Tag Archives: Criminal and Juvenile Justice

Jury Bias: Can You Argue the Facts When Race Enters the Mix?

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By Silvia L. Mazzula, PhD (Asst. Professor of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY)

I’m sure you’ve heard it – only “relevant” facts should be considered in the courtroom. After all, it’s the foundation of the United States’ justice system to create a just and fair trial. Over the past several months, my Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds have overflowed with posts about race and the justice system following grand jury rulings to not indict in the cases involving police killings of unarmed Black men. Some say “facts are facts.”  Others say there was something more.

Maybe… there was. Research tells us that facts not “relevant” to a given case impact jurors’ decisions – these are called extralegal factors and range from personal characteristics like race or gender to how a juror sees others. Scientific data show, for example, Blacks are treated the worst in criminal and civil cases. Studies also show jurors’ biases about race may have something to do with their decisions –that is, their verdict.  Yet, researchers don’t quite agree. For example, some find better outcomes if the jury is made up of people of the same race as the defendant, while others don’t find these racial biases. An emerging area of study on race salience says decisions may be related to how “obvious” racial issues are in trials, not necessarily about race of jurors.

But this work is somewhat limited too.

  • First, studies typically look at socio-demographic race – that is, what someone answers when they are asked for their race.
  • Second, many focus on White jurors’ racial bias, so they don’t know much about jurors of different racial groups.
  • Third, and more importantly, we know very little about what jurors “think” of themselves as racial beings and how this “thinking” impacts their decisions.

People’s subconscious ideas and prejudices about social-demographic race are referred to as racial identity attitudes. It is this “thinking” that impacts how people make sense of the world – regardless of how they answer that “what is your race?” question. For example, you can ask me what race I am, but my answer won’t tell you whether I am racist or not.

How does it enter the courtroom?

We did a study with 210 mock jurors who were African American, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, or non-Hispanic White (henceforth, White). Participants read a case of workplace discrimination and asked whether the plaintiff (African American) had been discriminated by their employer (no race information provided) and if the facts supported that the plaintiff had suffered emotional distress. We included obvious racial overtones in the case (e.g., plaintiff alleged employer used derogatory racial terms such as “coon” or “spook”).

Most participants found the plaintiff was discriminated and suffered emotional distress. However, it depended on “who” and their “thoughts” about race.

We looked at decisions by juror’s socio-demographic race (that is, the “what is your race?” question):

  • Did the facts support a hostile work environment?

African-American, Hispanic and White jurors said yes. Whites represented the highest proportion. Asian Americans did not agree.

  • Did the facts support the plaintiff suffered emotional distress?

African-American and Asian-American jurors said yes. White mock jurors were the highest proportion of those who did not agree.

White jurors only supported a hostile work environment. Research on race salience suggests Whites may want to appear impartial (that is, not bias) when there are obvious racial overtones in a case.  Our findings seem to support this notion somewhat since they didn’t support both decisions.  Based on a common perception that race is much more important for racial/ethnic minorities, we expected people of color to support the plaintiff in both decisions. However, we found racial bias by minority racial/ethnic groups as well. This is important because most research on jury decisions tends to focus on unequal treatment of Blacks only by Whites.

 

We also looked at what jurors “think” about race (i.e., their racial identity attitudes) and found three attitudes related to their decisions – don’t forget these are often out of people’s awareness. If you look at the graph, we show what research says is the progression of people’s attitudes with respect to race.

