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The psychology behind racism in the Americas

Not long ago, people used to associate the year “2020” with a futuristic era filled with catastrophic development for humanity’s technology as well as our overall maturity and acceptance. This year was supposed to be driving steadily on the right path of abolishing racism, protecting human rights, and doing better. Instead, here we are witnessing yet another victim of racism’s cruelty. George Floyd lost his life for no other reason than crossing paths with badge-wielding, law-protected murders while being African American. Such incidents aren’t exactly rare in America, thus understanding the psychology of these racist acts, as well as America’s history, might play a role in rooting out the problem.

Racism as a Psychological Defense Mechanism

Many psychologists classify racism and acts of xenophobia as a psychological defense mechanism triggered by insecurity and anxiety. When feeling insignificance, unease, or inadequacy, people tend to strengthen their sense of worth via group identity. Thus, the mentality of “us” virus “them” arises. However, racism only truly starts to manifest when one group withdraws empathy toward the other.  Hence, acts of concern and compassion get to be only limited to their “own”. That’s why people with narcissistic and paranoid personality traits are usually racists.

Therefore, racism is a symptom of psychological ill-health. Moreover, being racist is a clear sign of a lack of psychological integration, a lack of self-esteem, and overall inner security. 

Shades of racism and delusion

Studies have proved that white people often either deny or cloak their privilege. They underestimate all the advantages that they have in wealth and employment compared to any other ethical group. Moreover, schools and workplaces often embrace this “color-blind” ideology. Thus, reducing sensitivity concerning racism and the unique needs of minorities. 

A recent survey on whether white people benefit “a great deal” or “a fair amount” from societal advantages that black people do not enjoy indicated that 84% of African Americans and 71% of Latinos have agreed with this testament. However, only Only 47% of whites shared this view.

Moreover, people who openly discuss topics of race, discrimination, and privilege are often subjected to harassment, job loss, physical violence, and sometimes even worse.

Hence, this blind ideology is helping racism and discrimination prevail in America.

A History filled struggle

America’s history is filled with stages of progress and setbacks, resilience and retaliation, of protest and backlash. The long path of ending racism has started since the abolishment of slavery. Furthermore, American history has witnessed thousands of allies, opponents as well as mere bystanders. 

It is true that forty of the 56 who signed the independence declaration the land of liberty was owned by other people. Thus, the people who founded this nation were probably racist themselves.

Then for almost 246 years, Africans in  America were kidnapped, whipped, beaten, raped, and enslaved. Furthermore, Slavery and the slave trade were considered very essential to the American economy.

However, with the abolishment of slavery, the aftermath of the civil war gave black folk hope. This hope was stripped away when the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camellia regained control of their workforce all while circumscribing their lives through terror, violence, and voter suppression.

In 1954, things started to change once again for the better when the Supreme Court’s Brown v Board of Education mandated that American schools be racially integrated.

Then came Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, and thousands of activists with the political muscle of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. They were successful in legalizing the Civil Rights Act which forbade discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing.

Thus, understanding the history of America can help in grasping the development that led us to everything happening there right now. It can also provide hope that things, though slowly, can turn for the better. 

Rooting out the problem

Centuries-old fanatic ideologies cannot perish within a day or two. This might need years of hard work, though the reaped benefits will save the lives of millions. First and foremost, society must acknowledge the problem. Staying silent or turning a blind eye to any act of racism should stop. Old or young, no one should get a pass for this kind of behavior all while acknowledging the privilege that comes with having white skin. 

For more Read


M. (2018, December 21). America’s psychologists want you to understand how racism holds our country back. Retrieved June 01, 2020, from https://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-race-america-psychologists-20181221-story.html

Science of Racism Examined in New Set of Research Articles. (2018, June 08). Retrieved June 01, 2020, from https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/science-of-racism-explained-in-new-set-of-research-articles.html

Taylor, S. (2018, January 19). The Psychology of Racism. Retrieved June 01, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-darkness/201801/the-psychology-racism