Chapter 5: The effects, types, forms, frequency and results of racism


The Effects of Racism

Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: How does it feel to be a problem? (W. E. B. Du Bois).

 Racism has been defined as:

“Racial prejudice that has been incorporated into the activities and procedures of major institutions, corporations, social systems (such as those related to housing, education, and health), and other arenas of major social activity (such as politics, the media, finance, and banking)” (OEMA, 2007).

Racism serves “both to discriminate against ethnic minorities and to maintain advantages and benefits for White Americans” (ibid.). It contains the essential tension of not-so-egalitarian applied presences of the historically different races, with races derived from Northern Europe being considered civilized, whereas all other races are considered inferior (Jones, 1997).

Race and ethnicity. Race is defined as a “human group . . . [aggregated] by virtue of innate or immutable characteristics” (van den Berghe, 1967). Ethnicity is defined as a social group aggregated through cultural criteria and customs. Race as a construct tends to contain within it long-standing connotations of nativism,[1] despite having been debunked in an overwhelming manner in favor of the variable of race as a sociopolitical construct (HGMIS-ORNL, 2003; OMB, 1995, 1997; Shih, Bonam, Sanchez, & Peck, 2007; Smedley & Smedley, 2005; Sternberg, Grigorenko, & Kidd, 2005).

Carter (2007) defined racism as “a complex set of rational and logical beliefs and attitudes that serve to justify the superiority of the dominant racial group, while deemphasizing its systemic characteristics and sociohistorical context.” Jones (1997) defined racism as building “on the negative-attitude view of prejudice” and incorporating:

  1. The purported biological bases of group characteristics;
  2. The assumed superiority of one’s own race (ethnocentrism); and
  3. The rationalization of “institutional and cultural practices that formalize the hierarchical domination of one racial group over another” ().

According to Jones, racism has five basic elements as follows:

  1. Beliefs about racial superiority and inferiority;
  2. Ethnocentrism, with the concurrent rejection of customs, ideas, peoples, and practices divergent from the ethnocentric norm;
  3. Conferral of privilege through a racially-based and dominant-cultural national system;
  4. Personal and collective thoughts, feelings, and behaviors emanating from various cultural-institutional social structures that support racism; and
  5. The systematic attempt to prove the rationality of applied policies and practices based on racial differences.

Types of Racism

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality (Martin Luther King, jr.).

Primary types of racism. Three primary types of racism have been identified (Jones, 1997), with multiple manifest correlates. These types are individual racism, institutional racism, and cultural racism. Individual racism is interpersonal and occurs between two or more human persons at the local level. Institutional racism is systemic and occurs at group levels of interaction. Cultural racism is structural and mediated through the intersection of individual and institutional racism.

Examples of individual racism include personal overt and/or covert expressions of racial prejudice toward the other through stereotyping and/or denial because of race. Examples of institutional racism comprise ongoing workplace harassment and/or discrimination against racial and ethnic minority workers. Examples of cultural racism include the color-blindness of institutional theories, laws, and policies underlying many US practices, but which are based on an implicit androcentric, ethnocentric, White-Eurocentric norm.

Individual, institutional, and cultural racism. Individual racism occurs at the micro-level of society, often in the most immediate network of the human person. This includes family, friends, neighbors, classmates, teachers, and work colleagues. Examples of individual racism include interpersonal racial discrimination, put-downs, slights, slurs, and hate crimes (Sue, 2005; Sue et al., 2007a, b).

Institutional racism occurs at the meso-level and the exo-level of society. The meso-level is composed of the larger community in which the human person is situated (e.g., neighborhood, local region). The exo-level is composed of the larger society in which the larger community is nested (e.g., agencies, corporations, institutions, mass media, regions). At both the meso-level and the exo-level, institutional racism is manifest through individually-mediated leadership and standards of practice. Examples include de facto segregation (e.g., in churches, schools, housing), healthcare disparities, distorted or revisionist educational curricula, and racial profiling (Sue, 2005).

