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Discrimination and psychological distress: Does Whiteness matter for Arab Americans?

Author

Listed:
  • Abdulrahim, Sawsan
  • James, Sherman A.
  • Yamout, Rouham
  • Baker, Wayne

Abstract

The white racial category in the U.S. encompasses persons who have Arab ancestry. Arab Americans, however, have always occupied a precarious position in relationship to Whiteness. This study examined differences in reporting racial/ethnic discrimination among Arab Americans. It also investigated whether and how the association between discrimination and psychological distress varies by characteristics that capture an Arab American's proximity to/distance from Whiteness. We used data from the Detroit Arab American Study (2003; n = 1016), which includes measures of discrimination and the Kessler-10 scale of psychological distress. A series of logistic regression models were specified to test the discrimination–psychological distress association, stratified by five measures that capture Whiteness – subjective racial identification, religion, skin color, ethnic centrality, and residence in the ethnic enclave. Discrimination was more frequently reported by Muslim Arab Americans, those who racially identify as non-white, and who live in the ethnic enclave. Conversely, the association between discrimination and psychological distress was stronger for Christian Arab Americans, those who racially identify as white, who have dark skin color, and who live outside the ethnic enclave. Even though Arab Americans who occupy an identity location close to Whiteness are less subjected to discrimination, they are more negatively affected by it. The findings illuminate the complex pathways through which discrimination associates with psychological distress among ‘white’ immigrants. Further research on discrimination and health among Arab Americans can help unpack the white racial category and deconstruct Whiteness.

Suggested Citation

  • Abdulrahim, Sawsan & James, Sherman A. & Yamout, Rouham & Baker, Wayne, 2012. "Discrimination and psychological distress: Does Whiteness matter for Arab Americans?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(12), pages 2116-2123.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:12:p:2116-2123
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.07.030
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Samari, Goleen, 2016. "Cross-border ties and Arab American mental health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 93-101.
    2. Perreira, Krista M. & Telles, Edward E., 2014. "The color of health: Skin color, ethnoracial classification, and discrimination in the health of Latin Americans," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 241-250.

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