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ATTITUDE… in a sentence General Theme FINDINGS:        Hostile Work Environment FINDINGS: Emotional Distress
We are all humans
  • Color-blind mentality
  • Race is not important
  • Denial that racism exists
White – Yes

African-American -less likely to support it

White – Yes
I’m all about my group
  • Idealizing own racial group
  • Rejection of other racial groups
White, Non-Hispanic – less likely to support it Asian-American – Yes

Hispanic – Yes

I accept and value me and others
  • Valuing oneself, and others, as racial beings
  • Resolved conflict related to racial differences
African-American -less likely to support it  

“We are all humans”: We found attitudes that negate the importance of race in people’s lives resulted in African-Americans’ finding that experiences of discrimination are irrelevant or unimportant facts of a case. These attitudes are driven by internalized beliefs about the inferiority of people of color. Therefore, its possible they may have thought the plaintiff deserved the consequences — even being called blatant derogatory terms.  For White jurors, on the other hand, these attitudes resulted in supporting both decisions.  It is possible that these attitudes may help them see that a Black person was harmed by a hostile work environment, whether or not it had anything to do specifically with race.

“I’m all about my ‘racial/cultural’ group”: For people of color, these attitudes sometimes include connecting more with other racial/ethnic minorities and can increase awareness of issues of race. Therefore, it’s possible that Hispanic and Asian-American jurors were more sensitive to see potential for emotional harm – even though they did not think it was a hostile work environment. For White jurors, these attitudes reflect the first step toward questioning notions of supremacy. Maybe immersing themselves in their racial group and beginning the process of questioning supremacy prevented them from seeing that experiences of racial discrimination were relevant or that they can cause emotional distress.

 

“I accept and value me, and others”: These attitudes are the most mature of racial identity beliefs. They reflect a person who has come to integrate race and culture into who they are as people, resolved conflict related to racial differences, and able to value themselves as racial beings. We found African-American jurors were less likely to support there was discrimination. It’s possible that they judged the facts of the case based on its merits without including subconscious prejudices related to race.

 

Take away:

First, most research neglects to examine racial bias of racial/ethnic minority groups. We, however, found racial bias was present among minority jurors as well. Second, looking at the sociodemographic race of jurors (e.g., the “what is your race?” question) doesn’t really tap into racial biases or attitudes. Had we only looked at sociodemographic race, we would not have seen the wide range of decisions within each racial/ethnic group. In other words – race as a social demographic factor would not identify biased jurors.

 

It seems that decisions from jurors are based on more than just facts.  This finding calls for urgent attention from all of us – it would mean a fair and just criminal justice system is somewhat of a myth.  So what do we do?

 

What the justice system can do:

Include psychological measures of racial identity “attitudes” to determine juror bias – and use these with all racial groups not just Whites. Theories on racism show people tend to present themselves as fair. So, simply asking jurors if they think they will be unbiased, as with typical legal strategies used to identify racial bias, such as challenge for cause or voir dire, – doesn’t necessarily identify those who may or may not be.

 

What you can do personally:

 The truth is that racism is everywhere – we all, in one way or another, grew up learning about the ‘good’ vs. the ‘bad’ racial groups. It is our responsibility as people to change the way we have been taught to think about race so that our justice system really is fair and just, and our children can have a better and more just future! Here are some ideas:

 

1. STOP:

Not all people who look or identify as White are racist. Not all people who identify as a racial/ethnic minority are anti-racist. We need to stop looking at racism as something based on how people look or answer the “what race are you?” question.

2. UNITE:

Until we stop seeing race as an issue of Whites against Blacks, or all people of color, and start looking at the meaning of race and how we have all been socialized within systems that value whiteness, we cannot move forward.

3. SUPPORT:

We need to support discussions about the “meaning of race”. It takes courage to talk about the privileges we’ve been given just because of “how we look”. Let’s support these conversations.

4. SURROUND:

Talking about race, whether you are “perceived to be” the oppressor or the oppressed is taxing to our emotional wellbeing. I, for example, have been feeling so many different emotions with all the current attention to issues of racism in the media. If I, as someone who studies, works and writes about race needs somewhere to talk about my feelings, you may too. It’s ok. And it’s needed!

 

We want to hear from you – Tell us in the comments:

  1. How do you work to learn about your biases?
  2. How do you invite others to have these difficult talks?

 

References:

To read original study:  Carter, R.T. & Mazzula, S.L. (2013). Race and racial identity status attitudes: Mock-juror decision-making in race discrimination cases. Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, 11(3), 196-217.

