What Is Internalized Racism – Examples of Internalized Racism

What Is Internalized Racism?

By Nadra Kareem Nittle, About.com Guide

“What Is Internalized Racism?”

This novel by James Weldon Johnson chronicles a biracial man’s decision to pass for white.

Dover Publications Inc.

Updated February 01, 2010

Just what is internalized racism1? One might describe it as a fancy term for a problem that’s pretty easy to grasp. In a society where racial prejudice thrives in politics, communities, institutions and popular culture, it’s difficult for racial minorities to avoid absorbing the racist messages that constantly bombard them. Thus, even people of color sometimes adopt a white supremacist mindset that results in self-hatred and hatred of their respective racial group. Minorities suffering from internalized racism, for example, may loathe the physical characteristics that make them racially distinct such as skin color, hair texture or eye shape. Others may stereotype2 those from their racial group and refuse to associate with them. And some may outright identify as white. Overall, minorities suffering from internalized racism buy into the notion that whites are superior to people of color. Think of it as Stockholm Syndrome in the racial sphere.

Causes of Internalized Racism

While some minorities grew up in diverse communities where racial differences were appreciated, others felt rejected due to their skin color. Being bullied3 because of ethnic background and encountering harmful messages about race in greater society may be all it takes to get a person of color to begin loathing themselves. For some minorities, the impetus to turn racism inward occurs when they see whites receiving privileges denied to people of color.

“I don’t want to live in the back. Why do we always have to live in the back?” a fair-skinned black character named Sarah Jane asks in the 1959 film “Imitation of Life.”4 Sarah Jane ultimately decides to abandon her black mother and pass for white because she “wants to have a chance in life.” She explains, “I don’t want to have to come through back doors or feel lower than other people.”

In the classic novel Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man5, the mixed-race protagonist first begins to experience internalized racism after he witnesses a white mob burn a black man alive. Rather than empathize with the victim, he chooses to identify with the mob. He explains:

“I understood that it was not discouragement, or fear, or search for a larger field of action and opportunity, that was driving me out of the Negro race. I knew that it was shame, unbearable shame. Shame at being identified with a people that could with impunity be treated worse than animals.”

via What Is Internalized Racism – Examples of Internalized Racism.

Crabs in a Barrel Syndrome

25 Surprising Facts about Psychology | Psychology Today – StumbleUpon.

Crabs in a Barrel Syndrome: Will it ever end?

Don’t crawl over and compete; instead, celebrate each other.

Haters. Do you know some people who just can’t celebrate when someone else is doing a good thing? People who don’t want to see anyone else be celebrated for their good deeds, or even for just looking good? Well, here’s a “McCloudism” from my book, Living Well: “When you do your thing, remember…you will have “haters”; but never let people get you off track. Sometimes even family members will become jealous and try to derail your efforts and destroy your spirit. But no matter what obstacles come against you, you can make it if you treat people right, stay focused on your goal and stay true to yourself and your God.”

On a social network board (which I’m sure I’ll exit this summer), I recently saw a post from a new author in which she was asking about “haters.” Apparently she had received some negativity about her upcoming book, or perhaps other things she’s doing or saying. Even though I’ve never met the woman personally, we have been in regular communication because the theme of her book, Black Woman Redefined is, in many ways, similar to that of mine, Living Well, Despite Catchin’ Hell; (the “hell” is what I call “psycho-social stressors,” some, listed below).

Each of our books addresses the negative media images of Black women in our society and the social challenges many Black women face, some due to their own deeds.

As a physician (an obstetrician-gynecologist), I add to that conversation by presenting how such negative imagery, low marriage statistics, social rejection, often disrespect, and the educational/work inequity with many Black men; plus already-present medical challenges, including the risk of HIV/AIDS, “down-low” men, and more can (and mostly does) have a negative effect on our physical health. In Nelson’s book, she reportedly features Black women whose names you know from politics and the media; in mine, I give voice and visibility to some highly-accomplished sisters of whom you may not have heard. In her first email reply to me last fall, she expressed our “synergy”; I agreed, and together we celebrate.

When I first joined that same social network, I asked another Black female physician (and author) who does national TV segments if she’d be kind enough to simply post word of my new book on her page, for it is the first Black women’s health book written by a physician in eight years, and no one else really gives voice to Black women’s specific health concerns and challenges. Plus, I have great endorsements, from the medical, psychological, educational and celebrity world (the foreword is by Pauletta Washington, the beautiful wife of Academy Award winner, Denzel Washington). My colleague’s reply: “Congratulations on your book.” Poof. That was it.

Some people just don’t want to see others succeed, or they feel threatened if a little light shines on someone else, even for a minute. This has been a well-known “syndrome” in the Black community, but is said to exist in lawyers, even preachers. It may in fact, just be human nature. But it doesn’t have to be. As I mention in Living Well, do your thing; do it well. Your light will shine, and we can celebrate you. When it’s someone else’s turn, celebrate them. This is America; there is plenty room at life’s table for everyone to get their slice. As people, as a race, as women…we don’t have to compete, we can complement…and ain’t that a good thing?

April is National Poetry Month, check out some word. It is also National Minority Health Month. Be Healthy, Be Blessed…and make sure you are Living Well !

Copyright © 2011 Dr. Melody T. McCloud