Racism Impact on African-American Communities in the US

Subject: History
Pages: 15
Words: 3975
Reading time:
16 min
Study level: Undergraduate


The problem of racism in the US has a link with colonial era and the times of slave trade. Legal and suctioned privileges from the paradigms of social seclusion were given to the white communities while African-Americans and other minority groups that were often regarded as cheap laborers for the Whites were deprived essential rights. Such rights included immigration privileges, suffrage civil liberties, acquiring land, and even obtaining citizenship from the 17th-century all the way to the 1960s. However, a question emerges on whether racism, especially which is directed towards racial minorities such as African-Americans, remains even today. This research examines the implication of racism in various aspects of African-Americans’ life, including education, health, and governance representation.

Problem Statement

African-Americans face racism, which may hinder their development. Racial discrimination denotes the act of systematically subordinating people’s race. Although the issue is not pronounced as it appeared during the 18th-century to the start of the 20th-century, it remains a significant problem to the African-Americans. It comprises not only people’s thoughts, but also actions coupled with institutional structures that hinder progress or equal attention to people from a given race. It is caused by power differences and discrimination. Indeed, issues such as limited power to enforce decisions and negative attitudes towards African-Americans and their discrimination are the leading causes of racism.

Background and Justification

Recognizing the problem of racism, Ngai (2004) does not understand why it is possible for some Americans to be exposed to racism, yet America comprises people who have different identities. Indeed, the high level of recruitment of laborers of Pilipino and Mexican identities at the beginning of 1920s substantiates the issue of the US diversity (Ngai, 2004). The past of immigrant minority laborers was dark. They were exploited due to racist attitudes. African-American were at best tools of trade or capital for the Whites, just like land and money, for the masters. Today, in the US, the problem of racial stratification manifests itself in education, government representation, the housing sector, and in the area of financial lending (Carter, 2007). Harrell, Hall, and Taliaferro (2010) assert that discrimination that leads to racial stratification is evident in all occupations and that it applies to all persons of color. Although the views of Americans on the issue of racism have changed over time, some Americans still possess discriminatory viewpoints. The bar graph in Figure 1 in Appendix 2 supports these assertions.

Racism requires power to execute discriminatory practices whose core role is to subordinate some groups of people from a given race. In the US, the Whites are the dominant players in the power triangles. They control and dominate in terms of leadership for institutions that guarantee development and enforcement of various cultural norms. Black Americans have little power to control institutions because of their insignificant number in leadership. Since passing critical decisions to enforce certain regulation through institutions requires voting with the sheer majority votes leading to enforce a given decision, African-Americans, cannot be racists based on the definition of racism. Indeed, as shown in Figure 2 in Appendix 2, based on the USA Today polls, Americans do not think that Whites experience any racism. However, prejudice that is integrated into power amounts to racism.

Purpose of the Study

Racism applies to diverse people in different capacities and in diverse sectors. Consequently, a study on the effects of racism on African-Americans should focus on specific areas. The paper first reviews literature on the impact of racism on African-Americans from the context of their health. It conducts a literature review on racism, the health of African-Americans, and the historical context of racism. The paper purposes to establish the relationship between racism and the health of African-Americans. The goal is to respond to the research question on whether racism influences the health of African-Americans living in Flint.

Conceptual Framework

Conceptual framework for this research is that racism that is targeted to African-Americans constitutes a problem that has strong roots in the American history. This situation is presently replicated in US institutions and societal lives. Therefore, a justification of the existence of the problem requires a consideration of the historical perspective of racism. Indeed, according to a poll conducted by the USA Today, when people in the US are queried about whether discrimination against Blacks is a widespread phenomenon that is based on their racial backgrounds, people unanimously agree as shown in Figure 3 in Appendix 2.

Studies on the impact of racism on African-Americans demonstrate that racism has negative outcomes on African-Americans’ health, educational attainment, and representation in governance. This research only focuses on the implication of racism on African-Americans’ health. However, a consideration of various ways in which racism has been manifested in historical perspectives is incredibly important to establish theoretical framework for the research. In what contexts can racism be traced in the US?

Takaki (2008) investigates the problem of racism among racial minorities of the United States in his book, A Different Mirror: History of Multicultural America. The book handles the topics of Jews, Chicanos, Mexicans, Japanese, Native-Americans, Chinese, African-Americans, and people of Irish originality. The history of these people who comprise the American diversity is addressed from before to after the historic period of slavery. The author also ties the multicultural history of people who make up the American diversity to the place they are found at the time of his writing.