Carter, R.T., Mazzula, S. L., Victoria, R., Vazquez, R., Hall, S., et al. (2013). Initial Development of the Race-Based Traumatic Stress Symptom Scale: Assessing the Emotional Impact of Racism. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 5(1), 1-9.

Helms, J.E. (1990). Black and White racial identity attitudes: Theory, research, and practice.  Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Nadal, K., Mazzula, S.L., Rivera, D.R. & Fujii-Doe, W. (2014). Racial Microaggressions and Latina/o Americans: An Analysis of Nativity, Gender, and Ethnicity. Journal of Latina/o Psychology, 2(2), 67-78. doi: 10.1037/lat0000013

Sommers, S. R., & Ellsworth, P. C. (2009).  “Race salience” in juror decision-making: Misconceptions, clarifications, and unanswered questions.  Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 27, 599-609.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2007). http://www.eeoc.gov

 

Biography:

Dr. Mazzula is also the Executive Director of the Latina Researchers Network and former President of the Latino Psychological Association of New Jersey. Check out Dr. Mazzula’s previous blog post on how microaggressions affect the Latino community.

Image source: iStockPhoto.comVALIGN=TOP


Filed under: Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: bias, jury bias, race salience, racial bias, racial identity

[CROSS-POST] Put Aside What We Don’t Know and Support Justice-Involved Youth with Mental Health Needs

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This post originally appeared on the Campaign for Youth Justice blog and is cross-posted with their permission.

By Micah Haskell-Hoehl, Senior Policy Associate at the American Psychological Association

We need to be careful about the language we use to discuss mental health and juvenile justice—and even more careful about how we meet the mental health needs of justice-involved youth.

By the numbers, the link may seem straightforward. Up to 70 percent of youth detained in the juvenile justice system—three to four times the rate among their peers in the community—have diagnosable symptoms of a mental health disorder. Depending on the individual diagnosis, the disparity can be even greater, and, particularly alarming, justice-involved youth experience severe emotional disturbance at two and a half times the rate in the community.

 

Yet, the association between justice-involvement and mental illness during childhood and adolescence is anything but direct. Mental illness is not the same, research has shown, as risk for delinquency and recidivism. Similarly, the evidence-based practices for treating childhood mental health disorders and treating needs related to risk for delinquency are not one and the same. Because of this, we must avoid reducing juvenile delinquency to mental illness and making statements that stigmatize mental illness and delinquency by framing the former as a cause of the latter.

 

As cloudy as this picture may seem, though, it should not dissuade juvenile courts, juvenile justice systems, and public mental health agencies from jumping in with both feet to help these young people. We know a tremendous amount about how to address mental health needs among justice-involved youth effectively. Indeed, a wealth of resources exist to help policymakers enact reforms and help agencies build capacity and improve practices. Below is a quick—nowhere near exhaustive—list of a few key dos and don’ts.

 

DO use evidence-based methods. Provide a mental health screening for every young person detained and, when indicated, follow up with assessment, treatment planning, and treatment by a licensed or certified mental health practitioner with expertise in childhood mental health disorders.

 

DO divert youth, whenever public safety imperatives allow it, to home- and community-based services. The overwhelming majority of justice-involved youth will respond better—including reducing their risk of recidivism—to treatment in their homes and communities. Furthermore, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program funds will cover these services, unlike those provided within secure facilities. In situations of mental crisis, law enforcement can divert individuals—even prior to arrest—into mental health services, as is practiced in models such as Crisis Intervention Teams.

 

DO ensure that evidence-based care delivered by a licensed or certified mental health professional practicing in their area of expertise is provided, when, as a last resort, it is absolutely necessary to hold a young person in a detention or corrections facility. Adequate staffing is critical to providing effective services.

