The Psychology Behind Racism


It’s all over the news. You’d think that even though history repeats itself, people today would be a little different. Sadly, no. You can still suffer for not being born into a particular race. It doesn’t make sense for those with an open mind, but right now, the color of your skin can still seem like a crime. No matter how innocent you are. Have you ever wondered what really goes on in a racist’s mind? What made them that way?     


There are people who argue that racism is a means of survival. They say our ancestors had to be unfair to outsiders because of limited resources. In the present time, they apply this to their own ethnicity. They believe that inclusivity can ultimately lead to lack. However, scientific studies prove otherwise. Our closest human relations did not resort to the slightest hint of racism (despite competing for needs). 

Misinformation and selfishness can be very dangerous. What a person sees as simple nationalism can be a life threat to another. Patriotism is far from warped loyalty.  

On American Racism: “People often define racism as disliking or mistreating others on the basis of race. That definition is wrong. Racism is a system of advantage based on race. It is a hierarchy. It is a pandemic.”

– Steven O. Roberts, PhD. Assistant Professor of Psychology, Stanford University

Defense Mechanism

Racism is also a form of psychological defense mechanism. Feelings of insecurity and anxiety can cause someone to protect themself without concern for others. For instance, an insecure person gets confidence in being part of a privileged group. Psychology says such negative feelings push us to seek self-preservation through aggression, greed, and prejudice. It’s not bad to feel significant by becoming part of something bigger than yourself. The problem lies in how that affects everyone else. 

Mental Health Condition

Racists aren’t always as “normal” as they seem. Some have deep-seated issues they may not be aware of. A xenophobic can’t be a psychologically healthy individual. Good mental health doesn’t cause you to find a sense of identity by stepping over others. On the whole, racism can be a product of culture (citizens grow up and live with it), but it can also be psychological.         

People. Not categories. Each and every person deserves to be treated as nothing less. No one should be seen as just a member of a particular race. More people need to be educated about this. Regardless of the skin color you’re born with or what language you speak, you’re still human. Even your power or weakness can’t change that fact. This complicated world we live in is distracting enough to make one forget. We’re all flesh and bones. We come and go with nothing. Still, there’s so much more to racism than meets the eye. There are issues which need proper attention. Awareness, self-reflection, or professional help is indeed necessary. If we take some time to really understand, then we’re one step closer to real change.

Can you relate? Share your thoughts below. We’d love to hear them!

What do you think?

Written by Hannah Grace

A B.S. Psychology graduate who fights both real and imaginary shadows every day with music and words.


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