by Lester Long Jr.

The Cause of Modern Racism

Racism is one of the most revolting things within humanity. It haunts our past and degrades our future. There may be many reasons why one race of people believes they are superior to another but a great majority of people don’t truly know why they react the way; they just do; many just on the sight of someone of a different race. We will attempt to examine, from a social learning perspective, the root causes of racism as well as the culture and the effects racism has upon society. VandenBoss (2006) defines racism as a form of prejudice that assumes that the members of racial categories have distinctive characteristics and that these differences result in some racial groups being inferior to others. He further points out that racism generally includes negative emotional reactions to members of the group, acceptance of negative stereotypes and racial discrimination against individuals and in some cases this can lead to violence. Racism is a cancer that eats at any society that tolerates its existence.

The cause of modern racism seems to stem from long generational histories that promote inferiority of one race and the superiority of another. Rand (1963) points out that modern racist attempts to prove the superiority or the inferiority of any given race are determined by the historical achievements which are promoted by a particular social perception. The adaptations of racist views appear to be learned behaviors through a process of a narrow historical observation. The social learning theory posits that children model adult behaviors observed. If this is the case no wonder racism is a generational tragedy.  Baron and Byne (1994) insist that children acquire racist attitudes and beliefs by observing them by those who surround them, particularly, the media and popular culture as well parents and peers. They go on to say that this process starts at a very young age. An example of this socialization process is children the positive reinforcement given by the parental approval demonstrated when they begin to speak the same language as them.

Another cause of racism is born out the social learning concept combined with a psychoanalytic approach known as the “individualistic theory”. Dollard et al (1939) points out that this approach posits that frustration always leads to aggression which generally leads to more frustration. The theory goes on to suggest that some form of catharsis is needed and due to social power differential, it cannot be directed at actual frustrating object (person or institution), it safer or easier to direct it at a displaced target or a scapegoat often lacking in social or political power. It has been argued that minorities have fit this role all too adequately. On the other side of this argument, Brown & Harris (1989) showed in selection interviewing that greater candidate-interviewer similarity is associated with higher ratings being given to the candidate. In other words, there is a tendency to prefer ‘us’ without there being any malice, let alone racism, at work. So this begs the question: can an individual prefer working with, associating with, or only being in the company of their own race without being racist? How much does malice play in racial attitudes?

Gaertner and Dovido (1986) point out that White America has been socialized by the racial history of the American culture, along with the cognitive tendency to categorized information which results in subtle, yet commonplace racial beliefs and feelings, while at the same time promoting strong egalitarian beliefs.  This oxymoron is known as Aversive Racism.  Gaertner and Dovidio (1986) distinguished between aversive racism or unintentional racism and old fashioned or blatant racism. Gaertner and Dovidio point out that, in contrast, to old fashioned racism, which is characterized by overt hatred for and discrimination against African-Americans or other minorities, aversive racism is characterized by more complex, ambivalent racial attitude. On the one hand, aversive racist are well intentioned people who typically:  avoid acting in a racist manner, support policies that promote equality,  sympathize with victims of past injustice,  identify with the liberal political agendas,  possess strong egalitarian values, and  regard themselves as non-prejudice.  They go on to point out that the source of the negativity that underline aversive racist’s attitudes also provide the motivation for both internal and external prejudice. They insist that one’s own internalized (self-prescribed) standards or guides for regulating behavior is considered to be the internalized source of racism, while the socially prescribed standards or guides for regulatory behavior is the external source of racism. Dovidio thoroughly researched the conflict between the two. By looking at the sources, we can understand how motivation reinforces the responses and how the norms have an impact on those responses.

When we examine Blacks and other minorities we see that there is what could be termed “racial minority aversive prejudice”. This is when Blacks and other minorities generalize “White men can’t jump”, Blacks are better lovers than Whites or that Rap and R&B music has more soul than Country Music. Many Blacks and other minorities demonstrate their prejudice towards Whites through this process of internal and external expression. They claim Whites lack in versatility and creativity when it comes to things of the “spirit or soul”. They may, for example, also believe their White co-workers or supervisors are racist so they avoid them and develop unfounded attitudes of resentment about that person without ever trying to have any significant association; such as inviting them to lunch, coffee or even inviting them to dinner at their home. Because these issues may not be leveled at Whites on an individual bases, minorities may often express these views about Whites in general among themselves In addition, because minorities may fear that open acknowledgement of these thoughts could cause external consequences; they internalized these external racist attitudes. It is possible that aversive prejudice may be born out of feelings of inadequacy, an inferiority complex and frustration; an attempt by Blacks and other minority to claim some form of racial superior differential to Whites.

