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Racial Discrimination

Racial identity and racial socialization are proposed to promote the improvement of African American adolescents in the aspect of race-related difficulties (Miller, 1999; Ward, 1999). Current studies pointed out that discrimination is a condition that has harmful effects on the mental health of African Americans. Also, Comer (1995) emphasized that the added stressor of racism makes it difficult for the adolescent period of African Americans. The ways in which adolescents deal with the countless life stressors facing them have relevance to their psychosocial functioning and emotional well-being (Moos, 2002). Therefore, exploration of how to deal with apparent discriminatory experiences is connected to racial identity and racial socialization turn out to be a significant undertaking.

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Racial identity is maybe the most searched aspect of African American life and functioning (Sellers et al, 1998). As African American children enter preadolescence, Cross and Fhagen-Smith (2001) proposed that changeable social individuality begin to appear, namely, low race salience, high race salience, and internalized racism. Cross and Fhagen-Smith put forward that some African American preadolescents may start to make personal the negative labels, messages, and images of Black people and Black culture. Thus, their rising identities may be “puzzled with uncertainty, isolation, disapproval, and lack of coherence” (Cross & Fhagen-Smith, 2001, p. 254).


Due to the apparently continuous and spreading issue and the problem of race in American culture, it seems likely that race will be vital to the self-ideas of many African Americans throughout their lives. Though, the model recommended by Cross and Fhagen- Smith (2001) accounts for African Americans who never make race or Black culture a fundamental characteristic of their self-conceptions, however, turn up at an achieved individuality and benefit from psychological and social health. For those African Americans who integrate their race as an essential aspect of their uniqueness, they are possibly to go through a course of “recycling” through which their viewpoints and perceptions concerning their Blackness are continually revised, improved, and refined by new experiences and encounters (Cross & Fhagen-Smith, 2001).

Sellers et al. (1998) have explained the several dimensions of African American racial identity in which the heterogeneity among African Americans in the importance and implication placed on their race is further detailed. The extents of African American racial distinctiveness proposed by Sellers et al. consist of salience, centrality, regard, and ideology. Racial saliency stands for the degree to which being Black is significant in a specific situation or circumstances. Racial centrality refers to the degree to which being Black is a normative characteristic of one’s self-ideas and distinctiveness. The degree to which one feels positively and negatively about being Black refers to racial regard. Lastly, racial ideology refers to one’s outlooks and beliefs regarding how African Americans should do something in the bigger social order (Sellers et al., 1998). In conditions of its protective role, Ward (2000) argued that the development of a sense of Black identity that is “unassailable” is the most important approach for resistance to racial domination and therefore is necessary for African American children and adolescents.

Racial socialization that stressed racial issues and discrimination, whether silently or openly is disputed to be of vital significance for African American adolescents (Miller, 1999; Ward, 1999). Stevenson et al (1997) proposed that African American adolescents who do not have an “internalized awareness of racism and their unique cultural heritage” (p. 198) are handicapped in terms of their capability to handle efficiently racism-related experiences and the associated pressure. Racial socialization, as it relates to racism, is argued to encourage and improve not only helpful coping but also mental strength to stand firm and defeat racial domination and depression (Ward, 1999).


Racial discrimination has numerous appearances. It can be experienced openly, indirectly, collectively, institutionally, and transgenerationally (Harrell, 2000). Still, it is everyday “micro stressors,” such as being pursued or observed in open places that may be most negative to the consciousness of African American adolescents in that the accumulative results may add to their general stress load (Harrell, 2000). Though, mental health effects associated with racism and discrimination are likely to be influenced by the coping approaches used. In reaction to a variety of life stressors, the nature of the coping approach used by adolescents is usually related to different mental health outcomes (Moos, 2002). Approach coping strategies, in which stressors are actively connected in an attempt to resolve them, are normally connected to greater feelings of self-efficacy and less suffering. Indifference, the uses of strategies that keep away from stressors or manage the emotional response to stressors are usually connected to greater distress and lower feelings of self-efficacy (Moos, 2002). On the other hand, the coping strategies used in reaction to racial discrimination and bias may have different effects on adolescent adjustment and well-being given the uncertainty, power discrepancy, irregularity, and unmanageable of many biased acts (Harrell, 2000; Outlaw, 1993). Furthermore, issues such as stage of racial awareness, kind of racial socialization received, and emotional and stress reaction to discriminatory experiences may openly relate to adjustment effects or may restrain the outcomes of discrimination distress on mental health outcomes (Harrell, 2000).


  1. Comer, J. P. (1995). Racism and African American adolescent development. In C. V. Willie, P. P. Rieker, B. M. Kramer, & B. S. Brown (Eds.), Mental health, racism, and sexism (pp. 151-170). Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.
  2. Cross, W. E., Jr., & Fhagen-Smith, P. (2001). Patterns of African American identity development: A life span perspective. In C. L. Wijeyesinghe & B. W. Jackson, III (Eds.), New perspectives on racial identity development: A theoretical and practical anthology (pp. 243-270). New York: New York University Press.
  3. Harrell, S. P. (2000). A multidimensional conceptualization of racism-related stress: Implications for the well-being of people of color. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 70, 42-57.
  4. Miller, D. B. (1999). Racial socialization and racial identity: Can they promote resiliency for African American adolescents. Adolescence, 34(135), 493-501.
  5. Moos, R. H. (2002). Life stressors, social resources, and coping skills in youth: Applications to adolescents with chronic disorders. Journal of Adolescent Health, 30(4, Suppl. 1), 22-29.
  6. Sellers, R. M., Smith, M. A., Shelton, J. N., Rowley, S. A. J., & Chavous, T. M. (1998). Multi- dimensional model of racial identity: A reconceptualization of African American racial identity. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2, 18-39.
  7. Stevenson, H. C., Reed, J., Bodison, P., & Bishop, A. (1997). Racism stress management: Racial socialization beliefs and the experience of depression and anger in African Amer- ican youth. Youth & Society, 29, 197-222.
  8. Ward, J. V. (1999). Resilience and resistance. In A. Garrod, J. V. Ward, T. L. Robinson, & R. Kilkenny (Eds.), Souls looking back: Life stories of growing up Black (pp. 173-185). Boston: Routledge Kegan Paul.

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