Can years of enduring racial discrimination leave a person as damaged as a returning soldier?  New research seems to suggest just that.

A recent study out of Penn State University has found that chronic exposure to racial discrimination is analogous to the pressure troops can feel in combat and war.  Researchers found that many African-Americans who’ve been faced with racism struggle with debilitating stress similar to soldiers returning home from war.

According to the study:

“African-Americans who reported in a survey that they experienced more instances of racial discrimination had significantly higher odds of suffering generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) some time during their lives.”

The Penn State study confirms a condition that William A. Smith, Ph.D., of the University of Utah has coined “racial battle fatigue.”  Smith has argued that individuals can go directly from the experience of racism to the experience of a serious mental health disorder.  The study says that while it does not view discrimination as the same as conditions are exactly what soldiers face on a battlefield, it claims the underlying commonality is that stress is created in chronically unsafe or hostile environments.

Even more interesting is the divide within Blacks themselves in reacting to racial discrimination.  In all, the study surveyed 5,899 American adults.  It collected data on, among other topics, mental health and experiences of discrimination from 3,570 African-Americans (60.5 percent of the total study population), 1,438 Afro-Caribbeans (24.4 percent) and 891 non-Hispanic Whites (15.1 percent).  The results of the study showed:

Of the African-Americans surveyed, more than 40 percent reported they experienced some form of racial discrimination, and approximately 4.5 percent reported suffering from GAD. About 39 percent of Afro-Caribbeans reported examples of racial discrimination, but only 2.69 percent had ever developed GAD.

The experience of racial discrimination, however, was not associated with GAD for Afro-Caribbeans. Soto suggested that because Afro-Caribbeans have a different history than African-Americans, they may both define and manage racial discrimination differently.

The study points to a difference in reactions in different types of Black people to discrimination.  What do you think Clutchettes- how different are African-Americans and Afro-Carribeans reactions to racism?  If its not all one and the same, what are the shades in between?


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  • jamesfrmphilly

    post traumatic slavery syndrome

  • Domino

    I’m curious to hear from some Caribbean commenters. My husband is Caribbean and he has harsh words for black people in general. I try my best to explain American history but the way he sees it is pull up your boot straps and stop complaining. Often times I very much agree with him but I see both sides of the coin whereas he is a no nonsense type of person, doesn’t like to hear any complaining or excuses and thats the way he views AA. He grew up in the islands so I’m curious as to whether there’s a difference in view point with Caribbeans who are raised here vs. born and raised over there and then come here.

    Also, he is coming from the stand point of an immigrant who worked his way up from the bottom starting with nothing. And he’s got a “if I can do it, what’s stopping you” attitude.

    Personally I myself have not received a lot of direct and overt racism. I just notice and feel it on a daily institutionalized basis. The direct racism I used to received was for being mixed and not “acting black”. But now that I’m older those comments are few and far between – except on online forums where everyone goes gangbusters. But I definitely would not say I have ever experienced GAD and I don’t feel like I’m being held down at all because of my race.

    • Kam

      Both my parents are from the Caribbean, I was born in NY. My father is almost like your husband, except it’s not that he thinks bad of African Americans, he is just sad that they are not progressing in America as he thinks he should. My parents moved here in 1969. My dad suffered a lot of outright and blatant racism when he came here. For example, they wanted to buy a house in a good part of Queens but no one would sell to them. One person even told them outright “No one is going to sell to you because you are Black.” So what he did was buy an abandoned house in the neighborhood and fixed it up himself. He went to work 9-5 and worked on the house in the evenings. And when he was done he and my mom had a nice house in a white neighborhood through their own hardwork. Although we have long since moved, that house is still occupied today.

      My dad grew up dirt poor in the islands, really poor so when he came to the U.S. his mindset was “I am going to do what it takes to never go back to that poverty.” In his mind he acknowledged that people were racist, but he didn’t let that stop him. My mom doesn’t seem to be bothered much by racism, she hardly ever talks about it, but she might have had it easier because she is light skinned and a woman. I don’t know but she doesn’t seem to have that many racism stories like my dad does.

      I’ve learned a lot from my father and try to use is line of thinking when it comes to racism. I see how he’s been able to overcome it and that empowers me, however I am not as passive towards it like he is.

    • Domino

      Thanks Kam. I was talking to my husband yesterday about the study and he said that racism just isn’t his top priority the way it seems to be for AAs. Your dad has the same work ethic as my husband though. He’s got an inspiring story.