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Building Resilience Against Racism

Building Resilience Against Racism

What is racism? Racism is the belief that all members of a race possess characteristics specific to that race, in particular to distinguish it as inferior or superior to other races. Racism can be part of the history of certain groups and cause traumas that are perpetuated over generations. Racism can be experienced at school, at work, in health services, on the street, anywhere.

What are the effects of racism? People who experience racism can develop high levels of stress. Hormones such as cortisol are involved in stress and can, over the long term, cause chronic diseases (e.g. heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, etc.). Racism is also a risk factor for the development of mental health disorders. Among the consequences of racial discrimination on physical and mental health, studies have documented psychological and emotional distress, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, low self-esteem, chronic stress, alcoholism and substance abuse, increased school dropout rates, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, increased body mass index, poor physical health, etc.

How can we build resilience against racism? Combating racism is important to ensure good physical and mental health for all. This fight is not only the responsibility of the people who are victims of racism, but of society as a whole. All actors in society (e.g. citizens, governments, health and social services, schools, workplaces, police, etc.) must participate in this fight.

Building resilience against racism is first and foremost collective by having more inclusive institutions, offering services that are culturally adapted and based on the real needs of all members and families in society and by respecting the specificities of ethnocultural groups. Much work remains to be done to build a just, diverse, and inclusive society.

To build resilience within the family, it is important to build pride in one's heritage and learn about one's history. Certain spiritual or religious beliefs can also help overcome adversity. Outside the family, community members can also provide emotional support (e.g., a friend in the community).

On a personal side, it is useful to :

  • Recognize experiences of racism
  • As most as possible, remove oneself from situations involving racism
  • Remember one's personal identity and positive sides
  • Seek support (e.g., friends, family, anti-racist groups, etc.)
  • Challenge racism (e.g., supporting a victim of racism, joining anti-racist groups, interacting with peers, etc.)

Victims of racism may internalize racist statements, which can lower their self-esteem, cause disgust, and loss of respect for themselves and the group sharing their race. Researchers refer to this phenomenon as "internalized racism". For this reason, it is important not to deny racism, but to understand one's emotions and thoughts about experiences of racism.


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