Why Victims of Racism May Age Faster

Researchers raise concerns about internalized bias

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 12, 2014 8:19 AM CST

(Newser) – Racism may take a clear physical toll on victims, causing their cells to age faster, scientists have found. Researchers conducted a study on blood samples from 92 black men in the Bay Area, investigating their DNA. Specifically, the Pacific Standard reports, they looked at the length of chunks of genetic material called Leukocyte telomeres; shorter ones are associated with cell aging and potential "cardiovascular disease, diabetes, (and) dementia," among other aging-related ailments.

Subjects reported on their experiences of racism and answered questions related to whether they themselves had a "pro-black" or "anti-black bias." Among men in the latter category, more reported racial victimization was tied to shorter Leukocyte telomeres. "African-American men who have more positive views of their racial group may be buffered from the negative impact of racial discrimination," says a study author, per CBS News. "In contrast, those who have internalized an anti-black bias may be less able to cope with racist experiences, which may result in greater stress and shorter telomeres." That may suggest that racial profiling, including stop-and-frisk tactics, have bigger health risks than previously believed, the author notes.

Racism may affect us at the cellular level.
Racism may affect us at the cellular level.   (Shutterstock)
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