that sista with a white man!"
- Other Event - perceptions of institutional
racism, complaints for success.
- “Disproportionate number of Black faculty and
staff to those of the student body.”
Experiences of Racial Discrimination
- Physical Assaults - spat on, beaten, intimated by police
or other authority person, arrested and charges dropped.
- “Went to an all white school. Was slapped by
a priest and called a "spic" in front of the
- Discriminated by Own Group - experienced hostility due
to skin-color, looks, speech, behavior , etc.
- “Because of my lighter complexion, other black
students would tease me and call me half-breed and not
associate with me. They did not consider me black.”
Reports of Psychological and Emotional Effects
Psychological and Emotional Effects
- A total of 173 participants reported that they experienced
psychological and emotional effects as a result of their
experience of discrimination. Each of their responses were
placed into one category. The ten categories were:
- Extreme Emotional Distress - upset, multiple emotions
(sad, anger, depression),shocked, rage, physically ill.
- “Recurring feelings of rage, sadness, helplessness,
getting a cold after an incident of discrimination,
recurrent memories of incidents.”
- Hypervigilent Arousal - more aware, recognized reality
of racism, self-conscious.
- “I feel as if i need to protect myself constantly
from the stares, the subtle non-verbal cues, and
overt language that I'm the perpetual foreigner,
the exotic doll from "South Pacific."
You're on constant alert and seek more fervently
the company of other POC.”
- Mild Emotional Distress - single mild emotion (disappointed,
- “Firstly, I felt violated, ie. they had
no right to say something like that. But then angry.”
- Avoidance/Numbing - stayed away, more distant,withdrew,
didn't go back, work to dispel negative beliefs, could
not sleep, could not remember.
- “I'm overall pretty disinterested in relationships
with white people. I went to an all black college
so that I could live without white people for a
- Intrusion - recurring memories,nightmares,dreams,can
not forget, could not concentrate.
- “Distraction for weeks because I was afraid
it would happen again. Isolation because it was
clear I wasn't welcome.”
n Distrust - unwilling to have cross-race relationships,
will not believe what people say, think most are
ignorant, aware of true feelings.
n “I have difficulty in trusting supervisors
outside my race.”
- Lower Self-Worth - doubt about choices, lower self-esteem,
hurt my performance or ability, created confusion.
- “I felt less secure and I lacked confidence
in myself. It took me until graduate school to feel
comfortable raising my hand in my classes. I didn't
think I was intelligent.”
- Positive Outcome - stronger, more determined.
- “After this experience - I grew stronger
in the knowledge that I must ALWAYS surround myself
with POSITIVE mentors, family and friends. I must
surround myself with dream boosters, not dream killers.”
- Other – effects that could not be captured
in other categories. (e.g. -community harassment, isolated
in midwest, poor relationship with neighbors for 20
Psychological and Emotional Effects by Type of Discrimination
Multiple Experiences and Their Effects
The original number of participants
who logged onto the survey was 353.
The number of participants who
indicated that they had experienced
discrimination was 262.
Of those that reported an experience
of discrimination, 42 (16%) were
categorized as Multiple Experiences.
The Multiple Experiences described
by these participants were comprised
of either a series of distinct
experiences occurring at different
times or one event where the
participant was subject to several
types of discrimination concurrently.
Multiple Experiences and Their Effects
When each report of a Multiple
experience was broken down by the
events that compromised it, the
number of experiences that the 42
participants reported collectively was
The descriptive statistics for
the descriptive statistics for the # of
experiences each of the participants
The participants’ experiences were
also categorized as either being
discrimination, harassment or a
Discrimination: 4 (10%
Harassment 12 (26%)
Combination 26 (64%)
Frequency of specific types of
Discrimination/Harassment that comprise
Psychological and Emotional Effects
Of the 42 subjects that reported Multiple Experiences of Discrimination,
36 (or 86%) reported psychological and emotional effects.
Of the 86%, 18 (50%) reported effects that were categorized
as Extreme (or Complex) Emotional Distress.
What follows is a breakdown (sub-categorization) of the types
of psychological and emotional effects that are categorized
as Extreme Complex Emotional Distress
When reports of Extreme Complex Emotional Distress were broken
down, 100% of these reports included a sub-categorization
of Extreme Emotional Distress.
Of these, 4 (or 22%) consisted of Extreme Emotional Distress
14 (or 78%) consisted of Extreme Emotional Distress and some
combination of other effects
Statistics for the # of effects for each subject were:
Range: From 1 to 6 per subject
Mean: 2.7 effects per subject
Mode: 2 effects
The participants reported effects were also categorized as
either an injury or not an injury.
The frequencies are as follows: (Note that all of the effects
were categorized as being an injury unless it was labeled
as moderate (transitory) emotional distress, positive, or
if the participants indicated that their experience did not
result in an effect):
Injury: 30 (54%)
No Injury: 12 (36%
Frequencies of Psychological and Emotional Effects reported
in Multiple Experiences
The Relationship between type of Multiple Experience and
Psychology Injury, cont’d
a. 0 cells (.0%) have expected frequencies less than 5. The
minimum expected cell frequency is 14.0
b. 0 cells (.0%) have expected frequencies less than 5. The
minimum expected cell frequency is 21.0
- 98% of those who reported experiencing Multiple Events
characterized them as recurring events.
- 86% reported experiencing emotional effects as a result
of Multiple Events.
- Extreme Emotional Distress was reported most often by
Blacks, followed by Latinos, Asians and biracial.
- Mild Emotional Distress was reported five times more
often by Blacks than by Asians and biracial.
Hostile Work Environment
- 73% of those who reported hostility in the work environment
characterized these events as recurring rather than single
- 83% reported experiencing emotional effects as a result
of Hostile Work Environment.
- More than half reported experiencing Extreme Emotional
- Blacks reported Extreme Emotional Distress most often,
followed by Asians, Latinos and biracial.
- Blacks reported Extreme Emotional Distress at least twice
as often as Asians, Latinos and biracial.
- 63% of experiences of Verbal Assault were characterized
as single events.
- 75% reported experiencing emotional effects as a result
of Verbal Assault.
- About one third reported experiencing Mild Emotional
- Asians and biracial were most likely to report experiencing
Mild Emotional Distress, followed by Blacks.
- Asians were three times more likely to report Extreme
Emotional Distress as a result of a Verbal Assault than
Blacks and Latinos.
- Blacks reported Hypervigilence three times more often
than Latinos and biracial.
Denied Access or Service
- 59% of respondents who reported being denied access or
service characterized the events as single rather than reoccurring
- 48% reported experiencing emotional effects as a result
of being Denied Access or Service.
- 80% of those reporting Denied Access were Black or Latino.
- Most frequent effects were reported only by Blacks and
- Blacks reported Hypervigilence four times more often
- Blacks reported Extreme Emotional Distress twice as often
- Blacks and Latinos reported Lower Self-Worth with equal
- 68% of those who reported being Profiled, characterized
these events as recurring.
- 75% reported experiencing emotional effects as a result
of being Profiled.
- 80% of those who reported being Profiled were Black or
- The four most frequently reported effects, were reported
by Blacks and Latinos only.
- 100% of those who reported experiencing Mild Emotional
Distress were Black.
- Blacks reported Extreme Emotional Distress and Avoidance
three times more often than Latinos.
- Latinos reported Hypervigilence three times more often
Psychological and Emotional Effects by Types of
- Multiple Events, Hostile Work Environment and Profiled
were more often than not recurring events.
- Verbal Assaults and Denied Access were more often than
not single events.
- Extreme and Mild Emotional Distress were the effects
most commonly associated with all events, except for Denied
- Denied Access was the only event where less than three
quarters of the respondents reported
- experiencing psychological and emotional effects.
- There were some notable differences in how members of
different racial groups were affected by different types
of discrimination and harassment.
Psychological and Emotional Effects by Types of Discrimination
General Trends for racial groups:
- Asians were more effected by verbal assaults. Blacks
more effected at work.
- Blacks were Hypervilgent when verbally assaulted and
- Blacks and Latino’s were denied access and profiled
- The effects for Blacks and Latino’s varied.
- Blacks experienced mild and extreme distress and were
avoidant when profiled.
- Latino’s when profiled were Hypervilgent.
Discussion - Demographics
- People of Color report experiences of racial discrimination.
But some do not have such experiences. Discrimination not
specific to Blacks.
- When racial discrimination or harassment is experienced
it is more often than not as a recurring or repeated experience.