 

DO adopt a trauma-informed lens. Research has found a strong association between trauma, especially polyvictimization, with risk for delinquency. Both internalizing symptoms (e.g., depression, anxiety) and externalizing behaviors (e.g., aggression, vandalism) can be manifestations of traumatic stress, though also mistaken for symptoms of other mental health problems. If traumatic stress is the primary driver of symptoms, this should inform treatment decisions and goals. Traumatic stress requires specific types of intervention and also makes the treatment of comorbid mental health needs more complicated. However, professionals need training in trauma-informed policy and practice to address these needs effectively.

 

DO account for the differences between boys and girls. Research shows that certain types of trauma and abuse, such as sexual victimization at the hands of family and community members and traffickers, are more prevalent among girls. This means that girls frequently have pathways into justice-involvement that are different from boys and need treatment that addresses their gender-specific background, experiences, and needs.

 

DON’T address mental health problems and delinquency problems as one and the same. Despite the high prevalence of mental health disorders among justice-involved youth, mental illness is not the same as criminogenic risk. While critical that these young people receive needed mental health services, they alone are unlikely to reduce risk of recidivism, which should be treated in an integrated fashion with mental health problems.

 

DON’T give psychotropic medications, unless they’re part of a treatment plan based on a mental health assessment developed by a licensed or certified mental health practitioner with expertise in childhood disorders. Psychotropic medications carry risks that must be weighed against their potential benefits, and clinical trials have not been performed to establish their safety and efficacy in children and adolescents. They should never be prescribed to a young person exhibiting behavioral problems for the convenience of facility staff.

 

DON’T exacerbate traumatic stress or symptoms of mental illness by holding youth unnecessarily in secure detention or correctional facilities. These settings can expose already vulnerable youth to chaos, victimization at the hands of staff and other young people, violence, and other potentially harmful situations, and evidence indicates that the use of secure confinement tends not to bring about desired outcomes, such as reduced risk of recidivism.

 

Again, this brief list is far from exhaustive and hits some of the high-points. For additional resources on evidence-based and promising best practices, program development and improvement, and funding, please visit the websites of our colleagues at the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, Models for Change initiative, and Juvenile Delinquency Alternatives Initiative. Additionally, the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention provides grants, training, technical assistance, and other resources for agencies and policymakers looking to improve treatment for this group of young people.

 

With willingness, the excellent knowledge we have already, and the research that is going to further improve policy, practice, and programming, we not only can meet the serious level of mental health need among justice-involved youth, but help them cultivate their strengths, thrive, and develop into their best selves. Please visit APA’s page on Children, Youth, and Families policy, email me, or follow me on Twitter, for additional information.

 

Micah A. Haskell-Hoehl is a Senior Policy Associate at the American Psychological Association. He co-manages the APA Congressional Fellowship. Responsible for issues related to children, youth, and families and criminal and juvenile justice.


Filed under: Children and Youth, Criminal and Juvenile Justice Tagged: children's mental health, justice involved youth, juvenile justice, juvenile justice reform, youth in detention

Why Evidence-Based Community Policing Needs to be the Norm, Not an Exception

Police tape saying "police line do not cross"

By Susan H. McDaniel, PhD

Longstanding tensions between police and communities of color have reached a boiling point in the United States. The horrifying cellphone videos of two shooting deaths of African-American men by police officers this month, and the subsequent killing of five police officers by an African-American man in Dallas and three police in Baton Rouge, have reinforced a deadly cycle of fear, mistrust and violence. If we are to heal as nation, we must first acknowledge and move beyond entrenched societal stereotypes that reduce people of color, particularly black men, to suspected criminals who should be feared.

Equally important, communities must recognize the challenges facing police and the stress and dangers they encounter daily.

Social science research has shown that blacks are perceived as more violent and are more likely to be associated with objects such as guns. These associations are often so automatic that they may occur unconsciously, a phenomenon researchers have termed implicit bias.

In late June, the Department of Justice announced that it will train all its law enforcement agents and prosecutors to recognize and address implicit bias as part of its regular training curriculum. The new training, based on best practices in law enforcement, is to begin “in the next few weeks,” according to the announcement — which is none too soon. While this training already occurs in some police departments, it needs to spread to police departments everywhere.

A key factor shaping whether people obey the law is trust in legal authorities, according to research by psychologists. A number of studies have shown that the most important factors related to public trust of the police are whether people believe that the police are exercising their authority fairly. This means that police are not making decisions about whom to stop based upon race or ethnicity; that they are willing to listen when they stop people; that they apply the law consistently and without prejudice; and that they take time to explain the reasons for their actions. Most important, all police need to treat people in the community with respect and courtesy. Increasing trust helps the police as well, as distrust makes controlling crime more difficult by lowering the willingness of community members to help the police solve crimes or identify criminals.

Going forward, psychological research indicates that effective strategies to prevent events such as those that occurred in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and elsewhere include collaborative police-community partnerships; procedurally fair applications of the law; community outreach and education; recruitment strategies to ensure that the police department reflects the demographics of the community; and training to reduce police and community stereotyping.

These practices are embodied in community-oriented policing. This approach stresses law enforcement that embraces community outreach and emphasizes police and community partnerships and dialogue.

Beginning with selection and training for officers, and continuing through in-service, roll-call, and supervisor and management training, it is important to incorporate behavioral health concepts and information about coping methods, responding to stress, and support (e.g., family and friends) and resiliency within the police community. It is useful to have the psychologists who provide services to police departments involved in the trainings, so that they are familiar to the employees and knowledgeable about the workings of the agency. The more police are educated about psychology and behavioral issues, the more they are prepared to deal with these difficult encounters in a productive way.

One success story comes from the late Lorraine Greene, PhD, a police psychologist who served as the first manager of the Nashville police department’s behavioral health services division. With her involvement and the support of the department leaders, a variety of initiatives were launched to improve police-community relations. These included surveying community members and holding focus groups of police officers, local residents and researchers. The data collected were then used to create training for police and citizens, which led to greater mutual understanding. More recently, social psychologist Phillip A. Goff, PhD, and his colleagues at the Center for Policing Equity have worked to develop collaborative relationships with law enforcement, communities and political stakeholders, to identify ways to strengthen relationships between local law enforcement departments and the communities they serve.

Increasing the psychological training and emotional supports available to police officers,   improving morale and reducing burnout can lead to better policing and potentially reduce violent police-community encounters. As a society, we have the behavioral tools to help heal police-community relations. We now need to ensure that we apply them – fast.

 

Dr. McDaniel is president of the American Psychological Association.


Filed under: Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice Tagged: Baton Rouge, community policing, Dallas, evidence-based, Falcon Heights, Louisiana, Minnesota, police bias, police shootings, policing, prejudice, racial discrimination, racial profiling, research

Racial Trauma is Real: The Impact of Police Shootings on African Americans

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By Erlanger A. Turner, PhD (Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Houston-Downtown) & Jasmine Richardson

There have been many changes within the criminal justice system as a means to deter crime and to keep citizens safe. However, research demonstrates that often times men of color are treated harshly which leads to negative perceptions of police officers. The recent shootings in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas have exposed many individuals and their families to incidents of police brutality that reminds us that as a society work needs to be done to improve police and community relations.

In light of these recent events, many people have witnessed these traumatic incidents through social media or participation in marches in their cities. The violence witnessed towards people of color from police continues to damage perceptions of law enforcement and further stereotype people of color negatively. In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (Geller, Fagan, Tyler, & Link, 2014), the authors reported that 85% of the participants reported being stopped at least once in their lifetime and 78% had no history of criminal activity. What is more concerning is that the study also found that those who reported more intrusive police contact experienced increased trauma and anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, those who reported fair treatment during encounters with law enforcement had fewer symptoms of PTSD and anxiety.

 

What is Racial Trauma?

