In a recent article released on November 11, 2017 by National Public Radio: Health News, there was an overview of some instances in which a man named Dr. Roberto Montenegro had been subject to hurtful displays of discrimination against him.
He speaks of the night that he had gone out with friends to celebrate the great achievement of receiving his PhD, which brought him one step closer to his dream of becoming a physician-scientist. At the end of dinner, Dr. Montenegro and his girlfriend left to pick up their car from the valet. While waiting in line, a Jaguar pulled up to the curb. A woman got out of the Jaguar and passed two other couples before stumbling upon Dr. Montenegro and his girlfriend. She dropped her keys in Dr. Montenegro’s hands, assuming that he was a valet because of his race. The other valet’s were Latino, like Dr. Montenegro and so the woman made an incorrect assumption. This happened twice that night.
Discrimination is unjustified negative behavior toward a group or its members. There is a clear show of discrimination and stereotyping. In this situation, Dr. Montenegro experienced an instance in which the woman in the Jaguar made an overgeneralization. She presumed that all Latino people hold low paying jobs and in this case, that Dr. Montenegro could not have been a highly educated and professional Doctor. Her behavior was clearly discriminatory because she directly singled out Dr. Montenegro as a valet.
Another concept that could be at play in this situation is a process of stereotyping called subtyping. Subtyping occurs when a person responds to a member of a target group who disassociates from their stereotype by seeing them as “exceptions.” They put this member of the target group in a separate subcategory apart from members who confirm the stereotype. For instance, the woman driving the Jaguar, after realizing that Dr. Montenegro was not a valet, could’ve simply believed that he was an “exception,” to her personally confirmed belief in the stereotype that all Latino people.
Dr. Montenegro explains how he has endured many other instances of discrimination and felt just as confused and shocked each time. He now has an M.D. in addition to his Ph.D. and is a postdoctoral fellow in child psychiatry at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He seeks to find out if repeated experience of discrimination has effect on the human body and what those effects would be.
“Assessing mediators between discrimination, health behaviours and physical health outcomes: a representative cross-sectional study,” is one of the first studies to demonstrate that discrimination is associated with physical health outcomes and behaviors through distinct pathways. The results of the study helped to demonstrate that stress, lack of control and feeling powerless as a reaction to racism emerged as significant mediators of the relationship between racism and self-rated general mental health.
Dr. Montenegro, similarly to the results of the cross-sectional study, hypothesizes that chronic stress might be a key way racism contributes to health disparities. The idea is that the stress of experiencing discrimination over and over might wear you down physically over time. The study stated previously has found proof to this idea. Dr. Montenegro, after experiencing continuing experiences with discrimination, may suffer similar symptoms later on in life just as the participants in this study. It was shown that discrimination was negatively related to many health behaviors in the participants. For example stress levels were elevated and people were less likely to engage in leisure time, physical activity, and fruit and vegetable consumption due to prolonged depressive moods. Hopefully, with more knowledge on this subject Dr. Montegro and others will be aware of the health issues and seek ways to fight it.
Bichell, Rae Ellen. “Scientists Start To Tease Out The Subtler Ways Racism Hurts Health.” NPR, NPR, 11Nov. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/11/11/562623815/scientists-start-to-tease-out-the-subtler-ways-racism-hurts-health.
Myers, David G. Exploring Social Psychology. 7th ed., McGraw-Hill, 2012.
Bastos, J. L., Celeste, R. K., Silva, D. S., Priest, N., & Paradies, Y. C. (2015). Assessing mediators between discrimination, health behaviours and physical health outcomes: A representative cross-sectional study. Social Psychiatry And Psychiatric Epidemiology, 50(11), 1731-1742. doi:10.1007/s00127-015-1108-0