For many people, discrimination is an everyday reality.
-American Psychological Association
Discrimination is treating a person or group unfairly or with prejudice based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics. While the definition is generally understood, the reasons why discrimination happens is more complex.
We learn as young children to categorize people and things to make sense of the world. It is the positive and negative values that parents, peers, and our society place on those categories that create perceptions and eventually actions—like discrimination—based on those values.
Some forms of racial and ethnic discrimination are big—denying housing and employment, for example. Other forms can be smaller acts that carry just as much harm, like giving poor service to a Black family at a restaurant, clutching your purse in an elevator with a Latino teen, or denying a playdate with a child of a different race. These smaller acts are microaggressions
, and despite the “small” name, they hold big consequences. Discrimination can create chronic stress that in turn causes anxiety, depression, obesity, high blood pressure, and more.