Takaki (2008) focuses on the history of the immigrants of the United States in the end of the 1890s and the end of the US frontier. The reasons for immigrating included the need to run away from famine and war. In Germany, political unrest caused a large number of people to seek refuge in the United States. Together with the Irish people, these groups of immigrants faced a various challenges such as discrimination and racism. This situation often led to the justification of their exploitation in forced and poorly unpaid labor. However, in the modern days, the position of these immigrants has changed to the level that their identities are contributing towards the creation of a multicultural America.

Although Takaki’s (2008) work is important in understanding the historic problems of racism that is targeted to African-Americans and other racial minorities, it does not offer a thorough description of these groups of people in various societal sectors, including health, education, governance, and economy. It does not also offer intensive discussion of the status of racism that is focused on African-Americans. However, Takaki’s (2008) work is important in understanding the context in which African-Americans faced racism. One of the critical arguments raised by Takaki (2008) is that racism emanates from power differences and prejudice. From Takaki’s (2008) point of view, racial minorities in the United States, including African-Americans, have been lacking power to contribute to the national agenda. This situation has had the impact of discriminating them in terms of housing with majority of them being destined to live in poor substandard housing, commonly called ghettoes.

Racism through the Eyes of Filmmakers

Racist themes and negative portrayal of African-Americans as an inferior race were prevalent in movies that dated back from 1909. For instance, the movie, Birth of a Nation (1915) by D.W Griffith portrayed not only the dominant racist views of the experts in filmmakers, but also reflected racist attitudes among the audience. Through the audience praising the racist themes in movies, filmmakers got more enthusiastic to portray African-Americans negatively.

The movie Gone with the Wind was released in 1939. It shed light on the history of the African-Americans. These movies clearly indicated the existence of the problem of racism in the American history. Gone with the Wind marked an important starting point in fighting historical racism that had been targeting African-Americans. Indeed, it formed an important masterpiece that commented on the inappropriateness of stigmatization and consideration of African-Americans as inferior. It reflected African-American struggles to fight for the recognition of their race as equally superior with that of the Whites. Hence, African-Americans were evolving to acquire equality with American dominant white class of people.

The above theme was a response to Scar of Shame, a 1927 Hollywood production that highlighted and reinforced the racial difference between Whites and African-Americans (Frost, 2008). The work of Frost (2008) is important is this research since the author describes another context of racism, apart from health, the film industry, and/or how it was played out in the American society. Therefore, it is clear that the problem exists in the American society. Although this claim may not be the case in the film industry, a probability exists that the problem persists in other areas such as health, which is the major concern of the current paper.

Racism and Health

Hockenbury and Hockenbury (2008) studied the risks factors for stress, as an important condition determining mental health. The researchers assert that stress can be caused by cultural and social factors. This situation is the case for disadvantaged groups of people who live in areas that have high crime rates, crowded dwellings, and poor housing (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2008). These areas are more likely to accommodate racial minorities, including African-Americans, who face racist challenges. Hockenbury and Hockenbury (2008) also note that socio-economic status has a link with stress. Low socio-economic status people have a tendency of experiencing more negative life experiences and daily life hassles (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2008). Therefore, it is not surprising that such people encounter higher psychological distress, high levels of premature death, and poor health outcomes. Low socio-economic status, discrimination, and racism are precedents of chronic stress. Hence, discrimination and racism, which are common challenges experienced by African-Americans, are key determinants of psychological health outcomes. Nevertheless, the research does not provide the extent to which stress relates to racism.

Increasing scholarly evidence indicates a direct relationship between racism and poor health outcomes among African-Americans. For example, Harrell et al. (2010) indicate that adolescents who experience racism have higher chances of suffering from stress-related health problems. Such challenges have higher tenancy of becoming chronic during their later life stages. Such people are likely to have increased blood pressure, greater body mass index, and elevated anxiety hormones at the age of 20. In adults, Carter (2007) documents negative psychological effects of racism by linking it to high blood pressure. According to the author, fear of racism has the potential for triggering the release of stress responses. Hence, people of color, including African-Americans who live in racist societies do so under consistent biological stressors (Carter, 2007).

