Interpersonal racial discrimination

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In the modern American society, there is a persistent threat of the racial disparities in diverse aspects of life. In many studies conducted to develop an explanation behind this trend, interpersonal racial discrimination, which is the core risk factor associated with race, is adversely overlooked. This current study builds on the available bulk of literature to analyze the relationships between interpersonal racial discrimination and its effects on the racial disparities that may be used to explain the prevalence of crime and bias towards the African American community in dispatching the adaptive facets of ethnic and racial socialization.


There are several theories of social development that have been developed to explain the relationship between the environmental exposures and the cognitive or behavioral developments that are exhibited by people from certain environments. However, majority of these studies have focused mainly on the differences between two communities, races, ethnicities or nationalities, thus overlooking the intrinsic features that are identifiable within these specific communities. In this study, the specific demographic features of age, skin tone differences and socio-economic class are used to identify the reasons for certain behavioral tendencies among people from specific communities. Besides, these factors are used in developing an argumentative position for discussion that explains how discrimination is rooted in the foundations of interpersonal experiences rather than to the communal experiences and characteristics, which have been used frequently to identify the reason for bias towards communities.


The prevalence of racial bias towards the African American community is an age-long phenomenon that has been used to develop research in the field of social psychology. The article by Swencionis and Goff (2017) begins by highlighting the fateful events that characterized the shooting of Michael Brown Jr. by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. The authors go ahead to report that this event triggered violent encounters between the police and the African American communities across the US, thus dominating the news cycle in the country.

The role that race plays in the broader society is insurmountable, not only in the US but globally. There are several theories of social psychology that explain the reasons behind discrimination. However, many of these theories do not explore the reasons why the people at high risk of discrimination are vulnerable to adopting the behaviors that heighten their risk to encounter discrimination. This was the observation that triggered Swencionis and Goff (2017) to question the role that racial bias in policing plays in the identification of the risk factors of situational discrimination among people from a racial minority.

As the outline of this literature review highlighted, interpersonal racial discrimination is a theory of social psychology upon which racial biasness attains its foundation. The study by Porter (1991) is a classical example of how interpersonal discrimination plays a role in explaining why certain individuals within the African American community are at higher risk of discrimination compared to others. In this study, the author sought to analyze the social reasons for the skin-tone preferences among black school-age going children. Porter (1991) states that many scientific literatures have examined and established the existence of hierarchical skin tone beliefs within the African American community thus linking it to the value system that is identifiable with the community.

The data drawn from this study suggests that the skin tone is a salient personal characteristic that is often a theme for preferences even within the African American community. The study findings from Porter (1991) are mirrored in the research by Swencionis and Goff (2017), who identified salient identity as a factor that defines the intergroup relations. Historically, there has been an increasing focus on the majority races within the US, a factor that has led to identity salience among the African Americans. On the other hand, skin tone preferences have developed the identity salience of the darker children in comparison to the honey brown tones.

With reference to Swencionis and Goff (2017), it is evident that racial bias in policing is a topical discussion that has emerged mainly from the perceived targeting of the African American youths. Age, therefore, is a determining factor that defines the trends in racial discrimination. The article by Riediger, Voelkle, Schaefer and Lindenberger (2014) introduces an interesting twist to the discussion as it attempts to analyze the roles that the beliefs about normal development plays in the functioning of people within the children, adolescent and older adult age groups. The results from this study expressly indicate that some facets of functioning exhibit normal development based on the beliefs that surround these developmental stages (Riediger, Voelkle, Schaefer & Lindenberger, 2014).

Beliefs, in its most basic definitional identity, are the acceptance of existence of something that is true without proof of its existence. Therefore, this argument can be used to explain why the adolescents and young adults within the African American communities are at high risk of criminal behavior. The belief system has made them believe that there is a racial bias towards the African American community, more so towards their age group. This heightens the risk of their discrimination.


The overall findings in this literature review establish a functional premise between social psychology and the critical theories of interpersonal racial discrimination. This study highlights the role that the belief system plays in the propagation of the criminal behavior and normalization of discriminatory practices against certain people with specific demographic characteristics. In conclusion, discrimination is rooted in the foundations of interpersonal experiences rather than to the communal experiences and characteristics.

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  1. Porter, C. (1991). Social reasons for skin tone preferences of Black school-age children. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry61(1), 149-154.
  2. Riediger, M., Voelkle, M., Schaefer, S., & Lindenberger, U. (2014). Charting the life course: Age differences and validity of beliefs about lifespan development. Psychology and Aging29(3), 503-520.
  3. Swencionis, J., & Goff, P. (2017). The psychological science of racial bias and policing. Psychology, Public Policy, And Law23(4), 398-409.
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