Discrimination is A Destruction

by salma bella on October 21, 2015 - 10:24pm

The article "Discrimination During Adolescence has lasting effects on body”, published by Northwestern University on Science Daily (September 9th, 2015), addresses a study that links the level of cortisol, a stress hormone released by the body, with the accumulation of perceived discrimination over lifetime. In fact, researchers have followed white and black adolescents from age twelve to 32 by measuring the discrimination they perceive as well as their levels of cortisol for seven days when they became adults. Their observations led them to conclude that the African-American young adults’ cortisol rhythms are more dysfunctional than whites, because they have experienced more discrimination. Other factors that influence the stress level, such as education, depression, and time of waking, have been controlled, so it is unlikely that the stress is caused by one of them. The study finally insists on pointing out that adolescents’ cortisol levels can be affected the most and have less chances to be regulated, due to the physical and psychological changes that occur over that time period.

What I found the most interesting in the article is that it is the first study that clearly establishes that the human body is affected by accumulated discrimination over time. In fact, previous studies have already shown the effects of discrimination on body, but only at the time it was happening. The study is a good support to the article “Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn About Race”, written by Erin Winkler, where the author points out that racial discrimination comes from unbroken bias about races that children start developing as young as age three. As a matter of fact, she explains that society teaches kids, in both subtle and obvious manners, that race matters when it comes to classifying people. They then assume it is meaningful and make it a social rule, which leads to discrimination that can last even during adolescence. To me, what could have improved the article in stressing that discrimination has undeniable and undesirable effects is that the researchers provide concrete solutions to allow persecuted people to better deal with the racial inequalities they face. For instance, Winkler highly recommends to caregivers to address freely and in a straightforward manner the issues related to race, as well as to intervene against racism by insisting on the moral wrongness of the behavior. Overall, I liked the evidence showed in the article, but I think that having added more content about the issue would have enriched it.

Northwestern University. (2015, September 9th.) Discrimination during adolescence has
lasting effects on body [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150909213514.htm


I chose this article because we speak a lot about the psychological traumas of racism; however, I have never really heard about the physical traumas. The idea that discrimination can cause physical issues such as dysfunctional cortisol rhythms is jaw-dropping. Also, the idea that such develops over time rather than solely “at the moment” is rather surprising. In other words, the fact the discrimination can cause long-term physical problems and not just psychological issues is quite extraordinary. As learned in class, racism can be defined as an ideology of the inherent superiority of one racial group over another. We also learned that the effects of “race” are real although race in itself is simply a social construct that refers to an artificial distinction created by humans. Thus, the idea that a “socially constructed” concept that in itself is non-existent can cause real physical damages proves that humanity has the power to expand over issues that are essentially non-existent to create true tangible traumas. As true as that can be, we use the power to create issues rather than positive dynamics. Imagine if the world would use that power to enhance the environment and interactions. Overall, people undermine the presence of racism in today’s society whilst in reality, it is doing so much harm and yet people still choose to pretend like nothing is actually happening.

I strongly agree with your post on the article “Discrimination During Adolescence has lasting effects on body” because, as you say, many African-Americans have more dysfunctional cortisol rhythms compared to white Americans. As black individuals, their stress levels are much higher due to the enormous amount of discrimination they face over a lifetime, thus causing irreversible psychological as well as physical damage such as anxiety, depression and the destabilization of their cortisol levels. On the one hand, many of these individuals are victims of intersectionality, a feminist concept, as they are not only oppressed due to their race, but by their social class, physical ability, and sexual orientation... On the other hand, black transgender people are even more mistreated due to their gender. Imagine their cortisol levels…

As you note in the second paragraph of your post, “society teaches kids, in both subtle and obvious manners that race matters when it comes to classifying people”; in other words, categorization is an accepted and essential part of society. Thus many individuals begin to oppress and be oppressed starting at a very young age, especially if they don’t correspond to the accepted norm when it comes to race and gender. However, in addition to these hardships, black transgender people face even more discrimination. According to Danielle Paquette, in her article “8 critical facts about the state of transgender America,” “people in the community still face discrimination from employers, housing agencies, medical providers and the military [...]. They endure harassment in every aspect of their lives: at home, school, work, [prisons] and on the streets”. Furthermore, even in Canada, a rather modern and open-minded country, the amendment of the Criminal Code’s sections prohibiting gender discrimination are considered optional and even dispensable, as the instilment of C279 as part of the Canadian Human Rights Act has yet to be applied. Moreover, African-Americans have large amounts of social support as they possess an important sense of community within their family, unlike transgender people, who in many cases, must confront to society’s discrimination and pressures alone.

