Exposure and Experiences

During this stage, the developing Black boy will encounter routine psychological interactions with the inferiorizing messages and stigmatizing interactions pervading American culture.

(Example: “as a Black male you are less intelligent and are prone to failure”)


Resilience and Rejection

During this stage a Black boy will display an initial reflexive rejection or denial of the inferiorizing messages and/or social interactions that he observes or experiences on a day-to-day basis.

(Example: “No I will not fail. I am an intelligent person who is destined to do great things in life!”)

Cognitive Dissonance

During this stage, consistent negative messaging produces an internal argument or debate as to whether or not the stigmatic messages about the Black male, his life, and his future are true or false.

(Example: “I can do anything I put my mind to…well maybe I will end up going to prison…no that is not my destiny, I refuse to be a statistic!”)

Stigma Reinforcement

During this critical stage, the young developing mind begins to consciously and subconsciously scan reality and interpret life experiences through a lens of powerlessness, shame and impending failure.

(Example: “Why am I having so much trouble in school? Maybe I should get it over with and drop out”. “Why do police officers constantly stare at me when they drive past? Maybe I should act like a criminal.”)

Relinquishment and Acceptance

During this stage, a young Black boy decreases the amount of psychological energy he uses to block internalization. This leads to a slow acceptance and agreement with society’s dooming social prophecy.

(Example: “I’m so tired of people treating me like a dumb criminal. If that’s who everyone thinks I am I might as well be that person. Ain’t nobody really trying to help me be successful anyway.”)

Internalization and Identification

     During this terrible stage, a young Black boy sequentially absorbs and integrates society's stigmatizing messages into his meaning-making framework and his system of identity formation.

(Example: “Man I ain’t going to college…that’s for White people. The “real niggas” I know getting paid by any means necessary.” “Man I ain’t got time to waste trying to graduate. I know sooner or later either the police are gonna try to put me in jail or somebody will not give me a job because I’m Black.”)

Disassociated Belief-System, Value-System, and Self-System

At this stage of disengagement, a Black boy separates himself from typical American values as it relates to what is respectable, what matters, and exactly what it takes to achieve success and the American Dream.

(Example: “A Black man like me will never get a fair shot. The only way I can get ahead is to connect with the guys running the streets and making things happen. They get mad respect. Or maybe I should focus on becoming a rapper or a basketball player. It seems like that's how most Black guys make it in America.”)

Stigmatic Psychosocial Functioning

At this pre-failure stage, a Black boy utilizes dysfunctional coping strategies to deal with the uncomfortable emotions brought on by national rejection and stigma

(Example: Self-Sabotage, minimal long-term planning, excuse making, goal avoidance escapism, etc.)



The most powerful weapon of American Racism is its ability to psychologically condition Black males via a messaging system of insignificance and inferiority. These stigmatizing messages are systematic and mechanical in nature. Over time, the relentless circulation of stigmatic messages in American culture overpowers the young Black American Dreamer and the process of internalization begins.

Below is a condensed outline of the 8-stage process of Stigma Immersion and Stigma Internalization (SISI). This model conceptualizes, captures, and outlines the process by which young Black boys systematically internalize society’s negative beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes about the Black male.




The 8 Stages of Stigma-Immersion and Stigma-Internalization (SISI)


"Using psychological science to create equal opportunities to the American Dream"