Cultural racism occurs in theory at the macro-level. In practice, it permeates and is manifest from the micro-level to the macro-levels of society through individual-individual interactions, individual-group or group-group interactions, and individual-institutional, group-institutional, or institutional-institutional interactions. The macro-level is composed of the national beliefs, cultures, customs, laws, and values in which the micro-level, the meso-level, and the exo-level are situated. Hence cultural racism comprises intergenerational, formative, and summative ideologies (Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2005a) that manifest “the individual and institutional expression of the superiority of one group’s cultural heritage over another” (Sue, 2005). It also facilitates the privileges of ethnocentrism and monocultural hegemony (Sue, Bingham, Porche-Burke, & Vasquez, 1999). Examples of cultural racism include the belief that the theories and practices of the dominant culture are superior to those of other groups, or the belief that blond hair-blue eyes phenotypes are more desirable than black hair-brown eyes.

Forms of Racism

 Racism is man’s gravest threat to a man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason (Abraham Joshua Heschel).

Racism is manifest in two forms: dominant and aversive (Dovidio, 2001; Dovidio & Gaertner, 1996, 1998, 2000). The dominant form of racism consists of overt, blatant, deliberate, direct, and conscious bias that is expressed by individuals who tend to ascribe to strong-to-very-strong conservative or neoconservative political views (ibid., Dovidio, Kawakami, & Gaertner, 2002). These views include the idealization of adherence to the ‘traditional American’ values of autonomy, independence, individualism, and the Protestant work ethic that arose from Calvinism. Aversive racism consists of covert, subtle, indirect, spontaneous, unconscious, or preconscious (Constantine, 2007; Greenwald & Banaji, 1995) biases that are expressed by individuals who tend to ascribe to strong-to-very strong egalitarian, liberal or neo-liberal views, and who perceive themselves to be fair (Dovidio, 2001; Dovidio & Gaertner, 1996, 1998, 2000; Dovidio, Kawakami, & Gaertner, 2002). At the unconscious or preconscious levels, however, these individuals often hold anti-minority sentiments (Constantine, 2007; Sue et al., 2007a, b). Dominant and aversive racism can be expressed in a verbal manner, a non-verbal manner, or a combination of both.

Dominant and aversive racism. In dominant and aversive racism, negative racial cognitions and feelings are involved toward the human members of groups that are considered ‘other’ (DeVos & Banaji, 2005; Dovidio, 2001; Dovidio & Gaertner, 1996, 1998, 2000). In dominant racism, the feelings are congruent and owned in a brazen manner. They are also adhered to and expressed without reservation. In aversive racism, the feelings are rationalized, compartmentalized, denied, dissociated, and repressed (Abelson, Dasgupta, Park, & Banaji, 1998). These processes occur even when there is the conscious and verbal espousal of egalitarian, fair, and sympathetic racial attitudes toward minorities as the strong anti-minority feelings just emerge in facilitative contexts (Sue et al., 2007a, b).

Dominant racism is often manifest as blatant discrimination with a clear intent to harm the other, both as a human person and as a group. Aversive racism is often manifest as subtle-to-very subtle discrimination or harassment that emerges in facilitative situations (Carter, 2007; Durrheim & Dixon, 2004; Sue et al., 2007a, b). Situations that can be considered facilitative include those whereby perpetrators can manifest racist behaviors, while denying the same behaviors with ease based on non-racial factors. The presence of aversive racism is ascertained through its function and outcome on the minority human persons themselves, rather than from the perpetrator/s intent to harm (Sue, 2005).

Examples of dominant racism include “the type who acts out bigoted beliefs . . . [with] the open flame of race hatred” (Kovel, 1970). De jure racism is part of dominant racism. Examples of aversive racism include “the type who believes in White race superiority . . . but does nothing overt about it” (ibid.). De facto racism is part of aversive racism.

Dominant racism used to be considered the older form of racism (Dovidio, 2001; Dovidio & Gaertner, 1996, 1998, 2000). It is characterized by attitudes and behaviors predominant from 1767 to the mid-1960s. However, this no longer holds true today, since it has reappeared. Aversive racism is considered the modern form of racism and is characterized by attitudes and behaviors predominant from the mid-1960s onward.

Frequency of Racism

 Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human. It is a self-centered falsehood that corrupts our minds into believing we are right to treat others as we would not want to be treated (Alveda King).

