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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Differentiating the Effects of Overt Versus Subtle Racial Discrimination on Black Men’s Health
by Holt, Sidney L., Ph.D., The George Washington University, 2020, 171; 28089387
Abstract (Summary)

While the negative health effects of racism and racial discrimination — a manifestation of racism that results in the unfair treatment of people of color on the basis of race — are empirically well-documented in psychology, a critical limitation of this body of research is that it mainly focuses on overt expressions of old-fashioned racism (e.g., overt racial hatred and bigotry, racially motivated hate crimes, White supremacy beliefs) that occur less commonly than the everyday, subtle expressions of modern racism. As a result, less is known about the deleterious health effects of subtle racial discrimination. Moreover, only a few studies have examined the unique impacts of overt versus subtle racial discrimination on people of color’s health.

Thus, the primary aims of the current research are to add to the theoretical and empirical literature by distinguishing between the characteristics of overt versus subtle racial discrimination, differentiating the effects of overt versus subtle discrimination on Black men’s health, and examining the causal mechanisms through which these distinct forms of racial discrimination impact Black men’s health. In addition, given the recent abundance of social media depicting racial discrimination against Black people, a secondary aim of this research is to elucidate the effects of vicarious social media exposure to racial discrimination (overt and subtle) on Black men’s health.

To achieve these aims, I experimentally manipulated Black men’s vicarious exposure via YouTube to either overt or subtle racial discrimination or neutral/positive events with a between-subjects design (i.e., three study conditions: overt racial discrimination, subtle racial discrimination, and a comparison condition). Participants were 179 self-identified U.S. Black men, recruited from the online research platform Prolific Academic, who ranged in age from 18 to 73 (M = 29.16, SD = 8.34).

I found that vicarious exposure to both overt and subtle racial discrimination engendered high primary stress appraisals and feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, and fear in Black men. Moreover, Black men initially appraised overt (vs. subtle) racial discrimination as more threatening but ultimately felt more fear following exposure to subtle (vs. overt) racial discrimination. I also found that an increase in depression following vicarious exposure to racial discrimination (vs. neutral/positive events) led to increased substance use intentions in the next 24 hours among individuals with moderate to high beliefs in substance use as coping. Other than this deleterious indirect effect through depression, however, I generally found that Black men’s substance use intentions were either not influenced by or were lower following exposure to racial discrimination (relative to neutral/positive events). Interestingly, marijuana use intentions were especially low following exposure to subtle (vs. overt) racial discrimination. This may indicate that the Black men in this sample approached vicarious exposure to racial discrimination as a challenge that they were motivated to overcome.

Overall, my findings demonstrate that racial discrimination does not have to be overt or experienced directly to be detrimental to Black men’s psychological health. Given the prevalence of daily social media use among Americans and the ubiquity of social media videos capturing overt and subtle racial discrimination against Black Americans, it is imperative that future research strives to understand the effects of repeated or chronic exposure to these videos on Black Americans’ health.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bowleg, Lisa
Commitee: Poppen, Paul, Stock, Michelle, Hull, Shawnika, Lambert, Sharon
School: The George Washington University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-B 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Psychology
Keywords: Black men's health, Experimental research, Racial health inequities, Racism and racial discrimination
Publication Number: 28089387
ISBN: 9798664790696
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