Racism impacts us all
When any person is treated unfairly based on their race, it impacts us all. The effects of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression reverberate through society in the forms of hate, violence, exploitation, and inequality that affects all people and communities.
Further, the presence of racism in our culture, social structures, and institutions maintain injustice and prevent our communities from thriving. We must act on these inequities to ensure that all members of our society can live free from racial injustice.
The Global Alliance focuses principally on the impact of racism on health and social justice. There are physical and mental health implications for individuals who experience and/or fear racism in their daily lives. Their health, safety, and well-being is not secure.
There are also racial and ethnic disparities in health that are perpetuated by systemic racism and have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Limited access to treatment and lower quality of care, for example, can lead to disparities in health outcomes among minoritized racial groups. We firmly believe that racism has no place in healthy communities, and ensuring racial justice and equity for all is an essential piece of promoting well-being.
The Global Alliance has long been committed to eradicating racism on a structural level, advocating for equal human rights for all people and speaking out against human rights abuses, injustices, and practices that reflect racist actions, beliefs, and agendas. A few examples of our work:
- Read our Resolution on Racism, updated in June 2020 in response to recent events in the United States.
- Check out our editorial, Establishing a Path to Unity: Recommendations for the Biden/Harris Administration.
- Read our response to the events of January 6, 2021, Defending Our Democracy.
- Learn about our stance on Voter Suppression.
See related GA topics of interest:
- Mental Health America: Racism and Mental Health
- Presidential Award Winner David R. William’s TED Talk: How racism makes us sick
- National Alliance of Mental Illness: BIPOC/AAPI Mental Health Resources
- National Alliance of Mental Illness: Information & Resources on Indigenous Mental Health
- American Psychological Association: Racism, bias, and discrimination resources
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): Racial Justice
- My Brother’s Keeper Alliance
What can you do?
- Examine and confront your own implicit or explicit racial biases. Be willing to acknowledge the ways you may have benefited from unjust structures and systems.
- Initiate hard conversations with friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors in regards to the role of racism in our lives and our society.
- Speak up when you see or hear racism or racial injustice, initiating and/or participating in dialogue about the issue.
- Join in local events, rallies, or programs that support inclusion and reduce marginalization.
- Support the work of organizations like the Global Alliance that are actively seeking racial justice.
Research on Racial Justice in AJO
In this study, we built upon prejudice reduction interventions research (primarily in social psychology) and ally development investigations (primarily in applied psychology). We aimed to develop an intervention to foster knowledge and attitude change identified in both areas as central to reducing prejudice and increasing intentions to promote racial justice. Specifically, we aimed to determine whether online imaginal and psychoeducational interventions could contribute to White people’s needed understandings to engage in racial justice work. Additionally, if some interventions were successful, we aimed to determine which components were most effective. We used three intervention components, two of which were created for this study: imaginal contact with a person of color, learning and reflecting about racism and its impact on people of color, and increasing awareness of White privilege and positionality. We randomized participants to different combinations of the intervention components and control components to not only evaluate combined components but also dismantle the intervention, determining whether specific aspects of the intervention were more effective. Participants completed outcome measures about their attitudes and understandings prior to the intervention, immediately post-intervention, and 3 weeks after completing the intervention. Findings demonstrated that the intervention and its components positively impacted outcomes of interest, with increasingly complicated learning requiring more comprehensive intervention to change.
Hochman, A. L., & Suyemoto, K. L. (2020). Evaluating and dismantling an intervention aimed at increasing white people’s knowledge and understanding of racial justice issues. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. Advance online publication.
Experiences of racism contribute to the mental health burden of Black individuals in the United States, and during emerging adulthood, these impacts may be especially intensified. The majority of research on racism captures individual-level experiences and utilizes frequency-based measures. This mixed methods investigation examines convergence and divergence between a measure of recent experiences of racism and a measure of worst experiences of racism at multiple levels (individual, cultural, institutional). A sample of 186 Black college-attending emerging adults (Mage = 19.36; 62.7% female) reported their recent experiences using a quantitative measure and their worst experiences via a qualitative open-ended response, which were analyzed via convergent parallel design. The results indicated that a majority of reported worst experiences had an institutional-level component. Although the quantitative measure of recent experiences corresponded with reports of individual-level worst experiences, the institutional- and cultural-level worst experiences were rarely fully captured by the recent experiences measure. Implications for the mental health of Black college-attending emerging adults are discussed.
Volpe, V. V., Katsiaficas, D., Benson, G. P., & Zelaya Rivera, S. N. (2020). A mixed methods investigation of Black college-attending emerging adults’ experiences with multilevel racism. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. Advance online publication.
Despite the proclamation of a “postracial” society, racism in the United States remains “alive and sick” (S. P. Harrell, 2000), negatively impacting the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of Black Americans. Moreover, the complex impact of racism throughout the life span is inadequately understood. Coping with the insidiousness of racism in its myriad forms requires recognizing how it expresses across development. In this developmental overview, we apply a life-course perspective (Gee, Walsemann, & Brondolo, 2012) to investigate racism-related stress and coping over time. Within each period of development, we first explore how racism-related stress may present for Black Americans and then document what coping from this stress looks like, highlighting extant strategies and interventions where they exist. This work concludes with a set of definitional, methodological, and clinical future directions and recommendations for improving the field’s ability to mitigate the deleterious impact of racism-related stress.
