Submitted by: Jabari Walker

Race, Racism, Prejudice

Racism is any policy, belief, attitude, action or inaction, which subordinates individuals or groups based on their race. Race, on the other hand, is the belief that the physical characteristics of a person dictates that person’s ranking in society; it is an “extremely critical determinant of who gets ‘what there is to get’ and in what amounts” (Merger,1997). This way of thinking leads to minority groups, because of physical or cultural characteristics, feeling disadvantaged and subjected to unequal treatment by the dominant group. As a result, the minority group will often times regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination. Prejudice is an unjustified or incorrect attitude, usually negative, towards an individual based solely on the individuals membership of an outgroup (Taylor, Peplau, and Sears1994).  For many people of color in the United States the ingroup are European Americans and the outgroup consist of all other minorities.

There are two terms the writer would like to define for the reader: ingroup and outgroup. In sociology and social psychology, an ingroup is a social group to which a person psychologically identifies as being a member. An outgroup is a social group with which an individual does not identify. An example of an ingroup would be an individual’s family, college friends, church. Sports provides some of the best examples for an outgroup; the Philadelphia Eagles are an outgroup to the Washington Redskins. One recent study conducted by University of Missouri researchers, showed that the effect of ingroup identification becomes more intense when people feel mortally threatened; when this takes place, members of a group tend to turn to their ingroup for safety.

According to sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant (1994:158), race “permeates every institution, every relationship, and every individual.” If one argues that racial equality exist in the United States then one has to agree that race should not be a consideration in the selection of leaders, in hiring decision, or in the distribution of goods and services (Omi and Winant, 1994).

Stereotypes in Racism

Stereotypes also play a vital role in racism. Stereotypes are the beliefs about the personal attributes shared by people in a particular group or social category. Negative stereotypes are the negative beliefs about the personal qualities shared by a group of people. For example, nineteenth-century stereotypes of Native Americans described them as dirty, passive, drunken, and lazy (Trimble, 1988). Stereotypes usually overemphasize specific attributes; they are especially likely to exaggerate unfavorable or favorable characteristics, and typically underestimate variability within a group (Fisk, 1988; Judd and Park, 1993).

Despite slavery, ending 153 years ago, sociologist Patricia Hill Collins (1990) believes that its legacy plays a vital role in current patterns of prejudice and discrimination against African-Americans.  The Articles of Confederation is 238 years old, the Declaration of Independence is 246 years old, and slavery lasted 246 years. Slavery ended in 1865, separate but equal lasted until 1954. With poll taxes, literacy test and other means, Southern states were able to disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South could vote. From 1619-1965 African Americans experienced systematic oppression by those who had power in North America.

Criminal Justice System

In the criminal justice system, African-Americans are more likely to experience exclusion from juries, to receive harsher sentences, to serve longer prison terms, and receive the death penalty (Sidanius and Pratto, 1999). There is deep skepticism by some of any assertion that the criminal-justice system is racially biased. Rich Lowry, National Review editor and syndicated columnist disputes the notion that the criminal justice system is racist. Lowry writes “the biggest reason for the overall disparity in incarceration is different rates of offending. Blacks account for a little more than 50 percent of homicides.” He argues that police are not making up these crimes, “the numbers for violent crime accord with reports from crime victims of the race of their assailants” (Lowry, 2018).  While Lowry’s numbers are correct, he does not appear to have a full understanding of the numbers he is presenting.

A Justice Department report released in 2013 found that African American drivers are stopped 12.8 % of the time, while white drivers experience police stops just over 9.8% of the time. Even though whites drive more on average, they are less likely to experience the police pulling them over. “Just by getting in a car, a black driver has about twice the odds of being pulled over, and about four times the odds of being searched” (Baumgartner, Epp, Shoub, 2018). If police stopped and searched whites as often as African Americans, would the white prison population increase? This is the deeper point that Lowry and people like him miss. Part of the frustration that African Americans feel is due to the unequal application of the law within the criminal justice system, which lead many of them to feel as if there is a larger system working against them.

