Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Pride and prejudice

With controversy surrounding the recent European Football Championships which took place in Poland and the Ukraine, and in tribute of Nelson Mandela's birthday tomorrow, it seems fitting to draw the spotlight on the topic of discrimination and racism, in particular.

It is hardly surprising to learn that racial discrimination may be harmful to our health. Findings from a study conducted at Rice University found approximately 18% of black people and 4% of white people reported more physical symptoms and higher levels of emotional upset as a result of perceived treatment based on race. Indeed, the relationship between perceived racism and self-reported depression and anxiety is strong.

According to researchers at the University of British Columbia, it is how we feel about ourselves, particularly how we experience pride that determines our racist attitudes towards others who are different.

'Authentic' pride results from hard work and achievement whereas 'hubristic' originates from status which is gained through less authentic means such as money, power or nepotism. If we experience 'authentic' pride, it has been revealed that we are more likely to have empathy for others and are therefore less likely to be prejudiced or racist towards others.

However, the way we respond to racial insults varies widely according to where we are from. Research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin revealed African-American women compared to Asian-American women are more likely to directly rebuff racist comments. This difference is believed to reflect cultural differences and is based on work which demonstrates the distinct ways people from different cultures have of communicating, displaying emotion and managing conflict.

Either way our reaction to racism, whether direct or indirect, does not mean we are any less offended by it. What is more important though is to raise awareness of racial discrimination and the impact it can have on health and well-being.

First Psychology Scotland has centres in the following locations:

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk
Aberdeen: 01224-452-848, www.aberdeenpsychology.co.uk

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