The Effects of Racial Slurs

Updated November 21, 2016

Victims of racial bullying or discrimination will experience dramatic negative effects. Whether the minority individual targeted for abuse is an adult in the workplace or a child in school, being on the receiving end of a racial slur can lead to stress, avoidance and actual physical illness.

Racism and Mental Health

Racial slurs, which are a particularly aggressive form of racial discrimination, can lead to anxiety, depression and increased stress. A minority who works in an environment where racial insults are a regular part of life will experience a damaging cumulative effect over time, which can lead to chronic stress.

Racism and Physical Health

According to one study, the stress resulting from racial slurs and other forms of discrimination builds up over time and can actually lead to heart disease. This Health Journal sponsored study focused on black women who listed racism as a stressor in their lives. The study showed that these women were more likely to develop plaque in the carotid arteries, an early sign of heart disease. Connecting racism and stress is significant since in general, blacks have a greater incidence of dying from heart disease, hypertension or stroke than any other racial group, regardless of income.

Racial Bullying in Schools

Students who are targets for racial bullying at the hands of another student, or even a teacher, face a variety of damaging consequences. Just as with other types of bullying, these victims can suffer from lower self esteem, depression, avoiding school and a failure to graduate. They also have a higher risk of suicide. Types of racial bullying that can happen in schools include name calling, jokes, badges or shirts with discriminatory messages, or even calling up websites that are negative in tone toward a racial minority.

How to Deal with Racial Slurs

In a school room context, teachers and administrators should have zero tolerance for racism and instead do their best to create a climate that celebrates diversity. If a student feels he is a victim of racial bullying, he should report the problem to a teacher immediately. The same should apply in a workplace, with bosses and supervisors giving racism no leeway. Both adults and students can also try the following strategies when addressing racial slurs: speak up and ask the offender how they acquired their racial beliefs; set limits by refusing to stay in the same space as someone who is making racial comments; appeal to the offender's principles by expressing surprise that they would issue a racial comment.

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