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This essay discusses on the different types of discrimination and the different coping strategies or behaviours used. The Oxford Dictionary defined discrimination as the unwarranted or hurtful treatment of different groups of people, especially on the grounds of gender, race or age. Coping is defined as a change in cognitive and behaviour to evade harmful event. Discrimination affects an individual physically, mentally and emotionally. Studies have shown that discrimination can lead to depression. However, there have been various coping behaviours that have been identified to help victims of discrimination. Further studies need to be conducted to address other types of discriminations such as old age, disabled, workplace and others.
Keywords: Racial Discrimination, Gender Discrimination, Coping Behaviours
Discrimination and Coping
Discrimination has been present for hundreds and hundreds of years. Discrimination is defined as the unwarranted or hurtful treatment of different groups of people, especially on the basis of gender, race or age by the Oxford Dictionary. Acts of discrimination can be witnessed through many historical events such as the Holocaust, where the Jews were discriminated and murdered because the German’s believed that they were superior. Not only that but, the blacks were also a target of discriminatory acts during the Civil War where they were forced to become slaves. However, there are various ways to cope with discrimination. Coping is defined as a change in cognitive and behaviour to evade harmful events (Rantanen, Mauno, Kinnunen & Rantanen, 2011). There are many causes of discrimination.
In the western world, history is marked by BC and AD, however there was a third category which is 9/11. 9/11 marked a very tragic day in the history of United States as that was the day when the al-Qaeda launched an attack on the United States by hijacking planes and crashing them into the World Trade Center and The Pentagon. Post 9/11 witnessed a rapid increase and all time high report of discrimination, hate crimes and religion profiling (Ahluwalia & Pellettiere, 2010). Many Sikhs became the target of prejudicial and discriminatory act as they resembled the appearance of the terrorist whom wore turbans. Turbans are worn by the Sikh as a sign of faith. Therefore the Sikhs became the target of racial discrimination due to the media constantly and continuously portraying images of suspected terrorist wearing turbans. (Ahluwalia & Pellettiere, 2010).
Not only that, but it was mandatory that baptized Sikhs carry a kirpan. Kirpans are dagger liked shaped and is a symbol of peace and truth. There were such cases where the Sikhs residing in United States were sacked, downgraded, placed under probation and even came across false criminal charges due to them carrying the kirpan (Ahluwalia & Pellettiere, 2010). Due such unexpected events occurring, the Sikhs were forced to go against all their believes in order to lead a risk-free life. No stones were left unturned post 9/11 as the innocent Sikh children experienced the backlash of this event. Majority of the Sikh students in New York testified to being abused at schools due to their religion and country of origin (Ahluwalia & Pellettiere, 2010).
The September 11 attacks did not only impact the lives of the Sikhs in the United States in a negative way, but also the Muslims. A good number of atrocities took place on the streets, in convenience stores, petrol stations, educational institutions and at mosques (Abu-Raiya, Pargament & Mahoney, 2011). Many Muslims reported that they stayed indoors as they feared that they would be a victim of hate crime. Not only that, but many Muslims were concerned about their future in the country (Abu-Raiya et al., 2011).
Due to the sudden change in their environment, the Sikhs and Muslims had to find various coping methods to overcome these negative outcomes. Various research discovered that the Sikh would seek out assistance from their family, community and faith before pursuing mental health facilities (Ahluwalia & Pellettiere, 2010). The pious Sikhs seek assistance from their holy scripture the Guru Granth Sahib. This holy scripture taught them to oppress the feeling of being a victim and take control of the situation when undergoing superficial suffering such as discrimination and biasness. On the other hand, there were many Sikh men who decided that they could no longer handle the constant abuse and discrimination and made drastic changes against their culture such as cutting their hair and choosing to not wear turbans.
Similar to the Sikhs, the Muslims depended extensively on coping method related to religion such as reciting scriptures, praying and forgiveness. Research evidence found that religious behaviour increased post 9/11 attacks. There were two patterns in regard to religious coping; one pattern was positive religious coping methods and another was negative religious coping methods (Abu-Raiya et al., 2011). Researchers concluded that positive religious coping resulted in posttraumatic development whereas negative religious coping resulted in loneliness and mental instability (Abu-Raiya et al., 2011)
Asian Americans were also a target of discriminatory act pre 9/11. From way back then when Asians first stepped foot in America till now they have been faced with racism and discrimination. One might consider that discrimination against Asian-Americans might reduce as their population gets larger, however, that is not accurate. Asian-Americans are faced with discrimination on a day-to-day basis right from discriminatory terms to physical abuse (Yoo & Lee, 2005). Research validates that ethnic identity operates as a vital psychological asset that allows ethnic and racial minorities to fight against racial discrimination (Yoo & Lee, 2005). Therefore, we can see that having a strong ethnic identity and believe in one’s culture can help an individual overcome discrimination.