Acts, such as over policing, are more likely to cause higher levels of distress and anger in the targeted group. In addition, blatant discrimination is emotionally tricky for its victims and can cause damage to one’s self-esteem. All these aspects of racism including negative stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination will ultimately create stressful conditions. Any event that requires a person to adjust, make changes, or expend resources has the potential to be stressful.  Unpleasant or adverse events cause people more psychological distress and produce more physical symptoms than do more positive stressful events (e.g., Sarason, Johnson, & Siegel, 1978). Uncontrollable or unpredictable events are more stressful than controllable or predictable ones. An event that is uncontrollable or unpredictable does not allow the person who is experiencing the stress to make a plan or develop ways to cope with the problem. For example, an African-American couple applying for housing in a predominantly white, upper middle class, affluent apartment complex after talking over the phone to the property owner arrive only to have someone deny them on the spot for no apparent reason. Although such an example may not be widespread, these types of situations make it extremely difficult for a group of people to cope. In fact, a recent study from Stanford University found that African American and Latino families need to earn more than White families to be able to live in certain neighborhoods. When attempting to purchase a home, African-Americans, and Latino borrowers continue to be victims of discriminatory lending practices, often paying higher interest rates (Sullivan, 2015).

A psychologist has begun to suspect that the minor stressful events or the daily hassles of life may also have a cumulative and negative impact on health. Interpersonal conflicts are by far the most distressing daily hassles (Boiger, DeLongis, Kessler, &Schilling, 1989).  Part of the interpersonal conflict deals with race; many African-Americans feel they encounter racism, although not always overt, on a daily basis. Although no research is yet conclusive on this matter, less common stressful events predict illness and psychological stress (Kanner, Coyne, Schaeffer, and Lazarus, 1981; Kohn, Lafreniere, & Gurevich). The experience of stress over time may lay the groundwork for illness.


One physiological condition, which many research scientists and medical personnel believe is elevated in part due to stressful situations, is hypertension. The International Dictionary of Medicine and Biology define hypertension as an abnormally high tension or pressure applied to systemic arterial and pulmonary active blood pressure. Blood exerts pressure on the inside of the blood vessels as it flows from the heart through the various tissues and back to the heart. The average pressure ranges from a high in the aorta to minimum values in the vena cava. Arterial blood pressure is a critical parameter in the evaluation of the status of the cardiovascular system. A sphygmomanometer and a stethoscope measures blood pressure.  A normal blood pressure range for women is 100-130/60-86. A normal blood pressure range for men is 105-140/ 62-90. The ideal or most common blood pressure is 120/80.

When discussing blood pressure, it is essential to know the top number is systolic, and the bottom is diastolic. Doctors recognize hypertension, or chronically elevated blood pressure, as a significant health problem afflicting a large percentage of African-Americans (Gillum, 1979; Taylor & Fant, 1975). Hypertension is more common among African-Americans than among Whites in the United States; this is an intriguing question in the medical field. Several studies have indicated that approximately 42.6 % of the adult African-American population experiences chronically elevated blood pressure, which is well above the 33.4 % White Americans.

Not only is elevated blood pressure and hypertension more prevalent in African-Americans, but hypertension mortality rates are also disproportionately higher (Cruickshank & Beevers, 1982; National Center for Health Statistics, 1967). It has too been overserved that African-Americans with hypertension have a higher incidence of stroke (Cassel, Heyden, & Bartel, 1971: Troyler et al., 1971; U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1979). Looking at all these factors may cause a scientist to wonder why this is the case and to scientifically ponder why one race of people in the U.S., is much more prone to develop this condition over another.

The finding that White males living in high-stress areas had lower blood pressure levels than African-American men living in high-stress areas suggest that racial factors alone do not account for the observed blood pressure differences. Syme et al. (1974) also found that African-American males in high-stress living situations had higher blood pressure than African-American men living in low-stress areas and White men living in high-stress levels adds another level of complexity.

The environmental stress was a combination of four community services; police protection, garbage collection, schools, and public transportation.  Researchers also evaluated crimes, drugs, and police-resident interactions. The vital relationship between social class and mortality explained about chronic stress (Taylor, Repetti, et al., 1997). This means, the higher one’s income and level of education, the longer one will live, and the lower one’s knowledge and income, the more vulnerable one is to accidents, homicide, adverse health-related habits such as drug and alcohol consumption, and diseases such as heart disease and cancer; These types of conditions are more prevalent among African-Americans. It is evident that racist elements can play a significant role in man, if not all justification in the plight of African-Americans.