Jones, S. C. T., Anderson, R. E., Gaskin-Wasson, A. L., Sawyer, B. A., Applewhite, K., & Metzger, I. W. (2020). From “crib to coffin”: Navigating coping from racism-related stress throughout the lifespan of Black Americans. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 90(2), 267–282.
Black students have higher levels of psychological distress compared with other students, in part to racism and discrimination; however, help-seeking remains low. As a result, most research has been deficit-based focusing on mental illness, which provides an incomplete state of their mental health. Therefore, very little is known about positive mental health (PMH), which is composed of social, emotional, and psychological well-being. To better understand their complete state of mental health, this study examined variations in levels of PMH among 235 Black traditional (ages 18 to 25) and nontraditional (ages 26+) college students attending historically Black colleges and universities and predominantly White institutions, in addition to identifying protective mechanisms promoting flourishing within these subgroups. The sample included 156 traditional college students (Mage = 20.88, SD = 2.12; 83% female) and 79 nontraditional college students (Mage = 36.06, SD = 36.1; 80% female). Approximately 54.4% of nontraditional students were flourishing compared with 43.6% of traditional students who were moderately mentally healthy. No significant differences were found in PMH among Black students attending historically Black colleges and universities and predominantly White institutions. Results indicate spirituality, social support, self-esteem, and racial identity (low centrality and high public regard) are associated with PMH in Black traditional students; however, spirituality, self-esteem, and racial identity (high public regard) were associated with PMH in nontraditional students. Our findings emphasize the importance of integrating identified protective mechanisms into existing programs and services to increase levels of flourishing among Black students within the college setting. Implications and recommendations for future research are provided.
Mushonga, D. R., & Henneberger, A. K. (2020). Protective factors associated with positive mental health in traditional and nontraditional Black students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 90(1), 147–160.
Little is known about people who experience multiple types of discrimination (e.g., racism and heterosexism). While some work suggests that multiply discriminated groups are at higher risk for poor mental health, other studies propose that they may develop resilience against additional kinds of discrimination. We conducted a review of published studies on the relationship between multiple types of discrimination and mental health to critically examine evidence in support of broad risk and resilience models. Using PRISMA guidelines, we identified 40 studies that met our inclusion criteria. Typically, studies examined either whether experiencing multiple discrimination was related to poorer mental health, or whether one kind of discrimination was more predictive of poor mental health. Studies generally showed support for the risk model, with multiple forms of discrimination associated with higher risk for depression symptoms. Furthermore, both racism and heterosexism uniquely predicted symptoms of depression, although initial evidence suggested that only heterosexism predicted suicidality among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) racial/ethnic minorities. Findings on multiple discrimination and other mental health problems (e.g., anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], distress, and substance use) were mixed. The current evidence suggests that multiply discriminated groups exhibit higher risk for some mental health problems, particularly depression symptoms. However, methodological problems abound in this literature (e.g., correspondence between study sample and types of discrimination assessed), which limits our ability to draw clear conclusions about multiple discrimination. We propose that to further our understanding of how multiple kinds of discrimination may affect mental health, studies must remedy these and other issues.
Vargas, S. M., Huey, S. J., Jr., & Miranda, J. (2020). A critical review of current evidence on multiple types of discrimination and mental health. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 90(3), 374–390.
The present study is an empirical investigation of cultural mistrust as a mediator in the association between racial microaggressions and mental health (anxiety, depression, and well-being) in a sample of Asian American college students. In addition, we explored the role of cultural mistrust as a mediator in the association between racial microaggressions and attitudes toward seeking professional help. Asian American participants (N = 156) were recruited from 2 institutions located in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Participants filled out an online survey consisting of measures assessing the study variables. Bootstrapped results indicated that cultural mistrust was a significant mediator in the relation between microaggressions and well-being, such that racial microaggressions was significantly and positively associated with cultural mistrust, which, in turn, was significantly and inversely related to well-being. Mediation models involving anxiety, depression, and help-seeking attitudes as outcome variables were nonsignificant. The significant mediation finding (microaggressions → mistrust → well-being) has implications for improved understanding of Asian American students’ reactions to modern day racism and how it relates to their sense of well-being.
Kim, P. Y., Kendall, D. L., & Cheon, H.-S. (2017). Racial microaggressions, cultural mistrust, and mental health outcomes among Asian American college students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 87(6), 663–670.