Therefore, to be privileged, one must conform to society’s accepted norm; be white, cisgender, heterosexual, middle-class...Thus, since most individuals don’t necessarily correspond to society’s ideal, it becomes very difficult to not be discriminated against. On a positive note, many organisations and admirable activists for both African-American and transgender rights such as Janet Mock, have made enormous progress when informing people about the discrimination they face, and the misconceptions associated to their distinct identity.

Also, I think you might appreciate Mock’s book, Redefining Realness.

Works Cited

"8 Critical Facts about the State of Transgender America​." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 22 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

"How Discrimination Got in the Way of the Federal Trans Rights Bill." Macleansca. 26 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

What drew me to this post was your title, I didn’t really know what it was about but it caught my eye, and I’m glad it did. The topic of discrimination during adolescence is very important and you’ve clearly demonstrated that in your post. Of course, we know that being a teenager or young adult is already stressful enough, and adding something like discrimination into the mix is even more stressful. With the media telling us how to look and act and who to dress like, the teenage years become very difficult. As well as having a significant effect on boys of all races, the media also has a large effect on girls, particularly girls of different races other than white. Whether you’re scrolling through twitter and tumblr or watching the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, a lot of the images and models we see are of white women. This has an effect on young girls who are not white because they don’t see people who look like them being represented, which is why representation in the media is key. It would also make it easier for girls of all different races to love their bodies and their skin. A good example of this is are the #BlackIsBeautiful and #BlackOut hash tags on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, as well as many other social media web sites. These hashtags promote positive body image for girls and women of colour and create a community of people to support one another. You can read about #BlackOut in the link below!

This is an extremely interesting article. I had never thought racial discrimination could actually be directly related to a person’s health. I do agree that the article could have given more concrete solutions to the obvious issue presented, but it was well researched. While the article does look at the issue of racial discrimination and also compares the results with the ages of the participants of the study, I think it would have also been beneficial to look at the differences between the genders of these individuals.
The article indicates a clear correlation between discrimination and cortisol levels, but only looks at racial discrimination without even looking at the genders of the participants. Gender discrimination is becoming even more prevalent in the media everyday. Women and non-cisgendered (or transgender) individuals are faced with discrimination throughout their lives as well. (Cisgender refers to someone whose gender identity matches the sex assigned to them at birth - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisgender). (Transgender is used as an umbrella term for anyone who is not cisgendered, i.e. a person whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex at birth - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgender)
Having scientific proof of the physically destructive properties of discrimination between races is great, but it would be interesting to see if the individuals experiencing the effects of intersectionality (individuals who overlap in one or more systems of oppression, such as race and gender - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality) are more greatly affected in terms of cortisol levels. The effects of intersectionality tend to be exponential rather than an addition of discrimination. I wonder if the results would show this.

After reading your publication about the effect of discrimination, I felt compelled to comment on it because I was very disturbed when I read it. I knew that there were already many studies on the psychological effects of discrimination but never physical effect. Thus, for me, this article questioned another aspect of racism which I never discussed on in past summaries or comments.
For my part, I am in complete agreement with the interest of the study; it studies something which I had never seen been researched before. I think we are both in agreement that this study is truly shocking and even more eye opening. Everyone who passed through the adolescent age know how hard it is to find yourself with all the physical and psychological changes that are accruing. I cannot even imagine how adolescents of the minority most have even more difficulties to discover their self. Even with the advantage of being white, I went through hard times of discrimination. However, I do not know how I would passed through these hard times with the socially constructed burden of being form a different ‘race’ than white. It is now, when I look back at it with the knowledge I acquired throughout the course, that I understand the impact of white privilege. If you look at it, white privilege is one of the reason behind discrimination because it gives advantages to white adolescents and creates burdens for adolescents of the minority. For example, I got through hard times with the help of the media. It was easy to find positive examples of white adolescents who got went through the same problems as me. However, I know that adolescents of color have a harder time to find positive examples of their culture.
Now, that I am conscious of the impact of white privilege on discrimination and mostly on our stress plus cortisol level, I know how important it is going to be to create a ‘safe space’ for my young adolescent students to talk about their problems regarding discrimination which will eventually link to the concept of race and racism.