Does Racism Make Black People Sick?

April 11, 2011 ‐ By TheEditor

"Charing Ball"Most black folks are aware of the negative effects racism can have on one’s life. Systematic racial discrimination can, among other things, determine which job opportunities are offered to you, which neighborhood you can live in, and even the how often police will stop you. But now new emerging research suggest that racial discrimination has dangerous health side effects.

According to research from Penn State University, chronic exposure to racial discrimination is comparable to the constant pressure soldiers face on the battlefield. Just as soldiers experience debilitating stress when they return home, so do African-Americans when they face racism, causing what researchers have termed race-based battle fatigue.

The researchers, who reported their findings in the current issue of the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, surveyed nearly 6,000 African-Americans for the study. The findings suggest that more than 40 percent of American blacks have experienced some form of racial discrimination. Therefore, approximately 4.5 percent of blacks suffer from general anxiety disorder, or GAD.

The idea of an anxiety disorder related to race is not new. A previous study concluded that fifth-graders, who felt they were being mistreated because of their skin color, would have a greater chance of developing mental disorders. A group of Harvard researchers documented that a mere 1 percent increase in incidences of racial disrespect translates to an increase in 350 deaths per 100,000 African Americans.

The term race-based battle fatigue was actually coined by University of Utah professor, William A. Smith, to describe the stress and angst caused by constantly dealing with both overtly racist actions and subtle references to one’s race. While blacks have long suspected that racial stereotypes and negative images are denigrating to an individuals’ self-worth, this research, among others, has finally drawn a correlation between these persistent stressors and overall mental health.

Anxiety disorders have psychological and physical symptoms that are so severe that they can significantly impact everyday tasks and job performance. People with the disorder may have chronic worrying, intrusive thoughts and difficulty concentrating. Physical symptoms may manifest into tension headaches, extreme fatigue and ulcers.

Compare that with the feelings you get when thinking about a time in your life when you were stereotyped and marginalized based on your race. Remember how spiritually draining it was not to retaliate in the same visceral vein as the offender or offending institution? You probably can’t describe the story without a feeling of frustration, shock, anger, disappointment, resentment, anxiety, helplessness, and/or fear.

Black folks and other marginalized minorities have developed many ways to cope, deal and/or adapt to racial discrimination.  Some of us fight while others seek to ignore or transfer our anger onto others. But, there are some of us who are unable to cope. Take for instance Omar Thornton, a black beer delivery guy who shot at five white folks at the Hartford Distributors, his place of employment. His family has long asserted that Thornton was never a violent person; however, when faced with a steady stream of prejudice and intolerance, he was pushed to his breaking point.

Unfortunately, the only true solution to race-based battle fatigue or race-based anxiety disorder comes from the full representation of minority groups at all levels of society. Until then, blacks in this country will continue to be mentally and emotionally assaulted as a result of racial discrimination.

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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  • J_upholstery

    This is a very true statement however in “America” discrimination is never prosecuted we hoped that the obamA administration would at the least comment about it!

  • Ded

    I live in uk and faced so much racism in the legal sector while trying to become a lawyer that I think I have had a breakdown. I now work in insurance and the racism is less but still there.

    they dont blacks as long ad you now down and take it bur if u stand up they want to label u ad aggressive , I will never bow down and will always fight back as long ad I breathe.

  • ThisArticleisPoop

    I don't like your conclusion. Omar Thornton is a cold blooded killer. His girlfriend and he himself are the only ones claiming there was racism at his work place. It is unfounded that Omar Thornton was subject to prejudice at his job. His union rep (who he shot) had no reports of it, and furthermore there is no report of it in the police report. Also, "Hartford Distributors president Ross Hollander said there was no record to support claims of "racial insensitivity" made through the internal anti-harassment policy, the union grievance process or state or federal agencies." He started his shooting spree after being caught on video stealing from the company. Omar Thornton was the racist. Get informed.