Everyday racial discrimination (ERD) is linked to pronounced depressive symptomatology among African American men. Yet, many African American men do not experience depressive symptoms following ERD exposure often because they use positive coping strategies that offset its effects. Granting forgiveness is 1 coping strategy associated with less depression. However, extant findings about the mental health benefits of forgiveness are somewhat mixed and pay scarce attention to offenses which are fleeting, historically rooted, and committed outside of close personal relationships. Evidence further suggest age-related differences in forgiveness, ERD exposure, and depressive symptoms. We explore the extent to which 3 strategies of granting forgiveness of ERD—letting go of negative emotion (negative release), embracing positive emotion (positive embrace), or combining both (combined)—are associated with less depressive symptomatology in 674 African American men (ages 18 through 79). Building on past findings, we also test whether these forgiveness strategies moderate the ERD-depressive symptoms relationship for men in different age groups (18 through 25, 26 through 39, and 40). Higher combined and negative release forgiveness were directly related to lower depressive symptoms among 18 through 25 year olds. We also detected a less pronounced positive relationship between ERD and depressive symptoms among men reporting high levels of combined (18 through 25 and 26 through 39 groups) and negative release (26 through 39 and 40+ groups) forgiveness. We observed a more pronounced positive ERD-depressive symptoms relationship among 18 through 25 and 26 through 39 year olds reporting lower forgiveness. When faced with frequent ERD, younger African American men may have the most difficult time burying hatchets without marking their location but experience more positive mental health benefits when they do.
Powell, W., Banks, K. H., & Mattis, J. S. (2017). Buried hatchets, marked locations: Forgiveness, everyday racial discrimination, and African American men’s depressive symptomatology. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 87(6), 646–662.
Multiracial people are often lauded as evidence of the waning significance of race and racism in the United States. In reality, the experiences of multiracial people illuminate the ways that racism still exists and efforts to classify people based on assumed racial characteristics for the purposes of inclusion and exclusion are alive and well. Multiracial individuals experience racism from multiple sources and in various forms, which has the potential to negatively impact their development and well-being. Thus, scholars and practitioners must better understand how the growing population of multiracial individuals learns to cope with such racism. The central aim of this qualitative interview study was to shed light on the ways in which multiracial individuals of African descent in the United States cope with and respond to racism. Findings are organized around 5 broad conceptual themes for coping with and addressing racism: avoidance and internalization, anger and violence, education and advocacy, seeking culture and community, and chameleon identities. Findings of this study speak to the dynamic nature of strategies used to cope with racism and hold implications for practices and programs designed to support positive racial identity development among multiracial individuals of African descent.
Snyder, C. R. (2016). Navigating in murky waters: How multiracial Black individuals cope with racism. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 86(3), 265–276.
Several studies investigating the health effects of racism have reported gender and socioeconomic differences in exposures to racism, with women typically reporting lower frequencies, and individuals with greater resources reporting higher frequencies. This study used diverse measures of socioeconomic position and multiple measures and methods to assess experienced racism. Socioeconomic position included education and financial and employment status. Quantitative racism measures assessed individual experiences with day-to-day and with major lifetime incidents and perceptions of the extent to which African Americans as a group experience racism. A brief qualitative question asked respondents to describe a racist incident that stood out in recent memory. Participants comprised a probability sample of N = 144 African American adults aged 19 to 87 residing in New York City. Results suggested that women reported fewer lifetime incidents but did not differ from men on everyday racism. These differences appear to be partly because of scale content. Socioeconomic position as measured by years of education was positively associated with reported racism in the total sample but differently patterned across gender; subjective social status showed a negative association. Qualitative responses describing memorable incidents fell into 5 key categories: resources/opportunity structures, criminal profiling, racial aggression/assault, interpersonal incivilities, and stereotyping. In these narratives, men were more likely to offer accounts involving criminal profiling, and women encountered incivilities more often. The findings highlight the need for closer attention to the intersection of gender and socioeconomic factors in investigations of the health effects of racism.
Kwate, N. O. A., & Goodman, M. S. (2015). Racism at the intersections: Gender and socioeconomic differences in the experience of racism among African Americans. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 85(5), 397–408.
Efforts in the field of multicultural education for the health professions have focused on increasing trainees’ knowledge base and awareness of other cultures, and on teaching technical communication skills in cross-cultural encounters. Yet to be adequately addressed in training are profound issues of racial bias and the often awkward challenge of cross-racial dialogue, both of which likely play some part in well-documented racial disparities in health care encounters. We seek to establish the need for the skill of dialoguing explicitly with patients, colleagues, and others about race and racism and its implications for patient well-being, for clinical practice, and for the ongoing personal and professional development of health care professionals. We present evidence establishing the need to go beyond training in interview skills that efficiently “extract” relevant cultural and clinical information from patients. This evidence includes concepts from social psychology that include implicit bias, explicit bias, and aversive racism. Aiming to connect the dots of diverse literatures, we believe health professions educators and institutional leaders can play a pivotal role in reducing racial disparities in health care encounters by actively promoting, nurturing, and participating in this dialogue, modeling its value as an indispensable skill and institutional priority.
Murray-García, J. L., Harrell, S., García, J. A., Gizzi, E., & Simms-Mackey, P. (2014). Dialogue as skill: Training a health professions workforce that can talk about race and racism. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84(5), 590–596.