People of SU / Society, Justice and Law

Seattle U in the News: How to Recognize if You're Being Racially Gaslighted

June 26, 2020

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Associate Professor of Political Science Angelique Davis, JD, is the primary source for a story in Mashable that defines and explains racial gaslighting

Mashable writer Siobhan Neela-Stock used her personal experiences as a woman of Indian descent who grew up in Vermont to examine racial gaslighting. She interviewed Angelique Davis for her story.

Here is an excerpt from the story's opening:

It's happened to me my whole life.

Whenever I've pushed back when asked the racist question "Where are you from?", argued against someone who says discussing race perpetuates racism (the opposite is actually true), or contradicted members of my white extended family who insist Eric Garner's death was his fault, I'm usually told I'm wrong, it's not that big of a deal, or I'm imagining things. 

These kinds of interactions can be categorized as racial gaslighting. This happens when someone discusses racism in general or points out a specific racist act and they're either told they're overthinking it or wrong or criticized for how they brought up the issue. Sometimes a person may even be characterized as violent, stupid, or mentally unstable for calling out racism at all, says Angelique Davis, a political science professor at Seattle University. It can also occur when a group of people is blamed for a problem rather than the underlying societal cause. 

"It’s a way of flipping things on them... someone has every reason to be mad about racist structures, yet they’re portrayed as this angry Black woman or angry person of color," explains Davis who, along with her colleague Rose Ernst, extensively researched and defined the term racial gaslighting (Ernst is white and Davis is Black). White people can also be racially gaslighted. But when a white person speaks out against racism and they're punished for it, white people as a group aren't deemed "abnormal" or "crazy." On the other hand, when a person of color is racially gaslighted, their whole race is characterized negatively (remember the angry Black women stereotype).

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