When one examines the root cause of racism, it must be remembered that the question of racism has affected every society on earth. Social scientists continue to study this problem, as a result, there seems to be a few clear and precise theories developed.  Four of these theories may help to provide answers to this question. The following are often pontificated as answers – False Attribution, Fear, Stereotypes, and Selfishness. Let’s look more in depth at each one:

False Attribution

False attribution is one of major causes of racism. To better understand this concept, one only has to study the theory of attribution. Kassin, Fein, and Markus (2008) point out that research has found that people with baby-face features, large, round eyes, high eye brows, round checks, large foreheads, smooth skin, and round chin, tend to be seen as warm, and kind but more importantly, as it relates to the history of racism, (in my opinion) naïve, weak , and submissive. They point out, however, that individuals with who have mature features, have small eyes, low eyebrows, small foreheads, wrinkled skin, and an angular chin are seen as stronger, more dominant and more competent. Whites used these attributions as a justification for racism towards people of color.

These attributions are seen as the beginning of blatant racism which seemed to have gotten its origins in the 1400’s when Europeans first encountered Black Africans; by way of the Guinea coast (West Africa).  They believed that they saw a people who were, relative to them, primitive and believed as a result, that these individuals were genetically inferior (Osuji, 2009). Europeans observed that there were a naïve people and in many respects were submissive, particularly, after tribal wars. They observed that those who lose the war would subject themselves to a sub servitor condition. They saw an opportunity and they took advantage of it.  After buying off tribal leaders to obtain slaves as well as hunting down the free Africans who lived in the jungles, they took these naïve and submissive Africans and ship them to the colonies and enslaved them. In order to justify their racist behaviors, the Europeans concluded that Africans look like humans beings but that they are different from Whites and are closer to apes, such as gorillas or chimpanzees.


 Fear is probably one of the strongest bases behind why people tend to have racist views. Because of the media and what individuals have been told by parents and others, there seems to a natural fear of association with other races, except on formal bases. Insecurity creates fear and this fear acts as a natural instinctive human reaction based on social learning. This reaction is exploited by the politicians, by the ministry, and the press. Bodhioshin (2010) points out that one can come up with beautiful concepts such as National equality but this inclusive nationalist concept will always be overridden if the race that has its origins in the belief of its superiority feels threatens. He goes on to point out that if we explore any culture of the world, we will find societies having some degree of fear when encountering other societies. At the root of this fear is a constant fueling of fear created by a strong identification with not only one’s own race but nationality, caste, and religion.

Becker, Hessische Stftung Friedens-und Konfliktsforschung, and Frankfurt (1973) point out that in nearly all young people’s books historical and social processes are viewed from an individualistic perspective; thus it is assumed that racial problems can be solved on the individual level. This is usually done by appealing to pity and charity, thereby degrading the coloured people to mere objects. The Negro-African is often associated with animalistic behaviors and instincts. Because of this association, the White population, in general, has a fear of African Americans, particularly, African American males.  Both the Negro- African and the Afro-American are rarely portrayed as autonomous, independent human beings with initiative and activity, White believe that these attributes are only reserved for them. The African American is not allowed to display a value system of his or her own; they seemingly can only appear as a human being when they completely internalized the value system of White America.

Probably the most common cause of fear is unfamiliarity. People fear what they do not know or understand. Research shows that if a person hasn’t grown up around a particular race, then there is more of a chance the person can be racist toward that particular group. The chances of this attitude increases as children, especially young children, are fed negative information about another race. This is why it is so important that children, at a very young age, are exposed to people of different races.


 One of the most common causes of racism is stereotypes. Through television, through radio, through the internet, through music and through books, the potential for developing stereotypical beliefs become reality. When a person, especially one that is very young, is exposed to a stereotypical view of a specific group for the first time; beliefs form that assumes all members of that group behavior that way. Likewise, when elements in a society display negative things about a particular race it promotes that overall opinion. Grobman (1990) points out that a “stereotype” is a generalization about a person or group of persons. We develop stereotypes when we are unable or unwilling to obtain all of the information we would need to make fair judgments about people or situations. In the absence of the “total picture,” stereotypes, in many cases, allow us to “fill in the blanks.” Our society often innocently creates and perpetuates stereotypes; unfortunately these stereotypes often lead to unfair discrimination and persecution when the stereotypes are unfavorable. For example, if we are walking through a park late at night and encounter three senior citizens wearing fur coats and walking with canes, we may not feel as threatened as if we were met by three high school-aged boys wearing leather jackets. Why is this? In each case we have made a generalization. These generalizations have their roots in experiences we have had ourselves, read about in books, magazines, seen in movies, or television, or promulgated to us by friends and family. When we resort to prejudice by ascribing characteristics about a person based on a stereotype without knowledge of the total facts we promote both racism and prejudice views. Quite often, we have stereotypes about persons who are members of groups with which we have not had firsthand contact. Television, books, comic strips, and movies are all abundant sources of stereotyped characters. Grobman (1990) insists that for much of its history, the movie industry portrayed African-Americans as being unintelligent, lazy, or violent-prone. As a result of viewing these stereotype pictures of African-Americans, prejudiced the White race against African-Americans.


One of the greatest proponents of racism in any society is selfishness. Whether it is born out of a sense of survival or out of greed, it always places the minority, particularly those of race, in a precarious position.   Selfishness is definite as concern excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others (Vandenboss, 2006 p.831). Racial selfishly has many motivations; however in a social sense its primary purpose is to ensure that other races are denied the same opportunities as their own race. This is so that those who racially selfish can maintain the power over the ways and means of production. Racism promotes caring only about one’s own race at the total expense of others. Racist are taught not to respect the needs of other races and that they are superior and the “inferior race” does not meet the standard of ‘their’ norms.

It is selfishness that people of color were denied equal pay and access to equal employment. Whites refused, for many years, to allow blacks in the southern United States to vote out of fear that black voters would exercise that right and laws would become more equitable. In the United States, racial selfishness has a disproportion of income going to the majority race. Racial selfishness was bore out of the social evolutionary theory of social Darwinism. This theory posits that if a person, society, or race cannot keep up then they are either left behind or cut off. This is an interesting theory but it does not hold water if one race starts out with all the means of production and in this era technology. Selfishness is also born through manipulation with objective to achieve certain economic and political. In addition, frustration-aggression-displacement as well as an authoritarian personality may play an important role in racial selfishness.

The Culture of Modern Racism

The term “Cultural Racism” is being used increasing throughout social science. This is a shift from the earlier theories sought to explain and justify racism. Cultural development also plays a major part in the answer to racial attitudes and behaviors. When an individual is brought up in a culture that teaches that one’s race is superior to another it creates a situation where the cultural differences of the races causes the race that feels superior, prefer only to associate with individuals of their own race. Blaut (1992) explains that cultural racism presents a theory that not only is the “White” race is superior but the European culture is a superior culture. Non- Europeans are thereby defined as inferior in attaining levels of achievement, or even have the potential for achievement. This theory distinguishes cultural racism from traditional racist thought. Culture is a complex term but it has been defined as “the total range of social values, beliefs, and behaviors of an identifiable group of people with shared backgrounds and traditions which influence and characterize members of that group’s or society’s core outlook and activities’ (Blaut, 1992).  These might include such aspects as manners and behaviors, customs, language, religion and moral beliefs and practices, aesthetics values, and leisure activities. Modood (1994) points out that that multicultural education, which confines culture to the private sphere is not multicultural at all. For example, it’s alright to speak Punjabi at home but not in schools or to practice your religion at home or mosque but it’s not alright to wear the hijab. This results in teaching materials being used inappropriately and students only exposed to the imposing cultural with insufficient attention being given to ensure an accurate understanding of the history and contributions of other races. This, above all things reinforces cultural racism. Diller and Module (2005) point out that herein lies the real insidiousness of cultural racism because those who are culturally different must either give up their own ways, and thus a part of themselves, and take on the ways of the majority culture or remain perpetual outsiders.

Blaut (1992) points out that cultural racism, as a theory, needs to prove the superiority of the Europeans. He points out that the claim is simply made that nearly all of the important cultural innovations which generated cultural progress occurred first in Europe, and then later diffused to non-European people. Therefore, at each moment in history Europeans were more advanced than non-Europeans in overall cultural development (though not necessarily in each particular cultural trait). He goes on further to posit that this has been asserted as a great bundle of apparent empirical fact. He insists, that not only is material  and technological traits put forth as superior but the political and social traits like the state, the market, and the family. He further insists that the tellers of these tales saturated history with European inventions, European progressiveness and European progress. Blaut (1987) makes it clear that this theory evolved as a justification and rationalization for classical colonialism. It asserted, in essence, the following propositions about the world as a whole and throughout all of history. (1) The world has a permanent center, or core, and a permanent periphery. The center is Greater Europe, that is, the continent of Europe plus, for ancient times, the Bible Lands, modern times, and the countries of European settlements overseas. The core sector, Greater Europe, is naturally inventive, innovative, and progressive. (2) The periphery, the non-European world, naturally remains traditional, culturally sluggish or stagnant. (3) The basic reason why Europe is progressive, innovative, etc. is some quality of mind or spirit, or some “rationality” particular to Europe. (4) Progress occurs in the periphery as a result of diffusion, the outward spread, of new and innovative traits from the core to the periphery. This claim is believed to be a natural process (Blaut, 1987). It consists of the spread of European colonialism, European settlers, and European commodities.

Modern diffusionism depicts a world in which Europeans have always been the most progressive people and non-Europeans are backward, and permanently the recipients of progressive ideas, things, and people from Europe. It follows that progress for the periphery, today as always must stay in the past, must consist of the continued diffusion of European rationality and institutions, European culture and control. The periphery, today, includes the Third World, along with Third World minorities embedded in European-dominated countries like the United States, in ghettos, reservations, prisons, migrant-labor camps (Blaut, 1987).

To provide a balance view of cultural racism it has also been embraced in some minority racial cultures, particularly Blacks, who during the 1960’s and early 70’s some of its members ,by way of the black power moment, claimed superiority to Whites based on historical association dating back to the Moors who almost conquered all of Europe. Cultural racism during this era was also promoted by the some members of certain Black religious groups who also advocated that Whites were inferior, based on some theory of the origin of man and that the inventions and initiatives  of Africans over generations were stolen. Therefore, the real diffusion is “Culturally African”.

Cultural racism therefore breeds two major factors in society: Prejudice and discrimination.

Vandenboss (2006) defines prejudice as a negative attitude towards another person or group formed in advance of any experience with that person or group. He defines discrimination as differential treatment of the members of different racial, ethnic, religious, national, or other groups. Discrimination is usually behavior manifested by prejudice and therefore involves negative, hostile, and injurious treatment of the members of the rejected group. Prejudice and discrimination usually involve the intentional mistreatment of minorities but can be used to mistreatment anyone not accepted by a particular group.

Van denHoonaard (1993) in an article entitled “Prejudice and Discrimination” points out that as far as historical records show, no society or nation has been immune to prejudice and discrimination, either as a victim or victimizer.  Prejudice is a cultural attitude that rest on negative stereotypes about individuals or groups because of their culture, religious, racial or ethnic background.  Discrimination is the active denial of desired goals from category of persons. A category can be based on sex, ethnicity, nationality, religion, language, or class. Prejudice and discrimination are deeply imbedded at both the individual and societal levels. Van den Hoonaard posits that there appears to be no clear acceptance of any theory to the root cause of prejudice and discrimination. Scholars do agree, however, that prejudice and discrimination are not universals as something humans are inherently born with. Van den Hoonaard further points out that there is ample evidence that prejudice and discrimination are social constructions.

Although there is no wide agreement as to the cause of prejudice and discrimination, there is a wide consensus that they constitute a learned behavior. The internalization of prejudice starts with parents, later with teachers, and later reinforced with peers. Brick (2008) point out those subtle forms of prejudice can be measured in scientific studies. He points out that in the mid 70’s Duncan had White students observe a videotape of a White man lightly shoving a black man during an argument. Only 13% of rated the behavior as violent. When the situation was reversed, 73% stated the Black man was acting violently.

Attitude researchers insist that prejudice persist in subtle forms and allow the prejudice person to consciously suppress prejudicial feelings and thoughts. Resentments, however, still lurk beneath the surface, though open racial prejudice has decline (Myers, 1993). Ethnocentrism is a major cause of prejudice and discrimination.  Sue and Sue (1999) point out that ethnocentric mono-culturalism is dysfunctional in a pluralistic society like the United States. The five components consists of a belief in superiority, a belief in inferiority of others, the power to impose standards upon less powerful groups, its manifestation in institutions and the invisible veil. They believe that in spite of progress being made on the other components, invisible veil can still be considered a more lasting component of modern racism. Sue and Sue point out that people are all produces of cultural conditioning, therefore, a person’s world view operates outside their level of conscious awareness. They posit this world contains a biased and prejudiced belief system. People are taught to hate and to fear others that are different. Sue and Sue (1999) posit that the biggest obstacle towards moving to multicultural society may be peoples’ failure to understand their unintentional and unconscious complicity that perpetuates bias and discrimination. Prejudice and discrimination has immense effects in the psychological, social, political, and economic domains.