  • Black taxed

    I have a husband that has faced racism at his company for 6 years. He waspassed over for promotions and although he applied for numerous positions in the company; he was always told one excuse after another. This occured over a period of time during the recession where it would not have been smart to leave the company that he was at. My husband has a BS degree and has taken units towards his MBA where his white counterparts did not have a degree at all. He is a hard worker, works through lunches and breaks, everyday because he is unable to eat at work because his stress level is through the roof and has caused him digestive problems and headaches. His health has difinitely declined will working there. He is on edge and at the point where he could snap. The only thing that has kept him from snapping is our children. It is so sad that he had so much faith in the company that he would eventually be recognized and rewarded for his hard work. Now, everyone knows him at the company as one that is being dogged out because of racism.

  • dede90028

    This is well written and It should be made into a book… We talk about the same thing in my group…
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Black_Singles_Roman

    De De Tillman
    Actress/ Scriptwriter/ Celebrity Blogger

  • califemme23

    Blacks wouldn't experience such issues if they come to terms with the FACT that there is racism, alive and well, and it aint going no where anytime soon. Blacks are soooooooooooo in love with whites, that just knowing how they 'treat' us just makes us sick….

    Turn those beasts aloose already black folks….They have long done the same to us….

  • Jayvon

    Racism is old I time for people to grow up. I personally believe that African Americans are one of the most racist people out there its like we want revenge or something. Sometimes I myself feel like I am a lil racist but I remind myself that its 2011 and its time to move on and let go of the past. I don't believe that one group of people is more superior than the other whether your black, white, latino, asia, green blue or yellow. We are all one whether we like it or not the sooner that everyone see that the sooner the world will be for all of us and our kids. Think about tomorrow people…… Love your neighbor as you love yourself Mattew 12:31

  • motortongue

    The only reason why someone would want to hurt another person because of their race or the color of their skin is because they are hurt themself. Just so they can feel better they got to try to put someone else down but when they wake up in the morning and look in the mirror…there is that ugly them again lol so me??? I don't see myself getting sick because of people that think they are god, they are NOT GOD!!!. STEVIE WONDER " THIS WORLD WAS MADE FOR ALL MAN" WHITE MAN IS NOT GOD!!! IF THE FOOL WAS GOD THE WORLD TRADE CENTER WOULD STILL BE STANDING

  • kali

    good article however there are no laws to really protect us.

  • AWY

    THE WORST PART OF IT IS THAT THE GOVERNMENT SEEM TO NEGLECT THESE NEGATIVE EFFECT AND COME UP WITH SOMETHING. THE LAW I THINK SHOULD BE TIGHTEN TO ERADICATE THIS, THEY SEEM TO BE VERY COOL WITH IT. AFTER ALL,GOVERNMENT IS WHITE. THE MOMENT I AM DONE WITH MY STUDIES HERE, AFRICA HERE I COME. AMERICA SHOULD REMAIN IGNORANT AND RACIST FOR ALL MY LOVELY AFRICA CARE. THEY CARELESS IF A BAD MAN DIES, THEY CARELESS IF BLACKS SUFFERS, THEY LEAVE BLACKS AT THE SLUMS, BUT WHEN A WHITE PERSON SUFFERS, THEY ACT. I AM NOT READY TO STRUGGLE ALL MY LIFE. LIFE SHOULD BE LIVED WITH A WORTH AND NOT STRUGGLING TO DEATH. HELL NOPE! GOD SEEMS NOT TO BE JUDGING THEM CONSIDERING THE CHALLENGES FACED BY BLACKS IN AMERICA. THEY PREACH IGNORANCE EVERYDAY, THEY PREACH MORALS, THEY PREACH LIVING THE RIGHT WAY,YET THEY ARE NEGLECT THE ISSUES AND EFFECTS OF RACISM. TRUST ME, THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT.