In addition to the mental health symptoms of individuals who have encounters with law enforcement, those who witness these events directly or indirectly may also be impacted negatively. In an attempt to capture how racism and discrimination negatively impacts the physical and mental health of people of color, many scholars have coined the term “racial trauma” or race-based traumatic stress. Racial trauma may result from racial harassment, witnessing racial violence, or experiencing institutional racism (Bryant-Davis, & Ocampo, 2006; Comas-Díaz, 2016). The trauma may result in experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of humiliation, poor concentration, or irritability.

 

Effects of Racial Trauma on Communities of Color

Decades of research have noted the impact of discrimination and racism on the psychological health of communities of color (e.g., Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2006; Carter & Forsyth, 2009; Comas-Díaz, 2016). Although not everyone who experiences racism and discrimination will develop symptoms of race-based trauma, repeated exposure may lead to the following. According to a report on The Impact of Racial Trauma on African Americans, Dr. Walter Smith notes the following effects of racial trauma:

Increased vigilance and suspicion – Suspicion of social institutions (schools, agencies, government), avoiding eye contact, only trusting persons within our social and family relationship networks

Increased sensitivity to threat – Defensive postures, avoiding new situations, heightened sensitivity to being disrespected and shamed, and avoid taking risks

Increased psychological and physiological symptoms – Unresolved traumas increase chronic stress and decrease immune system functioning, shift brains to limbic system dominance, increase risks for depression and anxiety disorders, and disrupt child development and quality of emotional attachment in family and social relationships

Increased alcohol and drug usage – Drugs and alcohol are initially useful (real and perceived) in managing the pain and danger of unresolved traumas but become their own disease processes when dependency occurs

Increased aggression – Street gangs, domestic violence, defiant behavior, and appearing tough and impenetrable are ways of coping with danger by attempting to control our physical and social environment

Narrowing sense of time – Persons living in a chronic state of danger do not develop a sense of future; do not have long-term goals, and frequently view dying as an expected outcome

 

Coping with Racial Trauma

Racial trauma or race-based trauma often goes unnoticed. These hidden wounds that adults and youth of color experience are worn like invisible weights. Hardy (2013) provides the following eight steps to heal after experiencing racial injustices in our community.

  1. Affirmation and Acknowledgement: This involves professionals helping the individual to develop a sense of understanding acceptance of racial issues. This step is important because it opens the door for us to dialogue about issues related to race.
  2. Create Space for Race: Creating space allows an open dialogue with our communities about race. Hardy notes that we must take a proactive role to identify race as a significant variable and talk openly about experiences related to race.
  3. Racial Storytelling: Gives individuals an outlet to share personal experiences and think critically about events in their lives. This provides an opportunity to hear others voice how they have been treated differently due to their race and it helps expose hidden wounds through storytelling.
  4. Validation: Can be seen as a personalized tool used to counter devaluation. This provides confirmation of the individuals’ worth and their redeemable qualities.
  5. The Process of Naming: With the scarcity of research on the effects of racial trauma on mental health, there is of course no name as of yet making it a nameless condition. This in turn increases the doubt and uncertainty. By naming these experiences we give individuals a voice to speak on them and also recognize how they impact them. If we apply a mental health condition, individuals may experience symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  6. Externalize Devaluation: The aim for this step is to have people focus on increasing respect and recognizing that racial events do not lower their self-worth.
  7. Counteract Devaluation: This step uses a combination of psychological, emotional, and behavioral resources to build self-esteem and counter racial attacks. This helps prevent future kiss if dignity and sense of self.
  8. Rechanneling Rage: By rechanneling rage, individuals can learn to gain control of their emotions and not let emotions consume them. This is an important step because it empowers people to keep pushing forward after adversity. This may include taking steps to engage in activism or self-care strategies such as spending time with family.

 

Biographies:

Erlanger A. Turner, PhD, is a Clinical Psychologist and an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Dr. Turner’s research focuses on access to child mental health services, health inequity, help-seeking attitudes and behaviors, and cultural competency in clinical practice. He teaches courses at UHD in clinical psychology, multicultural psychology, and child psychopathology. Dr. Turner is also a blogger for The Race to Good Health. Dr. Turner is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association of Black Psychologists. He has served in numerous leadership positions throughout APA and APA Divisions. He earned his B.S. in psychology from Louisiana State University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. Dr. Turner is currently Chair-Elect for the APA Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest and he was recently appointment to the Behavioral Health National Project Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health.

