The weight of racism: Vigilance and racial inequalities in weight-related measures

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The weight of racism: Vigilance and racial inequalities in weight-related measures
Hicken, Margaret T. (Author)
Lee, Hedwig (Author)
King, Anna K. (Author)
Date Created
Hicken and colleagues attempt to address well-documented racial inequalities in rates of obesity, by conducting a study to address the impact of racism and discrimination on body-mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) - two variables that are noted to have a significant impact on health, particularly in relation to chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. They frame this study by discussing ‘cultural racism’ - defined as an environment where Black Americans are stigmatized and stereotyped in a way that results in Black Americans - particularly Black women - carrying the “burden” of their entire racial group. This is presented in contrast to white women, who are more able to negotiate instances of interpersonal discrimination as individuals, rather than as member of a broader racial group. Cultural racism leads to increased rates of “vigilance” in the people of color, and this variable, independent of discrimination was correlated with increased WC, BMI, and visceral adiposity. The authors describe the different ways in which Black Americans are required to negotiate everyday social spaces due to the fear of racism and violence, and how this leads to increased racism-related stress. This study is useful in demonstrating the detrimental health effects of chronic psychosocial stress that is a result of systemic racism faced by Black women in the United States.
Healthcare disparities
chronic stress
stress biology
cultural racism


Hicken, Margaret T., Lee, Hedwig, and King, Anna K., "The weight of racism: Vigilance and racial inequalities in weight-related measures" (2018). Medicine and Race: AMS Annotated Bibliography. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.



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