Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

Perceived Racism and Encouragement among African American Adults

Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

Perceived Racism and Encouragement among African American Adults

Article excerpt

The effects of spirituality, racial socialization, and ethnic pride on encouragement in the face of racism among African American adults (N = 201) were investigated. The negative relationship between perceived racism and encouragement disappeared when spirituality, ethnic pride, and a racial socialization history were entered into the regression equation.

Se investigaron los efectos de la espiritualidad, la socializacion racial y el orgullo etnico sobre el animo para enfrentarse al racismo entre adultos Afroamericanos (N = 201). La relacion negativa entre el racismo percibido y el animo desaparecio cuando se introdujeron en la ecuacion regresiva la espiritualidad, el orgullo etnico y una historia de socializacion racial.


Racial discrimination has negatively affected African Americans in the United States for centuries and produced one of the most publicly recognized histories of social oppression (Hollar, 2001). Extensive research has shown the deleterious effects of racism on African American people and clearly demonstrated that perceived racism and discrimination may negatively affect the lives of the oppressed (Brondolo et al., 2008).

It should also be noted that despite the proven negative effect of racism and the fact that racism and discrimination are still very much alive (Sellers & Shelton, 2003), African American people have continued to improve their positions in society exponentially and succeed in all walks of life. Their coping and resilience in the face of racism deserves research attention and understanding. We reviewed the research examining possible moderating variables between perceived racism and psychological well-being (e.g., Fischer & Shaw, 1999) and investigated the predictive and buffering roles of the racial socialization experience, spirituality, and ethnic pride in the relationship between perceived racism and encouragement.

Perceived racism refers to the subjective experience of prejudice and/or discrimination and has been pervasive among African Americans (Clark, Anderson, Clark, & Williams, 1999). Studies have shown that between 31% and 100% of African American participants report having experienced some form of racism within a year, with the percentage increasing if experiences over the course of a lifetime are considered (Sellers & Shelton, 2003). The significant negative effect of perceived racism on African Americans' physiological (Clark et al., 1999) and psychological health (Klonof, Landrine, & Ullman, 1999) has been well documented. These findings highlight the idea that, for African Americans to survive or thrive in this society in the United States, they often have to overcome experiences with perceived racism.

Despite the unjust world they live in, many African Americans refuse to live as victims and exercise tremendous psychological resilience in fending off the negative effects of perceived racism (Utsey, Bolden, Lanier, & Williams, 2007). Active coping, in the forms of spirituality, ethnic pride, and racial socialization, is often exercised by African Americans to remain resilient in the face of difficulties (Allen, 1996). One expression of such resilience is having feelings of encouragement, denoting the existence of courage within an individual (Adler, 1931). Phelps, Tranakos-Howe, Dagley, and Lyn (2001) further described encouragement as a state of being with feelings of adequacy, competence, hope, faith, and connectedness when confronted with hardship in life. Encouraged persons have an adequate and positive view of the self and others, an openness to experience, and a sense of belonging, and "believe they are worthwhile despite how well or poorly they do and what others think of them" (Evans, Dedrick, & Epstein, 1997, p. 164). It is foreseeable that encouragement contributes to resilience.

Perceived racism can be a threat to encouragement. It is difficult for an African American individual to maintain a healthy self-concept or feel competent when he or she is consistently confronted with unjust prejudice and negative discrimination. …

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