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Racism Threatens Health of Black Men

By on April 24, 2011

Seven in ten Americans cite money as their most significant source of stress. The American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2009 Stress in America survey found that 71% of Americans cited money as their leading source of stress.  

But people handle stress differently. And money is not always the number one stressor for black males. Racial-related stressors are also different for various racial and ethnic groups. In fact, black men who have the lowest life expectancy of 69 years, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  study face an endemic level of stress related to racism, racial injustice, and subsequent stigmatization.

Racial victimization is a major unpsoken stressor. Too little research is available. But consider the prolific movie, “Crash,” an African-American man, played by Terrence Howard, chokes back his rage as he watches a bigoted police officer take unwanted liberties with his wife during a bogus traffic stop. NCCU law professor Irv Joyner says the scene is not just in the movies – – it’s real.

“It’s very real, and it adds to the stress that black men experience on a regular basis,” he said. “Because every black man knows, but for the grace of God, that could happen to them at any time.”

In fact, there is a distinct interconnectivity of psychological and physical health and the negative effects of racism. The persistent experience of racism-related psychological distress can result in psychosomatization and an increased potential for serious physiological health problems (Clark, et al., 1999, Harrell, 2000).  Basically, black men exposed to interpersonal and societal  racism and its hostile effects can suffer from anxiety, fear, paranoia, and a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.  

Coping strategies for racism can be adopted but the golden rule approach to addressing any cancer is to remove it versus starting a treatment regimen. The endemic nature of racism in American society means that young black boys must be taught how to survive potentially hostile situations in ways their white counterparts will never likely face.

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