  • Peno

    I dont know why white folks are mad. If black folks ruled this country, there wouldnt be any racism except the mumbles of whites who will hate us anyway, but we blacks dont give a damn about a persons skin color and if we do its because of this racist ass world we live in. Everybody would eat if we were eating, its not in our nature to be racist

  • Artra

    This article does not surprise me. Hatred makes people sick, and racism is an extension of hatred. I can see how anybody that faces discrimination can suffer from anxiety disorders, not to mention stress. They say that sticks and stones may break my bones but words would never hurt… You get the picture. Words hurt. Being looked over for a job, being looked over for a promotion, your neighbors suddenly moving out of the neighborhood when you move in, or being passed over for a loan because you're black are stressful things. I have been in a couple of situations where whites kept their position and I had to move on from my position. That was a stressful thing for me and I still don't think I'm over either situation. It made me bitter, angry, and not feel too good about certain people of the caucasian persuasion. I'm sure if they have experienced discrimination, they feel the same way. But you move on and do what you have to do despite anybody's ignorance.

  • 7lady

    Hell this site and plenty others have made me feel some kinda way. I don’t wanna say depressed or anything like that but now I look at some black men and think could he be one of those bloggers that hate black women. The words are so harsh and to know it’s coming from your OWN. I mean I kno I’m not none of the things they’re saying but just lumping all blackwomen together hurts. And vice versa when some of the BW come and say bad things about black men. It’s like what the hell don’t you have a black son or may have one one day.

  • NoticedTypo

    This research is not from the University of Pennsylvania, as it states above; it is from Pennsylvania State University – see the website linked in this very article. These are two different schools…

  • marissa

    As i've gotten older I don't get offended because ignorance doesn't discriminate

  • ck773

    I was very sheltered growing up & was raised around many different races so I like everybody except ignorant people. Ever since I started working everything was fine everybody love me until this 3yr & its starting to show that these people that have been coming are prejudice (usually always the men). I most of the time ignore them but its starting to build up & make me question in my mind about some things. Several things happened to me in that town! a white man tried to fight me at the gas station as I pumped gas for having my music playing it wasn't,Another white man tried to fight me at work he all of a sudden said I was talking Sh*t when all I did was ring him up,this other white guy tried to accuse me of playing with myself! seriously he had to be on drugs the way he was acting & today this old white man keeps saying rude things to me at work & im starting to get annoyed by it he says "you're working slow, taking it easy or watever you're doing when im working at the same as everyone.Im already a depressed person but I deal with it well but it is building up. Its sad that people go out acting like that & its not only white people.

  • Dilla

    This is a very insightful article. So many people are unaware that the symptoms they experience stem from this very disorder. I’m glad to hear that this was even researched.

  • Juliemango

    Its sad that some american blacks allow racism to have such importance. Yes it exists but it shouldnt cause such stress n anxiety, it should be the least of all worries in spite of its history in america. What i observe is that an ambitious black american cant be stopped!!!

    • Christina

      That is so true! Just look at all of the Africans that come here and do outstanding! They do not allow supremacy or racism to hold them down. They rise above all the odds. Black Americans are just too caught up in the latest trends and what others think about them as opposed to doing what is right and beating the odds!

  • COLORED BOY

    I’m with Pocahontas. The thing is I dare not succumb to the perpetuation of the evil Europeans. Improvise and move on.

  • theBlackPocahontas

    apparently not sick enough because we always find a way to call the obvious everything BUT racism.

    • coldt7

      Good point!!!

  • I personally believe that Black people suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and because of our daily workings and interaction within American culture, are never given time to recuperate. Think of the most recent study done with the Black children and the pale vs. dark dolls. It takes a certain strength of character and intellectual capacity to be Black in America and not retain and internalize all the Eurocentric ideologies that have been perpetuated century after century. Just my humble opinion.

  • HAROLD

    A GOOD DEFENSE AND LEGAL MECHANISM.