Jasmine Richardson, BS earned her psychology degree from the University of Houston- Downtown (UHD) and is a former research assistant at the UHD Race, Culture, and Mental Health Research Lab under the supervision of Dr. Turner.

Note: An earlier version of this blog was published on BlackDoctor.org

 

References:

Bryant-Davis, T., & Ocampo, C. (2006). A therapeutic approach to the treatment of racist-incident-based trauma. Journal of Emotional Abuse6(4), 1-22.

Carter, R. T., & Forsyth, J. M. (2009). A guide to the forensic assessment of race-based traumatic stress reactions. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online37(1), 28-40.

Comas-Díaz, L. (2016). Racial trauma recovery: A race-informed therapeutic approach to racial wounds. In Alvarez, A.N. (Ed); Liang, C. T. H. (Ed); Neville, H. A. (Ed), The cost of racism for people of color: Contextualizing experiences of discrimination. Cultural, racial, and ethnic psychology book series (pp. 249-272). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

Geller, A., Fagan, J., Tyler, T., & Link, B. G. (2014). Aggressive policing and the mental health of young urban men. American Journal Of Public Health, 104(12), 2321-2327

Hardy, K. V. (2013). Healing the Hidden Wounds of Racial Trauma. Reclaiming Children And Youth, 22(1), 24-28.

Image source: Flickr user blogocram via Creative Commons


Filed under: Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice, Violence Tagged: coping, discrimination, mental health, policing, racial bias, racial discrimination, racial profiling, racial trauma, racism, stress, trauma

How to Talk to Our Kids about the Tragic Shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas

Diverse kids holding hands

By Robin Gurwitch, PhD

Families around the country are coming together to talk about the officer-involved shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and the ambush of police officers in Dallas, Texas. These events come shortly after the violence in Orlando. In fact, it seems that acts of violence are in the news on a regular basis.

As a nation, we are trying to wrap our minds around what is taking place all around us. Protests related to police injustice, protests about gun violence, protests about tolerance, vigils for those killed in all of these events are happening in many communities across America.

In the aftermath of these events, we are also witnessing many acts of kindness. These have included hugs between protesters and police officers, hand-holding among all genders, races, and ages. Offering lemonade to those standing in the heat.

How do we begin to explain all of this to our children when we, as adults, are having our own difficulties with what is occurring?

First, we need to ask: What do children understand or believe about what they are seeing and hearing from the media, social media, and family?

It is important to include our children in these important conversations. Check in to see children what they are thinking or feeling. This will shape the talks. Feelings may include worries and anxieties to fears about safety and security. There are similarities and there are differences in the talks across families. Families of color are having to talk to their children about how to act should they be stopped by police officers. Is it fair that these discussions must still happen in 2016? Absolutely not.  The fact that this is still necessary is an example of the injustices many face daily.

All families should talk about diversity, the reality of racism and discrimination, and the importance of respect, tolerance, unity and justice.

These events, as horrific as they are, are opportunities for families to come together to discuss how to treat others. It is time for a frank discussion about realities in our society and equitable treatment of all who live in our country. This is a time to share values and beliefs, a time to share our wishes for the future. Research shows us that hate and prejudice are not ingrained—they are taught, they are learned. This is a time to turn the tide and teach our children about the kind of society we want for their future.

While events before and since Ferguson have spotlighted systemic injustices, it is important to also recognize the good done by the majority of police officers on a daily basis in communities around the country. It is important to note for children that as shots rang out in Dallas, police protected protesters and ran toward the sound in hopes of keeping people safe. Police and other first responders can be a resource of help. Families’ experiences may vary widely, so discussions will also vary. While not shying away from the realities of current events, be mindful of the age of children as you talk with them. We are at a long-overdue “tipping point” for improving relationships and trust in our communities. We can and should all be a part of this change.