- Racial discrimination and harassment occur in many areas
of daily living (school, work, shopping, traveling). But
the occurrence were about equally divide between school
and work (30%) and social, residential, and shopping
- Participants reported greater frequency of racial Harassment
(e.g. hostility) 54% of experiences (i.e., hostility at
work, verbal assaults, being profiled, violations of racial
rules, and physical assaults), than discrimination (e.g.
avoidance) which accounted for about 22% of experiences
reported (I.e., denied access, and stereotyped) not including
Discussion - Settings
- The difference in discrimination and harassment varied
by settings. Work place accounted for the greatest amount
of harassment (hostility,v. assault) at 88% with about 6%
being described as discrimination.
- School was also a place were more harassment took place
but not at the level of work. Harassment accounted for 43%
(v. assualt, VRR, PA) of people’s experiences verse
discrimination that was reported at about 34% (stereotype,
denied, own group).
- In residential setting and while shopping people were
also harassed more than discriminated against. Harassment
accounted for 47% (v. assault, VRR, Profil, PA) and discrimination
accounted for 21% ( denied) not including multiple experiences.
People were harassed 74% (no PA) of the time while shopping
and discriminated 23% of the time (denied).
- Thus, the deconstruction of racism seems useful in that
it helps distinguish people’s experiences and could
lead to more effective policies and procedures in organization
and institutions and well as in filing claims for legal
- As note before evidence shows that racial trauma produces
stress symptoms like DSM anxiety disorders (e.g., acute
anxiety reactions, and PTSD).
- However, most DSM diagnoses do not match the etiology
or symptom manifestations of persons experiencing racial
- The threat required for racial trauma may be experienced
in the present or vicariously.
- Fear and helplessness associated with racial trauma may
not be openly shared due to the chronic and pervasive nature
Discussion - Emotional and Psychological trauma
- Given the types of racial discrimination and harassment
People of Color experience the psychological and emotional
effects seem to correspond to traumatic stress reactions.
For instance, At work excluding Extreme emotional distress
(EED) people reported Low self-worth (LEW) (9%), hypervilgent
(9%), avoidance (9%) and distrust (9%), Intrusion (3%) =
39% - if EED (55%) is added = 94% of symptoms or reactions
meet traumatic stress criteria.
Similar trends can be seen with verbal assault (44%) and
EED (26%) = 66%. Denied Access (65%) (LEW,intrusion,distrust,
hyper) and with EED = 86% - Profiled (52%) traumatic stress
reactions (hyper,avoid, distr) + EED at (19%) =71%
- The frequency with which respondents reported extreme
and mild emotional distress suggests that the psychological
and emotional effects associated with racial discrimination
and harassment are both acute and chronic.
Discussion - Traumatic Stress
- The emotional and psychological effects reported by the
participants qualify as traumatic stress according Carlson’s
- The reporting of hypervigilence, avoidance, and lower
self-esteem indicate that race-based traumatic stress or
racial trauma produces symptoms of stress similar to those
associated with anxiety disorders as classified by the DSM
IV-R (e.g., PTSD or Acute Stress Disorder ).
- However, not one DSM IV-R diagnosis is congruent with
the etiology and symptom manifestation of persons experiencing
race- based traumatic stress.
Discussion - Race-Based Traumatic Stress
- Racial harassment and discrimination appear to involve
negative, sudden and uncontrollable experience and on-going
physical and/or psychological threats that produces extreme
emotional distress and other PTSD related symptoms (avoidance,
intrusion, viligence, distrust etc.).
- Thus, actions or words that may not appear threatening
to “a reasonable person” (a White person) may
appear so to members of the threatened group (People of
- Racial trauma is real and seems to result for harassment
more than discrimination. The effects of harassment may
be effecting people without their or your awareness.
- The distress associated with race-based traumatic stress
or racial trauma may not be openly shared due to the chronic
and pervasive nature of harassment and discrimination.
- What is needed is:
- Clarification of and consistency in the definitions
of racial discrimination and harassment in the legal
and psychological literature.
- Clear and user friendly policies and procedures for
filing complaints of racial harassment and discrimination
in organizations and institutions.
- Recognition of the effects of race-based stress in
assessment and diagnostic criteria.
- Treatment strategies specifically designed to assist
people in coping with effects of race based traumatic