The Impact of Discrimination Runs Deep

Amina Sankoh, Staff Writer

“You don’t talk like you’re black.”

“You’re in America so speak English.”

“You must be good at math.”  

“Oh, I meant where are you REALLY from?”

“So, like – what are you?”

Isolation. That is the feeling that one gets when fingers are pointed directly at them. And this is the feeling one has when they realize that they are not welcome, not wanted in someone’s vision of what “America” looks like. For those who are forced to feel this way, the isolation continues to pick at their skin and causes them to feel unwanted. 

Too often people of color enter a store only to have an employee stop what they’re doing and pay unnecessary attention to them or they experience having a white person clutch their purse as they walk by. Each of these examples happens in our society today and doing these things has a huge negative impact on the people facing it.

According to the American Psychological Association article “Discrimination: What it is, and how to cope”, the “2015 Stress in America Survey” reports that “people who say they have faced discrimination rate their stress levels higher, on average, than those who say they have not experienced discrimination.” 

The key point here is that while discrimination has a huge impact mentally, but this impact on mental health is often overlooked. News reporters and politicians use incidents of discrimination as decoys and tools that make the situation seem more “interesting.” The hateful and pitiful crimes that people have faced for decades continue to occur and are responded to with limited concern. Also, no one goes into depth about how the victim felt in the moment. 

Our nation has been through many incidents of discrimination, specifically racial discrimination. We all know that discrimination is prevalent in our society whether it be in the workplace, neighborhoods, or even in our schools.  This discrimination comes in many ways and can be either overt or covert. Discrimination affects opportunities, one’s self-esteem, and one’s sense of agency. Multiple studies have shown that people exposed to racism have poorer health outcomes along with reduced access to healthcare. In general, most things in our society are limited because of a particular race. 

Most of us can easily recall George Floyd’s murder in May of 2020 at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers. This moment exemplifies the brutal outcome of discrimination. At that moment the police didn’t see George Floyd as a 46-year-old man and father of 5 children; they saw a Black man resisting arrest and acting in a criminal manner. Despite Floyd’s pleas of  “I can’t breathe,” the police didn’t care and they were unashamed by the fact that cameras were on them. These four acted as if their actions were nothing more than entertainment, a show.  Officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of the murder of Floyd, can be seen in video footage smirking and making eye contact with the cameras multiple times. It was as if he and his partner, Tou Thao, knew they had the power and that nothing could touch them because of their higher position. This is one of the most frightening aspects of racism, that people are placed in the position where they know they can’t do anything.

Lawrence Robinson and Melinda Smith’s article “Racism and Mental Health” notes the serious impact of racism on individuals. They state, “if you’re black or another racial minority, experiencing racism and discrimination is often a daily but overlooked reality—and it can take a serious toll on your mental health, increasing your risk for depression, anxiety, stress, trauma, and substance abuse.” This is an important point because whether the discrimination is subtle or severe, it is the victim who feels it most; it is the victim who suffers the lasting effects of it.  Only the victims of discrimination feel the long-term effects, something the perpetrators will never understand. 

Robinson and Smith also state thatAs a person of color, you’re far more likely to experience negative life events such as poverty, unemployment, incarceration, or abuse” as a result of racism. This statement sums up the important fact that racial discrimination affects one’s well-being physically, mentally, and socially, and it has a disastrous effect on our society.  

I’d really like to say that discrimination would go away if we all came together despite our differences, but this isn’t the case. Unfortunately, this is not how our world works. The sad truth is that no matter what time period or generation one is from, discrimination will still be there. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do something about it. All of us should work towards making our world a safer place.