An Examination of the Relationship Between General Life Stress, Racism-Related Stress, and Psychol

An Examination of the Relationship Between General Life Stress, Racism-Related Stress, and Psychol

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Over the past decade, there has been a significant increase in scholarship focusing on the relationship between racism-related life experiences and psychological health among Black Americans. Currently, the accepted understanding is that racism, as evidenced by discrimination, is generally associated with poorer health status and that this association is the strongest in the case of mental health (Williams, Neighbors, & Jackson, 2003). Although this finding appears to be quite robust, studies conducted by Fischer and Shaw (1999) and Peters (2004) are representative of research that has reported a nonsignificant association between experiences of racism and psychological health in Black populations. Some scholars have contended that the influence of racism-related experiences on mental health might also be affected by variables such as general life stress and gender (Jackson, Hogue, & Phillips, 2005; Moradi & Subich, 2003). Given the somewhat inconclusive nature of the extant literature, the current investigation therefore seeks to explore the association between general life stress and racism-related stress and to examine the influence of these variables on the psychological health of a sample of Black American men. Racial Categorization and Black Men The detrimental effect of racial categorization on the social status of Black Americans is evident across a range of indicators, such as health status, poverty, and education (Gordon, Gordon, & Nembhard, 1995; National Urban League, 2006). Social scientists have consistently reported that, as a group, Blacks tend to be at the lowest levels of social stratification (Marger, 2003) and continue to experience significant disparities in the areas of health, education, and wealth (Williams & Collins, 2004). There also is some evidence that Black men experience more intense discrimination than Black women across several domains, including education, criminal justice, and retail sales (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Social scientists often reference two indicators of social participation, namely rates of incarceration and employment, when discussing the current status of Black men within American society (Western & Pettit, 2005). Mauer (2003) reported that almost one in three young Black men, ages 20–29, were under some form of criminal justice supervision. Moreover, half of all prison inmates are Black, a statistic that is significantly disproportionate to the percentage of Blacks in the general population. When one looks at employment rates, it is evident not only that Black men experience higher rates of unemployment but that even when they are employed, their incomes are significantly less than those of their White counterparts (Western & Pettit, 2005). Some have argued that these types of statistics reflect the impact of structural racism and also represent a significant source of stress that is associated with the unequal status experienced by Blacks in the United States (Jackson & Volckens, 1998). An additional factor thought to have an important psychological impact is what Franklin (1999) referred to as the invisibility syndrome . Franklin contended that Black men tend to be assessed
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