Corey, Corey and Callanan, (1997) point out that cultural tunnel vision could be considered a form of modern or subtle racism. They posit that many psychology students enter training with monocultural tunnel vision. They point out that student’s make statements like” I don’t want to work with poor people or minority groups”. They may point out implicitly or explicitly that minority groups are unresponsive to profession intervention due to a lack of motivation due to some sort of resistance to professional help. Wrenn (1962) describes the culturally encapsulated counselor as one who defines reality with one set of cultural assumptions, shows insensitivity to individual cultural differences, accepts unreasoned assumptions with no proof, doesn’t evaluate others viewpoint nor tries to accommodate the behavior of others and is trapped in one way of thinking.

Prejudice and discrimination is a direct produce of cultural racism.  Klineberg (1968:440) asserts that prejudice and ethnic hostilities constitute a major danger to peace both within a nation among nations. He goes on to argue that the emergence of a new global moral order is increasingly providing leverage pointed at countering the effects of prejudice and discrimination. Klineberg goes on, however, to point out that the media and social institutions solidify prejudicial attitudes, giving them social legitimacy. In a sense it is presumptuous to speak of eradicating prejudice and discrimination from either an individual or cultural standpoint, the most we can hope for is to reduce it.

The Effects of Modern Racism

As we examine the effects of racism, it goes without saying that it has a long term effect on minorities specifically and society in general. Effects of racism are felt in schools, the economy, and political institutions. When we look at the minority racial classes in our society we see high unemployment, violent crime, lack of education, little to no political power. Not only does racism have external affects but it has also has psychological ones as well. Racism is a divider. It causes people to take sides on issues they would rather not take. An example: Can I believe in the equality of all races yet at the same time oppose affirmative action? Do I mind racial minorities living in my neighborhood, even if it means the property value my go down? Can I believe that all children deserve an equal education even if my children has to sit in the same class as a minority student that needs extra help or is far behind? These question and others must be addressed in a society that’s stated policy is to eliminate discrimination.

In order to get a better understanding of the effects of racism on society, we will examine three crucial areas that racism seems to be the most detrimental to minorities in particular and the society in general. Economic racism, Education racism, and the Psychological effects of racism; these three issues continue to plague the society. Let’s take a good look, in depth, to what theorists believe are the results of their perpetrations:

Economic Racism

Reich (1981) points out that in the early 1960’s, it seemed to many that the elimination of racism in the U. S. was proceeding without requiring a radical restructuring of society. Prior and during the civil rights movement, hundreds of Blacks moved to Northern cities where discrimination was supposedly less severe than the South. This move was supposed to point to a bigger and brighter future for Blacks specifically and minorities in general. However, Reich (1981) points out that by the 1970’s; the optimism of earlier decades had vanished. Despite new civil rights laws, elaborate White House conferences, special ghetto manpower programs, the War on Poverty and stepped-up tokenism hiring, racism and the economic exploitation of Blacks has not lessened. Reich (1981) insists that during the past twenty-five years there has been virtually no permanent improvement in the relative economic position of Blacks in America. Median Black incomes have been fluctuating at a level between 47 percent and 63 percent of the median income of White incomes, the ratio rising during economic expansion and falling to previous lows levels during recessions. He goes on to point out that racism is of profound importance for the distribution of income among White landowners, capitalist, and workers, For example, racism clearly benefits owners of housing in the ghetto where Blacks have no choice but pay higher rents  than what is charged to Whites for comparable housing elsewhere in the city.

Reich (1981) points out that the real exploitation begins in earnest when Black youth enters the labor market. A Black worker with the same number of years of schooling and the same scores on achievement tests as a white worker receives much less income. The rate of unemployment among blacks is generally twice as high as among whites. Layoffs and recessions hit Blacks with twice the impact they hit whites, since blacks are hired last and fired first. The ratio of average Black to White incomes follows the business cycle closely, buffering white workers from some of the impact of the recession. This form of economic de facto discrimination leads to disillusion and despair among Blacks. It causes many Blacks to turn to illegal ways of generating income. Many young Blacks (particularly Black youth) resort illegal activities such as selling drugs, manipulation or other means, in order to provide a decent living for them and their families. Many of these young blacks are high school dropout and because they have lost any faith that the educational system can help them become better wage earners; they feel they have no other choice.

