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?”