The year is 2020. Many of us find it hard to believe that racism and discrimination still exist. But, unfortunately, racism and discrimination exist within the minds of our family, friends, and neighbors. These are real issues that spread like weeds. A tiny seed planted, that grows until it becomes a major problem. Make 2021 the year that we rid the entire world of racism, bias, and discrimination.
What Is Racism
Racism is the idea, or belief, that a single race reigns champion over the others. It’s the thought that one race is superior to all other races. This idea leads to prejudice and discrimination. Although this idea, in and of itself, is egotistical and biased, it often leads to horrendous acts and racial mistreatment.
Racist ideas and beliefs turn into racial bias, or ideas and assumptions made based on an individual’s skin color. Racial bias often leads to acts of discrimination. These acts are conducted in response to the ideas and assumptions made regarding an individual’s skin color.
When acts of discrimination begin to occur in mass amounts it leads to institutional racism. Systematic, or institutional racism is the common practice of assigning value to someone based on the color of their skin, or race. This assignment of an individual’s value of life can either increase or reduce, their chance of success through the availability of opportunities.
These opportunities include wealth, education, employment, housing, and justice. The disparities in these opportunities largely impact an individual’s quality of life. Which brings us to the psychological impact of racism, bias, and discrimination.
The Psychological Impact
Consider this, from a very young age, children of minority groups are frequently exposed to racism. They witness their parents struggle with it, they hear about it in music and on television, and they face it in their own lives. Science has proven that our experiences throughout early childhood affect our brain’s development and cling to us throughout our lives.
As these children age, they begin to feel the effects of racism more strongly. They begin to understand the derogatory context and see the differences in the treatment they receive compared to a caucasian child. These signals could cause an inferiority complex.
Imagine going through life, constantly feeling the need to prove yourself. Do you think that it would have a lasting psychological impact? My assumption is that it would.
Racism is a Source of Stress and Anxiety
Racism is a cruel and unfair idea. It is a belief that many minorities fear. It is an idea that is impossible to see. For some people, they are constantly looking over their shoulders, trying to determine where this idea could be hiding. Always trying to determine who believes in this idea and how to avoid those that do believe in it.
This invisible evil is a source of stress and anxiety. Racism typically rears its ugly head in three ways. The first is verbal or physical assault due to ethnicity or skin color. The second is a lack of opportunity, and the third is racial misappropriation.
Unfortunately, there are still too many people that utilize racial slurs and dare to use those slurs when speaking to another individual. Though they may simply be ignorant words, they still hurt. In many cases, this hurt is internalized.
Internalization and Avoidance of Negative Feelings
When faced with racism, the offended party may become angry, sad, or anxious, all of which are reasonable reactions to the situation. But, then these emotions become internalized because the individual feels bad about being upset.
These feelings can be avoided by encouraging each other to accept our emotions and own them. No matter who we are, what color we are, where we are from, we have every right to feel the way we feel. There is no shame in that.
Forcing ourselves to pretend to be okay with something that we find dejecting and hurtful is harmful to our mental health. It is okay to not be okay with racism. In fact, I urge you to reject the notion. It does not mean that you are too sensitive and should never accept someone treating you as though you are less than. We are all equal and it is time that we all treat each other as equals.
A Perception of Lack in Control
Over time, these negative experiences with racism may cause individuals to develop a perception of a lack of control. They may begin to wonder why nothing they do seems to help. This is depressing and infuriating for many.
When faced with discrimination and bias decision making, it can feel like it does not matter how hard you work or how determined you are to succeed, because it feels like nothings changing.
In America, we believe that citizens should work hard, be respectful, and live according to specific rules set by society. If we do these things than society will accept us.
However, minorities may do all of these things and still face backlash due to their ethnicity or skin color. This leads to a perception of a lack of control in how society views you and what they expect from you.
Mental Health Statistics: Minorities in the U.S
Minorities face many different forms of stress on a daily basis. Racism is a form of toxic stress. But, added to racism, minorities experience more violence, more financial hardship, and more discrimination than white Americans. These stressors tend to build over time until they become a mental health issue.