Racial Battle Fatigue and the MisEducation of Black Men: Racial Microaggressions, Societal Problems, and Environmental Stress

By Smith, William A.; Hung, Man et al. | The Journal of Negro Education, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

Racial Battle Fatigue and the MisEducation of Black Men: Racial Microaggressions, Societal Problems, and Environmental Stress


Smith, William A., Hung, Man, Franklin, Jeremy D., The Journal of Negro Education


Black men's lives are racialized contradictions. They are told that contemporary educational and professional institutions-particularly historically White institutions (HWIs)-are places where, through hard work, they can achieve the so-called American dream. However, for far too many Black men, HWIs represent racial climates that are replete with gendered racism, blocked opportunities, and mundane, extreme, environmental stress (MEES). This study examined the experiences of 661 Black men. A structural equation modeling approach was used to analyze the data Findings indicate that as educational attainment increases toward college completion, both racial microaggressions and societal problems contribute to more than one third of the cause of MEES. Results suggest predominantly White environments are prime contexts for producing racial battle fatigue among Black men.

Keywords: racial battle fatigue, stress, Black men, African American men, MEES, racial microaggressions, People of Color

Black men are the most vulnerable U. S. racial-gender group for almost every health condition that medical researchers monitor. The American Human Development Report's (Burd-Sharps, Lewis, & Martins, 2008) Me expectancy index displays very graphic figures between eight groups, or eight "different Americas." For example, in 2001, die life expectancy gap between Black males, me lowest group, and Asian females, the highest group, was nearly 21 years (Burd-Sharps, Lewis, & Martins, 2008). These data report a gloomy reality for many African American men (Black and African American are used interchangeably). Conspicuously, this phenomenon has persisted for over a century; even to this day, only Uttle national attention or direct action has been considered. McCord and Freeman (1990) shocked the academic and public community when they reported, in their New England Journal of Medicine article, that Black men in Harlem, a neighborhood in me New York City borough of Manhattan, were less likely to reach die age of 65 than men in Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world.

The past four decades of epidemiological research has focused me country's attention on risk factors for diseases at the individual level. It appears that me nation has become more aware and educated by die World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and me Surgeon General about die effects of risky behaviors such as, but not limited to, smoking, condom use, consuming excessive alcohol, having poor eating habits, and maintaining sedentary Ufestyles (Trostle, 2005). The message, in part, has become widespread because of the mass media's role in pubUcizing important studies and prominent entertainment and sports celebrities who make persuasive pubUc service announcements (HiUier, 2006). However, according to Link and Phelan (1995), a singular focus on risk factors that are moderately proximate "causes" of disease, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, electromagnetic fields, high-density lipoprotein levels, poor eating habits and so forth, can be seen as a major limitation or bias to complete mental and physical health treatment and the rightful trajectory of science for understanding and mediating these causal relationships (Ferguson, 2001).

Social, educational, and professional institutions, such as society at-large, must realize toat there is an emotional, physiological, and psychological cost of gendered racism. These experiences shape identities, motivations, dreams, activities, and toe psychological and physiological welfare across toe personal and professional lifespan of women and men of color (Garibaldi, 1992; Pierce, 1970). In many predominantly and historically White spaces, whether toey are schools or white-collar professions, People of Color - who are the underrepresented racial and ethnic members of the U. S. - continue to be viewed as outsiders and treated in stereotypic and racist ways (BonUla-SUva, 2001, 2002; BoniUa-Silva & Forman, 2000; Feagin, 2001, 2010a; Feagin & Sikes, 1994; Feagin & Vera, 1995; Pierce, 1995; Smith, 2008a, 2008b; Smith, Allen, & Danley, 2007). …

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