Race-related stress refers to the psychological distress associated with experiences of racism. It is important to understand that you can experience race-related stress even if you were mistaken that a racist act occurred. Race-related stress reactions only require that a person believes that they were the target of racism. Below is a listing of some of the detrimental effects of race-related stress:
Intense emotional reactions:
- Substance Use
- Heart Disease
- Muscle Tension
These psychological and physical effects can have a significant effect on your daily life. For example, if you feel isolated due to experiences of racism, you may be reluctant to interact with individuals from different racial/ethnic backgrounds or participate in social activities. You may also experience a phenomenon known as stereotype threat, which involves the fear that one’s actions will confirm existing stereotypes about a person’s self-identified racial/ethnic group. For example, some African American individuals might be uncomfortable eating fried chicken or watermelon in public.
Individuals of color who experience stereotype threat may begin to believe that their peers do not regard them as individuals, but as representatives of their racial/ethnic group. The anxiety that often accompanies stereotype threat can have a negative effect on your performance with work-related or academic tasks such as taking on new projects at work, class participation, assignments, and exams.