Impacts, Mechanisms, and Individual Variations in the Stress Response to Racial Microaggressions
Primary Investigators: Gloria Wong
People of Color (POC) report racial microaggressions as the most commonly experienced racial discrimination (D.W. Sue, 2010). These are everyday slights delivered as “put-downs” and denigrations directed towards POC (Pierce, Carew, Pierce, Gonzalez, and Willis, 1978). Scholars are interested in examining the impact of racial microaggressions on psychological and physical health outcomes, yet only a few studies uncover the mechanisms by which racial microaggressions impact mental health and physical health. Reviews of existing research suggest that discrimination is associated with depression and anxiety symptoms, decreased psychological well-being, lower self-regard, and physical health issues (e.g., higher blood pressure and cardiovascular disease) (Carter, 2007; Clark et al., 1999; Harrell et al., 2003, Mays et al., 2007, and Sue et al., 2007). Critics of racial microaggressions research claim that racial microaggressions are not as impactful compared to general forms of discrimination and therefore, not as stressful for POC (Thomas, 2008; Schacht, 2008; D.W. Sue, 2008). They argue that racial microaggressions are experienced by all people, White Americans included. This study conceptualized racial microaggressions as a stressor and used the transitional model of stress (Lazarus and Folkman, 1987) to uncover the mechanisms by which racial microaggressions may negatively impact mental and physical health. The major goals were to 1) determine if microaggressions are actually more stressful to POC, in this case, Asian Americans, 2) examine why racial microaggressions are more stressful for Asian Americans compared to White Americans, and 3) study individual differences within Asian Americans to determine if certain marginalized individuals are more vulnerable to racial microaggressions.