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Confronting Racism Boosts Self-Esteem

April 24, 2010


Here is an interesting article sent in by a reader (thanks Taterpie) about a new study that examines the relationship between confronting racism and self-esteem. Check it out.

New Research: Confronting Racism Boosts Self-Esteem

By Jessie

A new study of Filipino Americans by researchers at San Francisco State University demonstrates that confronting racism helps boost self-esteem for some.

The study was conducted by Alvin Alvarez, professor of counseling at San Francisco State University and Linda Juang, associate professor of psychology.  They are co-authors on a new article, “Filipino Americans and Racism: A Multiple Mediation Model of Coping,” which appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Counseling Psychology.  Alvarez surveyed 199 Filipino American adults, both men and women, in the San Francisco Bay Area and found that 99 percent of participants had experienced at least one incident of everyday racism in the last year.   The study focused on “everyday racism” — subtle, commonplace forms of discrimination, such as being ignored, ridiculed or treated differently.  In an interview, lead researcher Alvarez explained:

“These are incidents that may seem innocent and small, but cumulatively they can have a powerful impact on an individual’s mental health. Trying to ignore these insidious incidents could become taxing and debilitating over time, chipping away at a person’s spirit.”

For men in the study, dealing with racism in an active way, such as reporting incidents to authorities or challenging the perpetrator, was associated with decreased distress and increased self esteem.  The authors caution that what makes a healthy coping mechanism is influenced by such factors as gender, socioeconomic status, age, English language capacity and length of residency in the United States.  There seems to be a different dynamic at work for women in the study who did not report the positive self-esteem boost associated with “active coping,” in the same way that men did.  For women, the “avoidance” coping strategy increased psychological distress and decrease self-esteem.

“What’s striking is we found that racism is still happening to Filipinos. Therapists need to look beyond the frequent portrayal of Asian Americans as model minorities and help clients assess what their best coping strategy could be, depending on their resources, what’s feasible and who they could turn to for support.”

Of course, this new research lends further support to the argument that Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin have done in their book, The Myth of the Model Minority, in which they document the widespread experience of everyday racism among Asian Americans.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2010 2:46 pm

    Not addressing racist acts and statements does take a toll on your psyche. Collectively as Asian Americans we were not taught how to address those who perpetrate racist acts against us, whether covert or overt. Most Asians just don’t say anything, or they just stand there flabbergasted to know anti-Asian racism still is prevalent and accepted by whites, Blacks and Hispanics.

    When racist sh!t happens to you in your personal interactions with people, then you have got to address it immediately.

  2. April 24, 2010 10:26 pm

    “Most Asians just don’t say anything, or they just stand there flabbergasted to know anti-Asian racism still is prevalent and accepted by whites, Blacks and Hispanics.”

    That’s very true, Alpha.

    Oriental, er… Asian Americans often have a culture of denial, rationalization, if not outright political cowardice, when it comes to calling out, let alone fighting, anti-Asian racism.

    This is true across the political spectrum (albeit expressed in different ways) from Progressives to Conservatives in the community.

    And in a “kill or be killed” country like America, this kind of quiescence is pure suicide.

  3. April 26, 2010 10:18 pm

    Speaking of racism towards Asians, check out this article on about Mickey Rourke playing Genghis Khan in an upcoming Hollywood crapfest. Of course the news of that is disturbing, though highly unsurprising (hey, we’re Asian-Americans!), but what really got me is the condescending, mocking tone of the author towards Racebending (“Ricebending,” haha) and Asians in general, especially ones who speak up about injustices and whatnot. His sentiments are pretty much reflected in the always-enlightening comment section.
    My favorite comment is: “there is this group of “racebending” homos/nerds who are all up in arms/jesse jackson mode over the casting of the last airbender.” (puke)
    The author, despite having the handle “El Guapo” is indeed white, which kind of begs the question why is he writing for Latino Review?
    Anyway, thought that might be interesting.

  4. April 28, 2010 5:51 am

    Thanks for the link and heads up, Invasian.

    I saw that about Mickey Rourke playing Genghis Khan.

    Hollywood cretins have always specialized in racial minstrelsy–from the days of Amos and Andy and Stepin Fetchit.

    And that LatinoReview article and comments read like something written by mouth-breathing, teenager fans of Univision.

    If you ever want to see some mindless shit, check that TV channel out. It is like the hispanic version of Fox TV.

  5. Mas permalink
    August 24, 2010 3:15 pm

    Interesting study. As a Japanese Canadian I can say that “we” have certainly been as avoidance-minded about any kind of confrontations relating to racism as this subject group of Filipinos. All of these stereotypes are relevant up here too. I can also say that even as a school teacher that I have to deal with these prevalent stereotypes from my co-workers and students all of the time. We Asians are not taught to be confrontational (cultural) which does have its disadvantages in an in-your-face culture. Thanks…..

  6. John permalink
    September 14, 2010 11:08 pm

    This is very true. I know I was one of those who stood there shocked when girls implied that I have a small dicked. It makes me less confident as a result. I wish I could have gotten back at them.

    Don’t let any incident slide or else you will lying down trying to sleep and you regret not saying anything.

  7. September 19, 2010 7:06 am

    @ John, Mas

    Yes. In a society that values power above all, turning the other cheek in the face of anti-Asian racism is not an option.

    It’s not only politically suicidal behavior, it’s personally self-destructive.

  8. Nivlek Vlok permalink
    November 23, 2011 6:25 am

    To Alpha Asian,
    Most Asians don’t say anything b/c in the Old country, like China, saying anything in opposition would get you killed.
    “Anti-Asian racism still is prevalent and accepted by whites, Blacks and Hispanics”. Look at the communities and school bullying! Suburban schools are controlled by Rich White School Boards, City Schools are controlled by Black and Hispanic Administration that have enough problems of their own race to deal with.
    When education is so important, there hasn’t been any strong voice for Asians in America.
    To Asian American movement,
    A lot of Asian immigrants sacrificed a lot to come to America. They don’t fight b/c they have a lot more to lose than everyone else. Look at how the police responds to hate crimes against Asians they dismiss it.
    If we want to be taken seriously, we have to organize. We should demand more from schools, universities, and the community. A lot of us pay the highest taxes, contribute the most to society as hardworking and honest businesses. And what do we get? Scapegoating. I see Bilingual education targeting mostly Latinos, all the tax programs for closing the achievement gap to Blacks, and what do we get? Treated like 2nd class citizens.
    Look to God. Everyone is sinner. Words come from the heart of Man not from the Outside. Don’t rely on the world but on the Lord.


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