Daily 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

Writers Wanted

Burnt ancient nutshells reveal the story of climate change at Kakadu — now drier than ever before

arrow_forward

My favourite detective: Jules Maigret, the Paris detective with a pipe but no pretense

arrow_forward

Auf Wiedersehen, 'Mutti': How Angela Merkel’s centrist politics shaped Germany and Europe

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.   HADLEY: I was just referring to this story from the Courier Mail, which you’ve probably caught up with today about t...

Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison - avatar Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Tips to find the best plastic manufacturing supplier for your needs

Plastics are very much an important part of all of our lives, but they’re particularly valuable to a wide variety of industries that rely on their production for their operations. The industries, ...

News Co - avatar News Co

7 foolproof tips for bidding successfully at a property auction

Auctions can be beneficial for prospective buyers, as they are transparent and fair. If you reach the limit you are willing to pay, you can simply walk away. Another benefit of an auction is tha...

Dominique Grubisa - avatar Dominique Grubisa

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion