Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Karen L. Suyemoto

Second Advisor

Tahirah Abdullah

Third Advisor

Alice Frye


Internalized racism is a harmful and common form of racism that is theorized to be associated with helplessness, hopelessness, shame, and perpetuation of oppression (David & Derthick, 2013; Jones, 2000; Osajima, 2007; Pyke, 2010; Speight, 2007). Despite negative consequences, internalized racism has been understudied in the field of psychology, particularly in Asian Americans. To date, there is neither a comprehensive theory of internalized racism in Asian Americans nor any research exploring the effect of internalized racism on racism-related stress and Asian American mental health.

This dissertation presents two monographs. The first is an original critical review and synthesis of the literature that puts forth the thesis that Asian Americans are at increased risk for internalizing racism due to the particular nature of anti-Asian American interpersonal and structural racism. It is argued that, to resist internalizing racism, people of color need to first be aware that racism against their group exists in order to be able to reject it. However, the two predominant Asian American stereotypes, the Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype and the Model Minority Myth, may go unnoticed or unlabeled as racism because they do not appear to be overtly negative and because they are reinforced by insidious components of internalized racism, such as the implicit valuing of Whiteness and color-blindness.

The second monograph presents an empirical quantitative study that investigated the effect of internalized racism on the relation between racism-related stress and mental health symptomatology in Asian Americans using structural equation modeling. Results suggested that one facet of internalized racism, which simultaneously emphasized the internalization of negative notions about one’s group and the valuing of Whiteness, mediated the relation between racism-related stress and increased mental health symptoms. The other facet of internalized racism, which represented denial of racism and an erroneous belief in meritocracy, moderated the mediation such that higher levels were associated with lower mental health symptoms when racism-related stress was low—however, higher levels were associated with the highest levels of mental health symptoms when combined with high racism-related stress. Clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed.


Free and open access to this Campus Access Dissertation is made available to the UMass Boston community by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. Those not on campus and those without a UMass Boston campus username and password may gain access to this dissertation through resources like Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global or through Interlibrary Loan. If you have a UMass Boston campus username and password and would like to download this work from off-campus, click on the "Off-Campus UMass Boston Users" link above.