A study completed in 2012 by Medical New Today reveals racist biasness when treating African-Americans without doctors’ knowledge that such acts happen in the respective health facilities. About 75% of primary care medical practitioners have biased views towards patients from African-American racial backgrounds (Medical New Today, 2012). This biasness has the implication of creating an environment that is unwelcoming to African-Americans in health care facilities.

Strength and Weaknesses of Previous Studies

  1. Failure to offer a systematic depiction of the affected groups of people in various societal sectors, including health, education, governance, and economy
  2. Failure to describe aspects of research design
  3. Provision of a vivid description of racism and its effect on African-Americans

Significance of the Study

Although the above are important in setting foundational work on the effect of racism that is directed to African-Americans on their health, some authors such as Covert (2016) do not describe aspects of their research design such as samples and sampling techniques, which can facilitate the validation of their claims. The results of this paper will be significant since they seek to seal the gaps in such works by conducting a research in Flint on the implications of racism on African-Americans’ health. African-Americans are recruited to determine the degree to which they feel they encounter racism-related problems, which may have a negative impact on their health.


The freedom of choice of method depends on the researchers’ perception and evaluation of methods that best meet the needs of the research at hand. The best choice that utilizes methodologies that complement this aspect forms the basic logic for designing the current research to use the pragmatic approach that deploys quantitative and qualitative research.

Research Design and Hypothesis

The current research hypothesizes that racism leads to poor health outcomes on African-Americans who live in Flint. To prove or disapprove the hypothesis, four main approaches can be deployed as a design for any research. The approaches may be qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods (pragmatic approach), and the emancipator technique. The current research deploys the pragmatic approach. According to Freshwater, Sherwood, and Drury (2006), pragmatic approach gives researchers the freedom to select techniques and procedures that have the attributes of quantitative and qualitative research.

Research Audience

It is expected that this research finding will receive audience from bodies that seek to fight racism, including Flint administration. The research does not intend to attract sympathetic attitudes towards African-Americans. However, it seeks audience from discriminatory racist communities, which may be having such attitudes without their knowledge. The research can help them to avoid some attitudes, which lead to escalating the problem of racism that is targeted to African-Americans in Flint.


A primary challenge in any research entails selecting a representative sample. Sample size varies according to the anticipated statistical confidence levels. The primary focus of the current research is to determine whether racism has any impact on the health of Flint African-Americans. Therefore, selecting a sample size that can yield powerful qualitative and quantitative information for making statistical inferences is necessary. In determining an appropriate sample size, some parameters of the sample must be known. The parameters include confidence interval or error margin, the size of the studied population, the expected confidence level, and the Standard Deviation (SD) (Saunders, Thornhill, & Lewis, 2009).

In this research, the number African-Americans who are expected to face racism, including the racists (Whites), is necessary. Although this number may be approximated from census statistics, the research can progress without knowing the population. Saunders et al. (2009) assert that most studies work with unknown population. The only important thing entails determining the appropriate demographic group of the study. As argued in the literature review section, racism has historical perspectives. It may be presumed that the older population has more racist attitudes. Can such attitudes still apply to younger people? In the attempt to respond to this question, the research focuses on 18 to 35-year-olds.

Samples are not always perfect. This assertion underlines the importance of setting limits for the permissible error or the confidence level. The current research uses a standard value of +/-5. This range means that the research will use the 95% confidence interval. Standard deviation denotes the degree to which interviewee responses should vary. The current research utilizes a SD value of 0.5. The figure is the most convenient since it gives the chosen population portion a recommendable size. Different confidence levels have different Z-score values. A 95% confidence level has a Z-score value of 1.96. This value makes it possible to compute the sample size.


Substituting the chosen values in the equation yields 385 as the sample size.

Data Collection Instruments, Variables, and Measurements

385 Whites and 385 African-Americans will be used in the research. The research will deploy questionnaires as the primary data collection tool. The dependent variable is health outcome among African-Americans in Flint. The independent variable with be racist attitudes. Some questions that require qualitative information will also be used to help in the provision of data on specific perceptions about the racist indicators that are directed towards African-Americans.

Research Questions

Noting that racism exists in the U.S., the main scholarly questions that this paper investigates are:

  1. What are the impacts of racism on people that it targets?
  2. Does racism influence the health of African Americans living in Flint?

