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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Maryland Research Explores Racial Identity, Discrimination, and Depression in African American Men

University of Maryland School of Public Health Family Science associate professor Dr. Mia Smith-Bynum co-authored an article summarizing research examining the relationship between racial discrimination, racial identity, implicit bias towards African Americans, and depressive symptoms in African American men.

[Photo: Dr. Mia Smith-Bynum]

Ninety-five men interviewed through the Bay Area Heart Health Study in 2010 completed a number of measures assessing their experiences racial discrimination, their personal degree of implicit bias, depression, and a scale measuring the degree to which being African American is important to them (racial centrality). Results indicate an association between higher racial centrality and reports of racial discrimination. Meanwhile, those with greater implicit anti-Black bias reported lower reports of discrimination; these participants were also at the highest risk for depressive symptoms. Low report rates of discrimination may reflect denial of systemic racism, which may be harmful for those carrying negative racial bias. The authors conclude that unconscious processes may impact African American men’s interpretation of negative experiences and their perspective on racial discrimination. They encourage interventions and programming that include positive in-group attitudes as a tool for promoting mental health.

“These results show that African Americans are not immune to the longstanding, toxic racial stereotypes about African Americans; they affect some African American men even when these biases are not operating at a conscious level,” Dr. Smith-Bynum said. “Depression is often a precursor to other diseases, including cardiovascular disease, so these issues are critical problems that need addressing. African Americans who identify strongly with the Black experience are often keenly attuned to racial discrimination — their families have taught them how to identify it so they can cope with it. This is likely the first study to look at this specific set of issues with middle-aged African American men and sets the stage for future work to further examine whether a strong sense of connection to the Black experience and other racial identity attitudes buffer African Americans from the effects of racial discrimination.”

“The Role of Racial Identity and Implicit Racial Bias in Self-Reported Racial Discrimination: Implications for Depression Among African American Men” was published this month in the Journal of Black Psychology: