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Roots of Racial Stigma

Roots of Racial StigmaEmerging research looks at the views of African Americans and whites toward racial perceptions.

Investigators from the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis reviewed how African Americans and whites favor or prefer their own racial group over the other.

Researchers also attempted to determine how much groups identify with their own racial group, and how positively they feel about themselves.

The work, by Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, Ph.D., looked at both consciously controllable sentiments and gut feelings about social stigma and found a significant difference in both groups between what people say they feel and their less controllable “gut feelings.”

Many studies of stigma have been conducted since the end of World War II but until recently they have looked primarily at explicit (recently learned) attitudes and did not include implicit measures of deep-seated feelings acquired earlier in life and not consciously accessible.

To explain the difference between explicit and implicit measures, Ashburn-Nardo uses an illustration from everyday life.

“You may be asked how you feel and you respond, “I’m okay,” yet your body is showing signs of distress (e.g., high blood pressure or fast pulse rate). You’re not necessarily lying when you say ‘I’m okay.’ It’s more likely that you just may not realize how stress is affecting you.

“Explicit measures are much like your ‘I’m okay’ response to how you are whereas implicit measures are like the blood pressure cuff or stethoscope findings. It’s important that we don’t rely exclusively on the asking and neglect the less easy to access information if we hope to increase our understanding of stigma and be in a position to help people.”

In her study Ashburn-Nardo found that African Americans consciously reported that they favored their own race, identified with their own race and felt very good about themselves at a rate much higher than whites.

However when tested on non-conscious feelings, that was not the case. African Americans favored their race less and less strongly identified with their own race than whites.

Both African Americans and whites had positive gut feelings about themselves.

“This study provides a greater understanding of how stigma affects people in ways in which they are unwilling or unable to report explicitly.

“For over half a century social psychologists have asked members of stigmatized groups how they feel about themselves and about the group to which they belong.

“But they have only been learning part of the story — the perceptions individuals realize they have, not the ones they may have internalized over a long period of time. That is, people might suffer more from experiences with prejudice than they are able to report via questionnaires,” said Ashburn-Nardo.

The new study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Social Issues.

Source: Indiana University School of Medicine

Roots of Racial Stigma

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Roots of Racial Stigma. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 11 Oct 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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