Vicarious racism is defined as the secondhand exposure to the racial discrimination and/or prejudice directed at another individual. Exposure to vicarious racism is irrespective of the race of the indirect target. In order for an exposure to racism to be considered vicarious, the unintended victim must be cognizant of someone else experiencing racism.

Scope in Pediatrics

  • Racism is an important driver of health and disparities in health. 
  • Vicarious racism is a type of racism, where the victim is indirect. 
  • Children and adolescents are aware of racism, even experienced vicariously. 

Teaching Points

  • The prevalence of vicarious racism among children and adolescents is unknown. 
  • Vicarious racism is transmitted via media, school, peers, family, and other sources.  
  • Vicarious racism may have an important impact on multiple aspects of health. 


For Physicians

Related AAP Policy

The Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health 

Related AAP Resources

Fighting Racism to Advance Child Health Equity (PediaLink course) 

Other Resources

Embrace Race.  

Heard-Garris NJ, Cale M, Camaj L, Hamati MC, Dominguez TP. Transmitting Trauma: A systematic review of vicarious racism and child health. Soc Sci Med. Published online April 26, 2017. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.04.018* 

Cohen A, Ekwueme PO, Sacotte KA, Bajwa L, Gilpin S, Heard-Garris N. “Melanincholy”: A Qualitative Exploration of Youth Media Use, Vicarious Racism, and Perceptions of Health. Journal of Adolescent Health. Published online February 19, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.12.128 

*Sources used to develop content


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Special Acknowledgment

The AAP gratefully acknowledges support for the Pediatric Mental Health Minute in the form of an educational grant from SOBI.