Another study investigated the relationship between racial discrimination stress and depressive symptoms and various coping strategies. Research suggested that the understanding of the intricacy in the involvement between perceived discrimination and health can be broadened by combining other factors into the model (Wei, Heppner, Ku, Liao, 2010). Racism and discrimination can negatively have an impact on the psychological health of their victims. Asian Americans very often encounter prejudicial insults, intentionally and unintentionally ( Alvarez & Juang, 2010). Continuous exposure to such insults and actions can take a toll on a person. It was reported that continuous taunting were positively correlated with depression ( Alvarez & Juang, 2010).
The level of coping with discrimination can be influenced by several extrinsic factors such as how frequent the discrimination occurs, the period discrimination occurs and the various types of coping behaviours either before or after the event. Research evidence also presented a previous study that was conducted by Noh and colleagues (1999, 2003) whom investigated both the individualistic coping behaviour of the Western culture (active coping) and the collectivistic coping behaviour of the Eastern culture (forbearance coping) (Wei et al., 2010). Noh and Kaspar (2003) identified that active coping helped decrease the perceived racial discrimination on depression for Korean Canadian immigrants. It can be concluded that Asian Americans should learn to practice active coping strategies by viewing the stressor in a positive way that will help develop their mental health.
Approach-type coping is another coping strategy that can be utilized to overcome the after effects of discrimination. This is then categorized into three common forms which are social support seeking, cognitive restructuring and problem solving.Social support seeking is defined participating in behaviour directed at gaining emotional support from others (Yoo & Lee, 2005). For example, an individual should open up about how they are feeling instead of oppressing everything inside. Another type of coping strategy is cognitive restructuring. Cognitive restructuring is defined as tactics that alter the significance of the harmful event and make an effort to perceive it in a positive way (Yoo & Lee, 2005). For example, an individual should view a discriminatory act as motivating and not de-motivating. Not only that, but problem solving is another coping strategy that is defined as participating in behaviour oriented at solving an issue (Yoo & Lee, 2005).
Similar to other studies, families play a very crucial role in helping victims of discrimination cope with their lives. Asian Americans have a tendency to cope with racial discrimination by communicating and socializing with their family members (Wei et al., 2010). Many cultures have faith in their religion and often turn to spiritual coping. However, it was discovered that Asian Americans did not patronize their religion and spirituality and reported it to be not constructive in coping with discrimination (Wei et al., 2010). This could be due to Asian Americans feeling more comfortable and protected with verbal support as compared to spiritual and mental support.
Other studies reported different types of coping behaviour. One study extensively classified coping as either problem focused or emotion focused. Problem-focused coping would require a confrontation with the offender whereas, emotion-focused coping would require pursuing social support (Alvarez & Juang, 2010).
Workplace sexual harassment is also a form of discrimination. Woman are more prone to this type of discrimination as they are often seen as the weaker half. Sexual harassment has been proved to negatively affect workers psychological and physical health. Not only that, but it has been identified that sexual harassment ended with female workers undergoing deterioration in their physical and emotional well-being ( Schneider, Swan & Fitzgerald, 1997).
Female workers often turn to various coping strategies to cope with workplace discrimination. Research implies that women do not use direct coping strategies such as confronting the harasser. Not only that, but it is proven that female students who undergo workplace discrimination often change plans, change workplace in order to avoid being further discriminated (Schneider et al., 1997)
Another discrimination that should be addressed other than racial discrimination is sexual discrimination. The current era has a predisposed thought that same-sex couples are very distinct from heterosexual couples. To the contrary, the faithful relationships of same-sex couples are recognized by same or parallel characteristics of heterosexual couples. However, many same-sex couples are distinguished by stigma and are confronted with discriminatory acts countless times (Rotosky, Riggle, Gray & Hatton, 2007).
Many individuals are not able to accept the fact that the number of same-sex couples is growing and it will soon become a common thing around the world. Just because two people of the same gender love each other does not make them any less of a human. In spite of this, same-sex couples undergo tremendous amount of discrimination from their family and religion. Religious and legal institutions have discriminated same-sex couples by saying that they are going to burn in hell because of their intimate relationship. These institutions that are the basics of every culture does not want to recognize that two people of the same gender can have an intimate bond (Rotosky et al., 2007).
When the discrimination against same-sex couples started becoming more and more prolific, it took a toll on them. These couples found it difficult to carry on with their everyday lives as their community and people around them made them feel like they were a cursed human-being. These couples had to gradually find ways to cope with this growing problem. The first step to coping for various couples was self-acceptance, by accepting themselves as sexual minority and seeing their relationship in a positive way. Another step was by originating a support systems made up of family members, friends and other same-sex couples (Rotosky et al., 2007).
The studies aforementioned discuss racial discrimination and sexual discrimination and the various coping strategies to cope with it. In order to improve the understanding of discrimination and it’s detrimental effect on an individual’s health, further studies needs to be conducted. Not only that, but other types of discrimination such as discrimination against the old age, discrimination against the disabled, workplace discrimination and others should be addressed.
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