New research shines a spotlight on the extent to which Black teens experience racism and explores how those experiences impact mental health.
A small study of 101 students from Washington, DC, found that Black teens, on average, encounter racism and discrimination five times a day. Students who faced the most severe incidents of racism were more likely to experience depression.
The study, led by Devin English of Rutgers University (NJ), was published in the January-February issue of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.
Science News for Students examined the findings and interviewed English for a recent article aimed at helping all teens recognize and address racism. In easy-to-understand language, the article explains why the onslaught of discrimination faced by Black students is so damaging and offers white students advice for becoming antiracist.
On the impact of racism on mental health: In his interview with Science News, English likened repeated incidents of racism to a backpack that keeps getting more books, keys, pencils, and other items tossed in it. “Over time, if we don’t have the resources and support to help unload some of those things from the backpack, it becomes really, really heavy…” and can start to weigh students down, he explained.
On the responsibility of white students: Teens who aren’t people of color can and should speak out against racism, English says. He also urges students to identify the privileges they enjoy based on race and think about how racial experiences have shaped how they see themselves and others. “It’s really important that we explore that,” English told Science News, and that “we are honest with ourselves.”
Read the full article and share with the students you serve.
Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.