Anger/ Aggression

Another important question is why do racist factors cause anger, hostility, or aggression? One of the most common sources of anger is an attack or an instruction by another person. The attack does not necessarily have to be in a physical manner. It is when someone has done something unpleasant to someone else. Depending on how the injured person reacts, he or she will perceive it as an annoyance or as an attack. It is likely that the person will become angry and feel aggressive toward the source of the problem.

A second primary source of anger is frustration. Frustration is the interference with or blocking of the attainment of a goal. When someone wants to go somewhere, perform some act, or obtain something and from doing so, that person becomes frustrated. This element is prevalent in discriminatory laws, whether racial, gender, age or disability — this type of frustration not relegated to a particular place. This type of frustration lays dormant in the hearts of those most affected until one-day society. Economic depressions produce failure that affects almost everyone, which leads to an uptick in aggression. For example, before World War II, the economy in the southern United States was heavily dependent on cotton. Hovland and Sears (1940) found that lower cotton prices were associated with more lynching of African-Americans in the South during the years 1882 to 1930. A drop for cotton signified a depressed period economically, which produced frustration and heightened aggressive behavior regarding lynching (Catalano, Novaco, and McConnell, 1997).

Research on the role of physiological and environmental variables, such as high use of salt, social-psychological stress, and anger in the etiology of essential hypertension among African-Americans is minimal. Explanations of how these variables contribute to observed differences in the prevalence and pathophysiology of hypertension among African-Americans and European-Americans are conjecture based on speculation, although some definitive work is beginning to emerge, particularly about anger. Anger can cause serious physical health problems like ulcers and heart disease, and of course, as mentioned in this paper- high blood pressure or hypertension. Feelings of anger are a normal reaction to some situations that are beyond one’s control. Sometimes, violence is an indication of too much stress. It is entirely possible that anger and hostility resulting from racial prejudices, injustices, and low socioeconomic status experienced by African-Americans will operate to initiate the rise in blood pressure. Funkenstein, King, and Drolette (1957) hypothesized that the direction of passion expressed mediates the physiological component of anger.

One of the primary reason for experiencing such anger and hostility in U.S. society, particularly by minorities such as African-Americans, is racism, or what they feel is racism. Gentry (1972) examined the relationship between violence and aggression and vascular arousal in a biracial situation. The subjects were 28 males and female African-American college students, who were the targets of insults from a white peer experimenter of the same sex. The results indicated that there was greater self-reported anger, direct and indirect verbal aggression, and elevated diastolic blood pressure (DBP) in the group attacking compared to the group that was insulted.  Duke University’s latest study points to direct, verified correlations between an African- American’s health and some racist incidents he reports having experienced. Racist comments or acts triggered biochemical changes that raise the blood pressure and heart rate, say Duke Researchers.

In part 2 the writer will analyze in greater detail anger, hostility and its association with racism.  


Autunes, G., Gordon, C., Gaitz., C., and Scott, J. (1974) Ethnicity, socioeconomic status and the etiology of psychological distress. Sociology and Social Research, 58 (4), 361 -368.

Dipak, B., and Hensley, C. (1983). Effect of neighborhood racial and socioeconomic Composition on urban resident’s evaluations of their neighborhoods. Social Indicators Research, 12 (3), 311-320

Gant, Larry M., Johnson, Ernest H., (1997). The Association between Anger-Hostility and Hypertension. In Mental Health in Black America (Ed.), 1996. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publishings

Kendall, Diana. (1999). Sociology in Our Times. New York, New York: Wadsworth

McNally, Richard J., (1992). Theoretical Approaches to the Fear of Anxiety.  In Personality and Clinical Psychology Series (Ed.), (1999). Mahway, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Pinhas, Dr.L., (1999). Models in Ads Cause Anger, Depression in Women. International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Sarason, I.G., Johnson, J.H., and Siegel, J.M. (1978). Assessing the impact of life Changes: Development of the life experiences survey. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 46 (5), 932-936

Smith, E.J. (1985). Ethnic minorities: Life stress, social support, and mental health issues. The Counseling Psychologist, 13 (4), 537-579

Taylor, S.E., Peplau, L.A., Sears, D.O. (1970). Social Psychology. Upper saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall

Laura Sullivan and others, “The Racial Wealth Gap: Why Policy Matters” (New York: Demos and the Institute for Assets and Social Policy, 2015) available at