Educational Racism

In order to effectively deal with educational racism, the educational system must address it and come out of denial. In order to make continual progress towards solving problems of access and equality; we must confront the root cause of such practices and policies.  Reich (1981) posits that beginning in the first grade; blacks go to schools of inferior quality and obtain little of the basic training and skills needed in the labor market.  He points out that the average Black student still drops out at a lower grade than his white counterpart. In 1974 only 8.1 percent of Blacks aged 25 to 34 were college graduates, compared to 21.0 percent of Whites in the same bracket. Having access to the same quality education from the beginning of the academic experience has a major impact on this disparity in numbers.

When we examining this problem, we see that up until recently, the major goal of the school system was the attempt to create a system of homogeneous education. This meant that all students must adapt to the educational system of the majority both its culture and processes. All other cultures and customs were to be secondary to this uniform point of view process of instruction. This may be beneficial for the majority race but it leaves the majority of other races struggling to keep up. This creates a society of uneducated and unemployed minorities.

Black pupil’s underachievement in education is due to structural discrimination. This system is not set up to meet their needs and/or to break through the consequences of the various ways they are discriminated against.  Quite often underachievement, by Black pupils, is attributed to the fact that “they”-the Black pupils- have another cultural origin. This is a clear example of blaming the victim’. De Vreede (1995) points out that the convenience of this mechanism is that it allows the system to keep doing what it’s doing. The system De Vreede insists promotes racism by omission. The presence of Blacks and their achievement are conveniently left out most textbooks. History books are renowned for omitting Blacks and their views on the colonial exploits of the Whites.

In looking further into educational racism, it is sometimes assumed that teachers are free from racism. De Vreede (1995) points out this could not be further from the true. Most teachers are confronted in some form or another with racism; in some instances on a daily bases learning how to confront their own racist and ethnocentric views can be one of the most difficult tasks of teaching. Prospective teachers grow up mostly in middle-class families and are from White communities (Tellez, Hlebowitsh, Cohen, and Norwood, 1995). Meanwhile, by the year 2020, almost one third of the school-age population will be non-White children and one fourth will live in economic poverty. As we review the school system from top to bottom , one finds …Superintendents are overwhelming White and male (95%)… women and men of color in school administration tend to be elementary school principals, central office staff, or administrators charged with duties related to Title IX, desegregation, and so forth (Sleeter And Grant, 1994). People of color are often custodians and aides, and over 90% of secretaries are women. Larkin and Sleeter (1995) point out that most of the students’ education is conducted within a narrow dominant-culture perspective and curricular issues ….a broader agenda that must be addressed is the development of teachers education programs willing to face the challenges of cultural diversity and educational equality. The effect of inequality in education has a broad and long range effect on minorities. It eats at the heart of the communities though drugs, violent crime, and unemployment. Solutions must be developed to lessen or eradicate this injustice.

Psychological Effects of Racism

The psychological effects of racism are extremely detrimental to people of color. Ethnic minority clients’ racism- related stress has been a major focus in the mental health profession. Researchers indicate that racist discrimination, hostility, and prejudice are stress stimuli  experienced by racial/ethnic minorities. This condition leads to low-self-esteem, helplessness, depression, anxiety, and physical health problems such as hypertension (Clark, et al., 1999).Cultural racism and ethnic identity correlate with the lower quality of life among ethnic minorities such as Blacks, Asian American, and Latino Americans (Utsey 2002). Racism-related stress is negatively related to ethnic minority students’ academic work (Grieger and Toliver, 2001). Nora and Gabrera (1996) compared 831 college students’ (50.4% White and 49.6 non-White) the impact of their perceptions of prejudice on their adjustment to college environments, and found that only ethnic minority college students perceived prejudice on campus, and their perceptions negatively influence their adjustment to academic work, injured cognitive learning, and adversely affected personal development.

