The Price of Hate and Disconnection

 

In my over 20 years of diversity & inclusion work, I can’t recall a more divisive and polarized time. We live in a world of social and political turmoil that is impossible to escape. At every turn, it seems like there’s news about people being mistreated, excluded, and harmed. It leaves us feeling stressed out in almost every aspect of our lives, and we carry that stress with us into work every day.

 The mental and emotional toll of this turmoil is probably obvious to you, but did you know these events make an impact physically on both victims and perpetrators?

 Why look at the effects on both groups? Because I don’t believe we can solve these issues unless we understand what’s happening from a holistic point of view. We are all part of the system, and that means we’re all connected. What affects one person or group of people affects us all.

 

 

Naturally, when we think about the effect of acts of hate and discrimination, our thoughts instantly go to the victims who are targeted in these acts. Our human instinct to want to ease and sooth pain kicks into gear, and we want to jump in to fix the immediate situation. That’s good... but the effects of such acts go on for much longer than what is happening right now.

Victims of discrimination are subject to increased rates of depression, hypertension, certain cancers, and a host of other illnesses and diseases. One study showed that even “perceived discrimination” was associated with increased mortality in older adults. (Interestingly, the effect was greater for older Whites than for older Blacks.)

Simply being a racial minority can lead to greater levels of stress. A reported 18.2% of Blacks, compared to 3.5% of Whites experienced emotional stress, and 9.5% of Blacks, compared to 1.6% of Whites experienced physical stress.

But the devastating effects of these acts aren’t limited to just People of Color (POC) and other underrepresented groups. It’s majority Whites as well. In United States counties where Whites expressed higher levels of both implicit and explicit bias, both Blacks and White showed increased rates of death from circulatory diseases. (Although both groups were affected, Blacks were more negatively impacted.)

In communities where high levels of bias exist, people are less likely to trust and bond with each other, leading to a lack of social connectedness. This lack of connection is more detrimental to our health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure.

When racism, sexism, and homophobia are brought to the attention of those engaging in such behavior, they experience a strong mix of negative emotions - such as fear and guilt -  that may block their ability to develop further awareness, and instead, lead to avoidance and defensiveness. As a result, it becomes easier for perpetrators to dehumanize others, further justifying oppressive and inhuman behaviors. Such justification diminishes compassion and can rip the moral and spiritual fiber of an individual in two.

I’m curious how you’re feeling about the negative environment we’re living in? What are you doing to overcome the stress? Are you doing anything to help others? Join me in the “How to Survive (and Thrive!) in Turbulent Times” discussion group on LinkedIn to discuss this topic and your solutions.

 

©daiOne, LLC/Susan McCuistion, 2018