 Essed (1991) maintained that racism tends to occur every single day in the lives of racial and ethnic minorities. Terming it “everyday racism,” she defined it as “a process in which socialized racist notions are integrated into meanings that make practices immediately definable and manageable . . . familiar and repetitive . . . race relations are actualized and reinforced through these routine practices in everyday situations” (ibid.). Thus, everyday racism constitutes the hassles that tend to result in summative negative effects on racial and ethnic minorities; in other words, racial microaggressions (Pierce, 1974; Sue et al., 2007a, b).

Everyday racism is internalized by its targets and can become structural at the characterological level (Clark & Clark, 1939a, b; 1940). This happens when racism is a long-standing “process, a condition, a relationship that violates its victims physically, socially, spiritually, materially, and psychologically” (Speight, 2007). Internalized racism results in unmeasurable exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, systemic violence, hegemonic cultural racism (ibid.; Young, 1990), and the shame of being chronically shamed (Watts-Jones, 2002). It leaves its targets to deal with the self-colonizing, self-fulfilling, and self-sustaining persecutory objects that result inside and outside the minority human persons. In addition, internalized racism can turn into an energy-sapping double consciousness as ongoing defense (Du Bois, 1903/2005; Thompson & Neville, 1999).

Taxonomy of Racial Aggressions

 An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi).

Racial microaggressions are defined as “sources of stress in the form of daily slights and insults directed at someone because of his or her race” (Carter, 2007). Bryant-Davis and Ocampo (2005a) considered racial microaggressions to be assaults that “strike at the core of one’s selfhood.” Sue et al. (2007a, b) called them “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group.” Racial microaggressions can be interpersonal, environmental, or both.

Three forms of racial microaggressions have been identified (Sue et al., 2007a, b): microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations. A microassault is an “explicit racial derogation . . . a verbal or nonverbal attack meant to hurt the intended victim through name-calling, avoidant behavior, or purposeful discriminatory actions” (ibid.). A microinsult consists of “communications that convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person’s racial heritage or identity . . . subtle snubs, frequently unknown to the perpetrator, but clearly convey[ing] . . a hidden insulting message to the recipient of color” (ibid.). A microinvalidation consists of “communications that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of a person of color” (ibid.).

Racial microassaults, racial microinsults, and racial microinvalidations. Examples of racial microassaults include serving Whites in a preferential manner over racial and ethnic minorities in the service industries, race-based hate crimes, racial epithets, and stereotyping minorities. Racial microassaults are characteristic of dominant/overt racism; they are conscious and deliberate. Microassaults tend to be carried out when the perpetrators are able to retain some degree of anonymity, because the behaviors are illegal.

Examples of racial microinsults include avoiding eye contact with racial and ethnic minorities, denying the importance of race as a factor in various workplace practices, implying that minority employees or students have been accepted into work or school due to affirmative action rather than merit, as well as rudeness. Other examples include ascribing criminal status or nativist intelligence perspectives to minorities, treating them as second class citizens, and pathologizing non-Eurocentric ways of being and talking. Racial microinsults are characteristic of aversive/covert racism; they are carried out in an unconscious or preconscious manner, and are not necessarily deliberate.

Examples of racial microinvalidations include denying the everyday racialized experiences of racial and ethnic minorities, stating that “everyone belongs to the human race” (Helms, 1992), and first perpetrating a microinsult and then denying it when confronted about it. Other examples include maintaining psychological color-blindness, believing that individuals get ahead in life based just on merit, and treating minorities as foreigners in their own homeland. Racial microinvalidations are indicative of aversive/covert racism.

Racial microinsults and invalidations are often invisible to their perpetrators and carried out when contexts permit their facile deniability for other reasons (Sue et al., 2007a, b). Racial and ethnic minority recipients of such aggressions end up feeling attacked, disrespected, or even that something is not quite right. When confronting the perpetrators of racial microinsults and invalidations, minorities tend to be accused of being overly emotional, overreactive, petty, or sensitive. Deniability of such aggressions results in secondary microinsults and invalidations for minority recipients, with significant negative cumulative effects (Chakraborty & McKenzie, 2002; Clark, Anderson, Clark, & Williams, 1999; Solorzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000; Steele, Spencer, & Aronson, 2002; Sue, 2003).

 The Results of Racism

 Apathy is not compatible with love (Simon Tam).

Racism results in multiple interactive, negative, physical and psychological effects on its racial and ethnic minority targets (Carter, 2007; Thompson & Neville, 1999). Sue (2005) described racism as “one of the most harmful and toxic forces” that operates both from and on human persons due to its summative ethical, legal, mental, physical, and societal effects. Some have considered racism to devour the soul. Cose (1993) maintained that it results in a ‘dozen demons’ including burnout, “exclusion from the club,” fatigue, the inability to fit in, low self-other expectations, the need for deceit, pigeonholing, racial identity issues, self-silencing, shattered hopes, and stereotype threats.

Physical and psychological effects. The physical and psychological effects of racism result in a whole list of negative effects. These effects include, but are not limited to:

  1. alienation from others similar to the perpetrators;
  2. anger, rage, and/or assaults on the sense of self;
  3. avoidance of situations that before had been neutral;
  4. bewilderment, chronic anxiety, and energy loss;
  5. combined expectancy and shock;
  6. confusion and decreased mastery;
  7. denial, disbelief, and distrust;
  8. depression;
  9. double or false consciousness;
  10. emotional abuse;
  11. extreme emotional distress;
  12. fear, helplessness, hopelessness, and powerlessness;
  13. greater heart disease risk, high blood pressure, and hypertension;
  14. grief and sorrow;
  15. hypersensitivity to previously neutral stimuli and hypervigilance;
  16. loss of internal integrity and coherence;
  17. lower self-worth;
  18. increased cardiovascular activation;
  19. increased prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder and intrusive thoughts;
  20. lower quality of life;
  21. memory and recall difficulties;
  22. new-onset physical and emotional vulnerabilities;
  23. race-based traumatic stress;
  24. risk factors for trauma;
  25. self-blame, self-hatred, and self-silencing;
  26. shame;
  27. somatization;
  28. suicidality and para-suicidality;
  29. survivor guilt;

in addition to primary and secondary traumas (Abdullah, 1998; Allen, 1996; Brondolo, Rieppi, Kelly, & Gerin, 2003; Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2005a, 2005b; Bulhan, 1985; Brown & Gary, 1988; Butts, 2002; Carter, 2007; Carter, Forsyth, Mazzula, & Williams, 2005; Clark, Anderson, Clark, & Williams, 1999; Comas-Diaz & Jacobsen, 2001; Daniel, 2000; Din-Dzietham, Nembhard, Collins, & Davis, 2004; Epstein, 2003; Jackson et al., 1996; Harrell, 2000; Klonoff & Landrine, 1999; Krieger & Sidney, 1996; Landrine & Klonoff, 1996; Loo et al., 2001; Lupien, King, Meaney, & McEwen, 2001; Morris-Prather et al., 1996; Neighbors & Williams, 2001; Norris, 1990; Poussaint & Alexander, 2000; Romero & Roberts, 2003; Rutter, 1993; Sanchez-Hughes, 1998; Sanders-Thompson, 1996; Scurfield & Mackay, 2001; Spangenberg & Pieterse, 1995; Sue et al., 2007; Taylor & Turner, 2002; Thompson & Neville, 1999; Thompson-Miller & Feagin, 2007; Utsey, 1999; Utsey, Chae, Brown, & Kelly, 2002; Utsey & Ellison, 2000; Utsey & Payne, 2000; Utsey & Ponterotto, 1996; Villena-Mata, 2002; Woodard, 2001).

Aversive racism affects racial and ethnic minorities in a more significant way than dominant racism, because of its generalized invisibility and unawareness about it in the majority population (Solorzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000). Such invisibility and unawareness create a psychological double-bind that at first stuns the recipient of aversive racism, then saps their psychological and spiritual energies (Franklin, 2004). Sue et al. (2007a, b) have likened aversive racism to carbon monoxide in terms of its invisibility and lethality. In the meantime, the invisibility and unawareness prevalent in relation to aversive racism prolongs the inability to heal of the human person, resulting in secondary re-injury due to an ongoing lack of recognition and validation (Bryant-Davis, 2007). The impact of aversive racism on minority targets varies according to severity and frequency (Essed, 1991; Sue et al., 2007a, b).