Data Analysis Procedure

  1. 385 copies of interview questions will be distributed to white subjects. A similar number will also be distributed to the African-American subjects.
  2. The respondents filled the questionnaire based on the questions (a-g) in the Appendix
  3. After collecting the filled interview questions (a-g), the next step will involve analysis
  4. After the analysis, the results will be presented followed by a discussion of the findings.


Racism is a sensitive issue in the US. It elicits strong negative feelings among the African-Americans, especially those who have suffered from it in the recent past or those who are already experiencing it. Racist communities are reluctant to admit the existence of racist attitudes and seclusions. This situation limits the ease of acquiring information from White’s population segments in Flint.

Confidentiality Issues and Ethical Considerations

Considering the sensitivity of the subject of racism, holding optimal confidentiality of information provided is necessary. Consequently, no respondent will be identified by name or reference made that may lead to prejudicing the anonymity of people who provide information in the research. Research should be ethical to the extent that it should not use manipulated data. However, risks exist that some subjects, especially those who are drawn from potentially racist population segments may provide unreliable information due to the sensitivity of the subject of racism.


From both groups of people, only questionnaire that has a maximum of one unfilled question will be considered. For the White subjects, only 351 questionnaires passed this criterion. In case of African-Americans, 363 questionnaires were deemed valid. Table 1 below shows the results of the study after the administration of the questionnaire to the White subjects while Table 2 indicates the results for the African-American subjects.

Table 1: White Subjects

Questions A B C Total response
155 180 16 351
2 123 125
0 351 351
0 351 351
339 12 351
207 144 351
300 51 351

Table 2: African-American Subjects

Questions A B C Total response
174 184 5 363
258 57 315
230 133 363
109 254 363
28 335 363
57 306 363
150 213 363

Analysis of Results

From table 1 and 2 and the number of responses for each question, it can be noted that respondents only avoided replying to question b when the inclusion criteria was set to only involve questionnaires with not more than one question unanswered. However, more whites (64%) than African-Americans (13%) avoided the question. In the city, more than 95% of all claims about the civil rights of African-Americans go without ruling in favor of any violation of their rights. In question b, when asked to explain acts of racism that is directed towards Whites or African-Americans, the Whites cited criminal violence as the most common act that they regarded as racist in nature. The results relate to the topic on the impact of racism on the health of African-Americans. One of the attempts of determining the effects of racism on the health of African-Americans is evident from studies that have been completed on environmental racism. For example, Covert (2016) describes the present environmental health risks that people of color encounter in Flint due to environmental racism. Flint is a city that has more than 50% of its population comprising black people. However, the city is in a state where more than 80% of population is White. In the city, African-Americans are two times most likely to have their houses fitted with low-standard plumbing (Covert, 2016). Such people have a lower tendency of raising alarm that can lead to the development of regulations on the quality of water that flows into their houses.

African-American communities are also found in large numbers near landfills. They are also exposed to a large proportion of nitrogen oxide from automobiles and industries. This situation can cause respiratory diseases. Covert (2016) reports that even with knowledge of these risks, African-Americans are also more likely to face environmental racism without authorities, which predominantly comprise whites, developing any solution.

Consistent with Covert’s (2016) arguments, African-Americans are more likely to live under the condition, thus increasing their health risks. Although other factors such as social economic disparities between Whites and African-Americans may explain the high risk of living under poor environmental conditions, racist policy and attitudes may explain why African-Americans (92%) feel that they are poorly represented in leadership compared to the Whites (3%). Therefore, it follows that policies, including the provision of voluntary or subsidized healthcare services to African-Americans in ghettoes, would either not be implemented or not brought to the attention of Flint authorities. This finding may be explained by the 84% of African-Americans who cite that they have a low ability of soliciting authority to take action on some policy issues that affect them when needs arise.

A higher number of Whites (85%) who can access health care services compared to African-Americans (41%) when they get ill suggests that African-Americans are more exposed to higher health risks. Although the research does not directly obtain the relationship between racism and the health of African-Americans in Flint due to the sensitivity of the issue as it may be shown through many people failing to comment on question b, it is clear from the research that African-Americans are more exposed to conditions that impair their health compared to the Whites. Therefore, the hypothesis is confirmed. Nevertheless, it can be concluded that more Whites avoid the subject of racism, implying that it is not significantly important to them when compared to the African-Americans who are more at 88%, despite their avoidance of the question, compared to 35 of Whites who are willing to comment about it. Since this research mainly focuses on Flint, a city located in a state with 80% population of Whites, the findings may not be generalized to apply to the entire population of the United States. Therefore, a vacuum for further research exist to help in determining how racism influences risk factors that hinder the overall health of the US people.

