By Staff Blogger
Ask most adults and they can probably recount an instance of blatant or subversive racism. Equipped with life experiences and coping mechanisms, most adults are able to deal with racism in ways that are healthy and non-destructive.
A new study is suggesting that the youngest victims of racism may have a difficult time understanding and processing someone disliking or even hating them because of the color of their skin.
A report in Social Science & Medicine says that young people who experience racism or racist treatment are more likely to struggle with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety as both children and later as teens.
The report’s lead researcher, Naomi Priest, of the University of Melbourne in Australia stated that, “The review showed there are strong and consistent relationships between racial discrimination and a range of detrimental health outcomes such as low self-esteem, reduced resilience, increased behavior problems and lower levels of well-being.”
The study also revealed that young people most often experience racism on a personal level which adds to their confusion and angst.
The study was conducted with youth in the United States between the ages of 12 to 18.
“We know that children who experience poor health and well-being are less likely to engage in education, employment and other activities that support them to lead healthy and productive lives, and to participate meaningfully in the community,” Priest said.
Most importantly, the study reinforces the importance of family and community members helping to instill values and positive affirmations with young people. Regardless of what society and others may think about young minority children, others can offset negativity by teaching them about their rich and diverse history. It is also important that children are taught the intrinsic value of their own worth.
“This reminds us that parents need to be sure that their children are getting valuable and self-affirming messages outside of the school system, which sometimes hurts them more than helps them,” said Dr. Boyce Watkins, author of “The 8 Principles of Black Male Empowerment.” “Our children sometimes find themselves so spiritually degraded that they in turn become intellectually crippled for life. We cannot accept this outcome.”
Dr. Watkins recommends that all parents teach their children outside of school and also give them lessons that strengthen their self-esteem. He says that parents should take their children online and have them write short reports on Black historical figures and events, as well as read biographies of successful African Americans.