Coping with racism: a selective review of the literature and a theoretical and methodological critique

J Behav Med. 2009 Feb;32(1):64-88. doi: 10.1007/s10865-008-9193-0. Epub 2009 Jan 6.


Racism is a stressor that contributes to racial/ethnic disparities in mental and physical health and to variations in these outcomes within racial and ethnic minority groups. The aim of this paper is to identify and discuss key issues in the study of individual-level strategies for coping with interpersonal racism. We begin with a discussion of the ways in which racism acts as a stressor and requires the mobilization of coping resources. Next, we examine available models for describing and conceptualizing strategies for coping with racism. Third, we discuss three major forms of coping: racial identity development, social support seeking and anger suppression and expression. We examine empirical support for the role of these coping strategies in buffering the impact of racism on specific health-related outcomes, including mental health (i.e., specifically, self-reported psychological distress and depressive symptoms), self-reported physical health, resting blood pressure levels, and cardiovascular reactivity to stressors. Careful examination of the effectiveness of individual-level coping strategies can guide future interventions on both the individual and community levels.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Anger
  • Ethnicity*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Prejudice*
  • Racial Groups*
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological