Daily BulletinDaily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Yin Paradies, Professor of Race Relations, Deakin University
image

In highlighting the importance of retaining section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus, speaking on Radio National today, said racial discrimination can make people sick.

In contrast, One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts suggested that minorities would not be hurt or offended by racism unless they chose to take offence.

Of course, racism comes in many forms, from verbal abuse, to employment barriers, all the way to racially motivated violence. Few would argue that it is a “choice” whether to be injured by physical assault, or that being unfairly denied employment is good for you.

Rather, the debate usually centres on a well-recognised form of interpersonal racism – exclusionary behaviour (including talk) between people of different ethnic, racial and cultural backgrounds. How does this type of racism affect victims when it happens?

Racism and the brain

Neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have allowed scientists to study directly the impacts of socially exclusionary forms of racism on brain activity.

Several studies have shown how racism impacts directly on parts of the brain that control survival mechanisms (think “fight or flight”) together with the centres that control higher-order thinking (the cortex).

Through these pathways, racism can lead to imbalances in the level of cortisol (stress hormone) in the brain, and impaired functioning of other brain regions such as the prefrontal cortex (which is thought to control personality, decision-making and social behaviour), the anterior cingulate cortex (which is thought to control blood pressure and heart rate, as well as emotion and impulse control), the amygdala (emotions, memory) and the thalamus (consciousness, sleep, alertness).

Such impacts on the brain can result in increased anxiety and susceptibility to further experiences of racism and other unrelated stress, as well as depression and related mental illnesses.

Not just sticks and stones

The emotional pain created by experiences of racism look very similar to the patterns of brain activity caused by physical pain. In this sense, suggesting that we can choose whether racism affects us is like saying that people can decide whether a slap across the face is painful or not.

Beyond emotions and the brain, racism produces damage in other parts of the body such as the heart, immune system and metabolic system, extending even to our DNA.

These forms of damage have been implicated in ill-health outcomes such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity. By measuring various biomarkers such as those found in the blood, we are able to see this damage builds up as a result of inflammation caused by stress.

In Australia, studies have found that direct experiences of racism contribute to an array of health outcomes, including psychological distress, depression, smoking, alcohol and substance use, suicide risk, poor oral health, and the belief that oneself is unhealthy (self-rated health).

Emerging overseas research is now beginning to show that being racist (rather than experiencing racism) is also bad for your health, including associations with psychopathy, self-rated health and smoking. Witnessing racism can also have negative health implications such as psychological strain.

Looking beyond individuals, research has found that people in communities in the United States with high levels of racism die younger than individuals from less racist communities. This effect applies to both minority and majority populations.

Recent research in Australia found that the annual economic cost of racism in contributing to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychological disorder is more than 3% of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product.

The costs of racism are direct in terms of health and indirect in terms of detrimental social and economic impacts, with clear evidence racism can make us sick individually and as a society.

While anti-discrimination legislation cannot alone fix the problem of racism in society, it has an important part to play in promoting anti-racist social norms, providing avenues for victims to seek compensation and serving as a deterrent for perpetrators.

Authors: Yin Paradies, Professor of Race Relations, Deakin University

Read more http://theconversation.com/does-racism-make-us-sick-63641

Here's how the Victoria-NSW border closure will work – and how residents might be affected

arrow_forward

Why Weiner Mobile Estates?

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

FORDHAM: Thank you very much for talking to us. I know it's a difficult day for all of those Qantas workers. Look, they want to know in the short term, are you going to extend JobKeeper?   PRI...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison interview with Neil Mitchell

NEIL MITCHELL: Prime minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, how are you?   MICHELL: I’m okay, a bit to get to I apologise, we haven't spoken for a while and I want to get t...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham

PRIME MINISTER: I've always found that this issue on funerals has been the hardest decision that was taken and the most heartbreaking and of all the letters and, you know, there's been over 100...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

SEO In A Time of COVID-19: A Life-Saver

The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a lot of uncertainty for everyone across the world. It has had one of the most devastating impacts on the day-to-day lives of many including business o...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

5 Ways Risk Management Software Can Help Your Business

No business is averse to risks. Nobody can predict the future or even plan what direction a business is going to take with 100% accuracy. For this reason, to avoid issues or minimise risks, some for...

News Company - avatar News Company

5 Ways To Deal With Unemployment and Get Back Into the Workforce

Being unemployed has a number of challenges and they’re not all financial. It can affect you psychologically and sometimes it can be difficult to dig your way out of a rut when you don’t have a job ...

News Company - avatar News Company



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion