Internalized Racism and Mental Health

A recent article out now by Sosoo, Bernard, and Neblett (2019) titled “the influence of internalized racism on the relationship between discrimination and anxiety” shows that different types of race-related stress, particularly racial discrimination and internalized racism, may combine to adversely impact mental health over time. Specifically, in their study, Sosoo and colleagues found that Black participants who endorsed greater levels of internalized racism (i.e., internalization of negative stereotypes and preferences for straight hair) experienced greater levels of anxiety symptom distress in the context of racial discrimination compared to those who endorsed lower levels of internalized racism. The participants were 157 Black college students attending a predominantly White institution who completed the racial discrimination, internalized racism, and psychological distress measures.

The findings indicate that the experiences of anxiety symptom distress in the context of racial discrimination may differ as a function of one’s acceptance and internalization of dominant White culture’s actions and beliefs toward Black people. These findings are important for clinical psychologists to consider and be aware of, as the study indicates that internalized racism is multifaceted and can take many forms to detract from the positive well-being of individuals in the context of racial discrimination. Further research and familiarity with papers such as the one by Sosoo and colleagues is helping to build a better base for clinicians to further understand the inter-relations between internalized racism and positive well-being.

Discussion Questions

  • What articles can one read to help further my understanding of internalized racism? 
  • What signs would indicate the potential for internalized racism?
  • How could clinicians address internalized racism and enhance client well-being? 

Reference Article

Sosoo, E. E., Bernard, D. L., Neblett, Jr., E. W. (2019). The influence of internalized racism on the relationship between discrimination and anxiety. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority in Psychology. 

Randy Salekin, PhD, is a Professor and clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychology at the University of Alabama. His research focuses on Conduct Disorder (CD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorders (ODD). Dr. Salekin has over 150 scientific publications and several published books related to ODD, CD and forensic evaluation and treatment of juveniles. Dr Salekin has received both national and international recognition for his work. 

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