Ignoring racism makes distress worse, study finds

April 6, 2010 by Elaine Bible
A 1930s photograph of a hotel entrance with a sign reading “Positively no Filipinos allowed.” This blatant racism stands in contrast to the subtle 'everyday racism' that Professor Alvin Alvarez has found still exists today.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Subtle forms of racism are part of the fabric of life, according to Professor of Counseling Alvin Alvarez, but the way people choose to cope with racist incidents can influence how much distress they feel.

Alvarez' latest study, published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, found that denying or ignoring racial discrimination leads to greater psychological distress, including and , and lowers self-esteem.

"We found that some coping methods are healthier than others for dealing with everyday ," Alvarez said. "When people deny or trivialize racist encounters, they can actually make themselves feel worse, amplifying the distress caused by the incident."

The study focused on what is referred to as 'everyday racism' -- subtle, commonplace forms of discrimination, such as being ignored, ridiculed or treated differently.

"These are incidents that may seem innocent and small, but cumulatively they can have a powerful impact on an individual's ," Alvarez said. "Trying to ignore these insidious incidents could become taxing and debilitating over time, chipping away at a person's spirit."

Alvarez surveyed 199 Filipino-American adults, both men and women, in the Bay Area and found that 99 percent of participants had experienced at least one incident of everyday racism in the last year.

The findings challenge the of Filipino-Americans as 'model minorities' -- ethnic groups that are typically successful in society and believed to no longer experience discrimination. "What's striking is we found that racism is still happening to Filipinos," Alvarez said. "Therapists need to look beyond the frequent portrayal of Asian Americans as model minorities and help clients assess what their best coping strategy could be, depending on their resources, what's feasible and who they could turn to for support."

While further research is needed to determine what makes a healthy coping method, the study did find that for men, dealing with racism in an active way, such as reporting incidents to authorities or challenging the perpetrator, was associated with decreased distress and increased self-esteem. For women, ignoring racism was linked to increased distress, but no significant correlation was found between other coping methods and .

The study was published in the April 2010 issue of the Journal of Counseling Psychology and was co-authored by Linda Juang, associate professor of psychology at SF State.

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not rated yet Apr 06, 2010
This is pretty interesting. I'm also curious what ethnic groups they used as a control for the study. I'd like to see what percentage of other ethnic groups and even ethnic majorities have experienced "everyday racism" in the last year. Then these kinds of problems and solutions can be expanded to any ethnic group experiencing "everyday racism" based on region and community rather than base the issue off of any specific ethnic group as a whole. I wish societies advanced as quickly with social and racial integration as they do with technological advancements.
1 / 5 (1) Apr 07, 2010
"Alvarez surveyed 199 Filipino-American adults, both men and women, in the Bay Area and found that 99 percent of participants had experienced at least one incident of everyday racism in the last year."

Oh my! How horrible! Any white male in this society experiences judicial discrimination just about every day in the form of racial and gender preference for everybody else. Professor Alvarez needs to grow up and stop beating the victimology drum. Indeed, now that California is bankrupt, perhaps Professor Alvarez' department ought to be disbanded so that he can get some first hand experience with the real discrimination that is endemic in this society outside of the protective bubble of sheltered employment in which he lives. :-/

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