Research Questions Addressed

African-Americans cited discrimination in education, confinement to poor living conditions, health, inequalities in employment, and clear socio-economic differences between them and the Whites as some of the critical issues they regarded as having racist elements. Besides, disparities are evident in accessing health care services with African-Americans since this class is less likely to seek treatment compared to the Whites. Hence, racism has the impact of making African-Americans withdraw from seeking health services. This case affects their ability to secure treatment in the right time. The next section discusses the implications of the research findings on the health of African-Americans in Flint.


In Flint, African-Americans live under conditions that do not apply equally to those under which the Whites live. They are more confined to ghettoes. Besides, they have a higher perception of not being well presented in leadership. They also access healthcare services at lower levels compared to the Whites. These conditions expose them to a higher risk of poor health when compared to the Whites. Considering the historical perspective of racism in the US, these challenges may be attributed to racist attitudes in which African-Americans are considered less superior when compared to the Whites.

Civic Engagement and Responsibility

Such a study is necessary in establishing critical challenges that relate to racism, which undermines the collective progress of African-Americans in a multicultural society, namely the United States. After identifying the impacts of racism, appropriate policy direction can be established to address them to ensure that African-Americans feel equal to any other American citizen in the social arena, politics, and the economy.


Since people may participate in racism unknowingly, the research asserts that the phenomenon is real and persistent, even in the modern cultures that embrace cultural diversity. It sets forth the differences in which African-Americans regard as being contributed by racism. The research recommends Flint to consider prioritizing the improvement of environmental conditions and accessibility of public goods for the African-Americans to eliminate their perceptions on racism. Such perceptions may also hinder their ability to make voluntary decisions to seek public goods, including health care.

Reference List

Carter, R. (2007). Racism and psychological and emotional injury: recognizing and assessing race-based traumatic stress. The Counseling Psychologists, 35(13), 13-105.

Covert, B. (2016). Environmental Racism. The Nation, 1(1), 5-6.

Freshwater, D., Sherwood, G., & Drury, V. (2006). International research collaboration: Issues, benefits and challenges of the global network. Journal of Research in marketing, 11(4), 295-303.

Frost, J. (2008). Hedda Hopper, Hollywood Gossip, and the Politics of Racial Representation in Film, 1946-1948. Journal of African American History, 93(1), 36-63.

Harrell, J., Hall, S., & Taliaferro, J. (2010). Physiological Responses to Racism and Discrimination: An Assessment of the Evidence. American Journal of Public Health, 93(2), 243-248.

Hockenbury, D., & Hockenbury S. (2008). Psychology. New York, NY: Worth Publisher.

Jones, J. (2010). Majority of America say racism against blacks widespread. Web.

Medical New Today. (2012). Unconscious Racial Bias among Doctors Linked To Poor Communication with Patients, Dissatisfaction with Care. Web.

Ngai, M. (2004). Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Saunders, M., Thornhill, A., & Lewis, P. (2009). Research Methods for Business Students. New York, NY: Prentice Hall.

Takaki, R. (2008). A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. New York, NY: Back Bay Books.


Appendix 1: Questionnaire

  1. What is your gender? male= A; Female=B; Other=C
  2. Have you ever experienced racist acts in the recent past? YES=A; NO=B
  3. If yes to question 2 above, explain your experience in not more than 100 words
  4. What is the location of your dwellings? Ghettoes=A; not in Ghettoes=B
  5. What is the environmental condition of the location? near landfill and industrial effluents =A; not near landfill and industrial effluents=B
  6. What is your perception on representation in leadership? well represented=A; poorly represented= B
  7. Can you successfully call for action from the authorities to improve your living conditions? YES=A; NO=B
  8. Can you often seek medical treatment when you are ill or feel unwell? YES=A; NO= B

Appendix 2: Figures

Areas of Discrimination where Americans believe being black is a Major Contributory Factor
Fig. 1: Areas of Discrimination where Americans believe being black is a Major Contributory Factor
 Spread of Racism against Whites in the US
Fig. 2: Spread of Racism against Whites in the US
The Spread of Racism against African-American in the US
Fig. 3: The Spread of Racism against African-American in the US