‘Racism hurts kids’ mental health’

Well, duh.  I don’t believe this is the first study linking racism to “mental disorders,” although it may be the first study to examine kids of “varied races.”  I’ll have to pull the article to see what it really has to say, but here are some quotes that jumped out from this USA Today article:

It’s possible that prejudice harms children’s mental health, but it is also possible that troubled kids prompt more discriminatory remarks from peers or that children with emotional problems perceive more bias, says study leader Mark Schuster, a Harvard pediatrician and pediatrics chief at Children’s Hospital Boston.

It’s possible? Glad to see the possibility is being acknowledged. But of course, it just might be the kids’ fault for attracting more racism! Or maybe it’s just a matter of perception!

And maybe I don’t speak racismese all that fluently, because I read this paragraph three times and am still not sure what it’s trying to say:

The study asked students whether they “ever” experienced racism, and that raises a question, says Rebecca Bigler, a University of Texas psychologist. In other research, children who report racism consistently say it rarely happens, she says. “We don’t know if it was a rare occurrence with these kids. Maybe it only has to happen once to be devastating if you’re young.”

Since these “experts” are being paraphrased, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt until I read the actual article.  But it doesn’t look good..

Another article quotes the lead author:

“It was surprising to see positive associations between perceived racial and ethnic discrimination in the children and symptoms of all four examined mental health conditions,” said lead author Dr. Tumani R. Coker, clinical instructor of pediatrics at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA and an associate natural scientist at RAND.

“Parents, clinicians and teachers should be aware that children may experience racial and ethnic discrimination in and out of school and that there may be detrimental effects on their mental health.”

Wait, the author was surprised that racism might be associated with depression or other mental health conditions?  And what’s up with saying that children may experience racism in and out of school and that there may be detrimental effects on their health?  Oh yeah, I forgot that white kids were included in this study.

The senior author is quoted as well:

“It is concerning that children this young are already reporting that they have faced racial or ethnic discrimination,” said senior author Dr. Mark A. Schuster, William Berenberg Professor of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School.

“We need to examine what they are experiencing and how to address this issue.”

Geez, I find it concerning that a professor of pediatrics is surprised that children in fifth grade report that they’ve faced racism.  Because I would hope that people are aware that it happens much, much sooner than fifth grade.  Here I think the problem has to do with children not being able to articulate what racism is, with the possible exception of the most blatant sorts of examples.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  We aren’t going to get any work done here until people stop asking the question “Is racism harmful?” and start asking “What are we doing to eradicate racism?”

5 thoughts on “‘Racism hurts kids’ mental health’

  1. Wait, the author was surprised that racism might be associated with depression or other mental health conditions?

    I assume that the author is surprised that they set up the study well enough to see positive correlations between “perceived discrimination” and symptoms of all four examined health conditions. This means that they chose the relevant health conditions to study and the study worked out great.

    Here I think the problem has to do with children not being able to articulate what racism is, with the possible exception of the most blatant sorts of examples.

    Yes! When I was little, I didn’t think that what I experienced was “racism”, but I knew it was unfair. I thought that “racism” was intentional blatant bigotry against black people. Since I’m not black, I thought it wasn’t “racism”.

  2. for them to say that it is possible that it might be because the kid is troubled, or that the children with emotional problems may “perceive” more bias, WTF, yeah, it’s troubling to read such stupidity.

  3. it seems like they should ask kids about this they way they do sexism studies. you ask “does racism happen” and the kid says no. you ask “have you ever been called _____” or “have you ever felt uncomfortable around a black person” and they say yes. it’s all about how you frame the question.

  4. I haven’t read the article yet, but I wonder if any of the authors/researchers took into account comparing child identity development to racial identity development. Judging from the quotes – it’s clear that they didn’t. I despise quantitative research being done on topics like this. One book I really like that I think tackles this issue from the racial identity development angle is – Dr. Beverly Tatum’s “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria.” It nails the issue of child development and racial identity development right on the head. And it’s written in laymen’s English so it’s not a boring read.

  5. It’s just like they said eating disorders didn’t happen in women of color. Most likely because all the studies were designed and carried out by white men.

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