Harrell (2000) has given special attention to racism-related stress. She points out that there are six types of racism-related stress that have the potential to affect the well-being of an individual: racism-related life events, vicarious racism experience, daily racism micro stressors, chronic –contextual stress, collective experiences, and trans-generational transmission. Let’s examine more closely how these experiences of stress affect minorities. Racism related life events can be compounded into three of aspects. Racism related stress is the result of specific, time –limited experiences of racism in which one feels discriminated against, harassed, or judged. Harrell (2000) points out racial minorities also experience stress as a result of hearing about or seeing another person’s experience with racism. This constitutes a vicarious experience of racism. Racism –related stress is not always overt. It may be demonstrated in daily subtle reminders that one is different. These racism micro stressors may be as simple as being watched in the store or overlooked and discounted in an office setting; however their effects are no less deleterious.

Harrell (2000) posits that another form of stress is known as Chronic –Contextual Stress. This occurs when non-whites are forces to live in a society in which they are subject to differential treatment and unequal distribution of resources. Non-white families are forced to cope with unfair treatment and adapt to an environment in which they are given less of an opportunity for success. One example of contextual stress is poor educational resources in non-White communities. Another example of Harrell’s stressor is collective racism-related stress. This is when one perceives the racial group for which they are identified is generally not treated fairly. For example, one may experience an increase in stress as a result of witnessing a stereotype portrayal of race with which they identify on television or in the news. Harrell’s last contention concerning the cause of Chronic-Contextual Stress is trans-generational racism. This is when it is believed by one race that historical injustices were aimed at them and continues to be transmitted from one generation to another.

Racism-related stress has been discussed in various forms and a stress model has been suggested to explain the etiology of negative impacts that racism has on psychological and physical well-being of non-Whites. Clark, et al., (1999) points out that exposure to racism may cause one to become anxious, paranoid, angry, helpless/hopeless, frustrated, resentful, and fearful. These stressful related responses can affect one’s ability to function in school, work, social settings as well as increase the potential for violent out bursts and suicidal ideations. Nyborg and Curry (2003) found that personal experience with racism has a strong connection to behavior problems in African American boys. Increased hostility and aggression are common forms of active coping responses that have been associated with racism-related psychological distress. Clark, et al (1999) points out that other forms of negative coping strategies are verbal expression of anger, substance abuse, cigarette smoking, and poor eating habits. One study, conducted by Nyborg and Curry (2003) showed a correlation between personal experiences with racism and lower-self-concept, higher levels of hopelessness, and depressive symptoms.

The psychological effects of racism and racism-related stress complicate the lives of non-whites in number of serious ways. Not only has racism been shown to have a negative impact on one’s psychological wellbeing (as well as physical well-being) but psychological distress can be debilitating and may increase potential one will adopt greater and more destructive negative coping strategies: Coping strategies that put lives in danger and our society living on constant alert.


In summary, we have explored the root causes of racism. We see that false attributes, fear, stereotyping, and selfishness have played a major role in continual racial attitudes and behaviors. We see how the feeling of superiority by one race can have a profound impact on another. We have been able to examine how, when racism raises its ugly head, the entire society suffers. We have reviewed the origins of racism begin in modern society and how ethnocentric views have divided those who have from those who have not. Racism is a cancer and like any other destructive force it must be met with the full force of treatment. The cultural, economic, educational, and psychological effects of racism are not only dangerous but self-defeating to any society that practices such behavior.

We see after reviewing  the theoretical views of people who have study the effects of racism, that  most, if not  all conclude, that the health of the society as well as the individual, depends on our ability as a society to address racism and racism-related issues. The racism-related issues as we have seen is poor education, double digit unemployment, violence, stress, depression, anxiety, and frustration.  These are issues have brought about not only a racially divided society but also it has created a class system that could eventually lead to a more dangerous and perilous course.

Trans- generational racism plays a major role in the issues we have presented and above all must be addressed and be put at the forefront of stamping out both prejudice and discrimination. If we are to grab at the heart of prejudice and discrimination it must not be allowed to be passed to further generations. Racism can only be changed by a change of the heart and not by just simply the changing of laws. As we have seen, there were Civil Rights laws passed in the 60’s and 70’s and though there have been some improvements, over the years, racism still continues to have its day in court.


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About lester long Jr.

Lester Long Jr. has a Master of Science degree in Psychology from Walden University, a Certificate in Professional Counseling from Capella University. He has a BS in Public Administration and Political Science from Western Michigan University. He is also Certified in Clinical Supervision and an Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium. He is Certified as a Peer Specialist in the State of Georgia. Mr. Long is also a former member of the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners in Kalamazoo County, Michigan.. Please leave any comments for Lester Long at
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