The physical and psychological effects of racism are mediated by the individual difference variables of psychological racial identities and racial ego statuses (Roysircar et al., 2003). These variables are multiple and iterative throughout the lifespan. Other status variables include ability, age, class, gender, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and spirituality. They too mediate the physical and psychological effects of racism according to their saliences in interaction with the racial identities and ego statuses of human persons.

Racism in its individual form can change physical functioning in a significant way (Harrell, Hall, & Taliaferro, 2003). Both physical and psychological effects of racism tend to be long-lasting for minorities, with some intergenerational effects and differential impacts for aversive racial discrimination, as well as aversive racial harassment (Carter et al., 2005; Thompson-Miller & Feagin, 2007).

Secondary types of racism. Three secondary types of racism have also been identified: racial discrimination, racial harassment, and racial discriminatory harassment (Carter, 2007).

Racial discrimination, racial harassment, and racial discriminatory harassment. Racial discrimination is characterized by avoidance. It is defined as “behaviors, thoughts, policies, and strategies that have the intended or accidental purpose, or effect, of maintaining distance or minimizing contact between dominant racial group and non-dominant racial group members” (ibid.).

Racial harassment is characterized by hostility. It is defined as “feelings, thoughts, actions, strategies, behaviors and policies . . . intended to communicate or make salient the target’s subordinate or inferior status because of his or her membership in a non-dominant racial group” (ibid.). Carter et al. (2005) found that minorities who experienced both racial discrimination and harassment were more likely to manifest psychological distress and injury.

Racial discriminatory harassment is characterized by both avoidance and hostility (Carter, 2007). It is defined as “thoughts, behaviors, actions, feelings, or policies and procedures that have strong hostile elements intended to create distance among racial group members after a person of color has gained entry into an environment from which he or she was once excluded” (ibid.).

A common example of racial discrimination is driving while colored (microassault or microinsult). Examples of racial harassment are being ignored for a White person when flagging down a taxicab (microassault) or the quid pro quo practice of being pressured to remain silent about workplace racism in order to maintain one’s job. An example of racial discriminatory harassment is being passed over many times for a workplace promotion, despite solid job performance and evaluations (microassault, microinsult, or microinvalidation, depending on context).

The Multidimensional Effects of Racism

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere (Martin Luther King, jr.). 

Ethical and legal effects. Some ethical effects of racism include violating the codes, ethics, and policies of professional bodies; various state licensing boards, and federal agencies. Some legal effects of racism include violating the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (102 Stat. 904) and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 (78 Stat. 241) and 1991 (P. L. 102-166).

Financial, social, political effects. Among the financial, social, and political effects of racism are denial, dismissal, glass barriers and ceilings; judging the targeted human person with harshness, isolating, labeling, and lack of safety. There is also the practice of less-than-desirable quality of sales, less-than-desirable financial conditions, adverse hiring practices and living situations, less-than-desirable loans and services. All these result in the targeted person bearing the burden of proof in addition to minimizations, race-neutral laws, silencing, and victim-blaming (Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2005a; Clark, Anderson, Clark, & Williams, 1999; Feagin & Sikes, 1994; Figueroa & Garcia, 2006; Thompson & Neville, 1999; Stevenson, Reed, Bodison, & Bishop, 1997; Williams & Williams-Morris, 2000). Racism – in particular, the aversive form of racism – has been compared to domestic violence in its effects (Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2005a), barring the honeymoon and repentance stages.

Perpetrator effects. Racism injures not just its targets, but also its perpetrators (Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2005a; Sue, 2003, 2004, 2005). Included in, but not limited to, its effects on the perpetrators of racism are the abuse of others, anxiety, blaming; cognitive, affective, and moral disengagement; delusions of grandeur, denial of responsibility, diagnoses, dismissal, dysfunctional cognitive distortions, economic control and exploitation, entitlement, externalization of blame, fear, intimidation; isolation of others, manipulatory finesse, minimization, and self-reinforcement (Bandura, 2002; Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2005a, 2005b; Carter & Helms, 2002; Jones, 1997; Sanchez-Huches, 1998; Sue, 2003, 2004, 2005; Thompson & Neville, 1999).

[1] The heritable biological-genetic markings of different human groups.