The protests about police injustice and the attacks on officers are not an “either-or” issue, but are two important, interrelated conversations.

Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, residents championed the importance of acts of kindness. We should discuss this with our children, too.

As children may be worried about safety and security issues, it is important to share with our children what communities are doing to keep everyone safe. It is also important to help children consider how they would like to show an act of kindness. This may be participating in a community event/vigil for healing. It may be writing a letter or creating a drawing for community first responders or other positive figures in the community; it may be helping a neighbor or a friend in some small way. Rather than tell our children how to act with kindness, let’s be role models by our own actions and words. Let’s include them in the conversation. Oftentimes the ideas of children, even the very young, and teens surprise and impress us! We all have heard the quote, “children are our future,” perhaps now, more than ever, we need to decide what kind of future this will be.

For more information and tips, check out the resources and articles below.

Related Resources:

 

Recent News Articles:

Biography:

Dr. Robin Gurwitch has been involved in understanding the impact of terrorism and disasters on children since the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, providing direct service, training, and conducting research. She is a member of the APA Disaster Resource Network, American Red Cross, and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Dr. Gurwitch was recently appointed to the HHS National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters.

 

 

 


Filed under: Children and Youth, Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice, Violence Tagged: Children, children's mental health, Dallas, difficult dialogues, excessive force, Louisiana, mass shootings, Minnesota, police brutality, police shootings, policing, race relations, racial bias, racial discrimination, racial profiling, racism, social justice, trauma, violence

How to Talk to Our Kids about the Tragic Shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas

Diverse kids holding hands

By Robin Gurwitch, PhD

Families around the country are coming together to talk about the officer-involved shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and the ambush of police officers in Dallas, Texas. These events come shortly after the violence in Orlando. In fact, it seems that acts of violence are in the news on a regular basis.

As a nation, we are trying to wrap our minds around what is taking place all around us. Protests related to police injustice, protests about gun violence, protests about tolerance, vigils for those killed in all of these events are happening in many communities across America.

In the aftermath of these events, we are also witnessing many acts of kindness. These have included hugs between protesters and police officers, hand-holding among all genders, races, and ages. Offering lemonade to those standing in the heat.

How do we begin to explain all of this to our children when we, as adults, are having our own difficulties with what is occurring?

First, we need to ask: What do children understand or believe about what they are seeing and hearing from the media, social media, and family?

It is important to include our children in these important conversations. Check in to see children what they are thinking or feeling. This will shape the talks. Feelings may include worries and anxieties to fears about safety and security. There are similarities and there are differences in the talks across families. Families of color are having to talk to their children about how to act should they be stopped by police officers. Is it fair that these discussions must still happen in 2016? Absolutely not.  The fact that this is still necessary is an example of the injustices many face daily.

All families should talk about diversity, the reality of racism and discrimination, and the importance of respect, tolerance, unity and justice.

These events, as horrific as they are, are opportunities for families to come together to discuss how to treat others. It is time for a frank discussion about realities in our society and equitable treatment of all who live in our country. This is a time to share values and beliefs, a time to share our wishes for the future. Research shows us that hate and prejudice are not ingrained—they are taught, they are learned. This is a time to turn the tide and teach our children about the kind of society we want for their future.

While events before and since Ferguson have spotlighted systemic injustices, it is important to also recognize the good done by the majority of police officers on a daily basis in communities around the country. It is important to note for children that as shots rang out in Dallas, police protected protesters and ran toward the sound in hopes of keeping people safe. Police and other first responders can be a resource of help. Families’ experiences may vary widely, so discussions will also vary. While not shying away from the realities of current events, be mindful of the age of children as you talk with them. We are at a long-overdue “tipping point” for improving relationships and trust in our communities. We can and should all be a part of this change.

The protests about police injustice and the attacks on officers are not an “either-or” issue, but are two important, interrelated conversations.

Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, residents championed the importance of acts of kindness. We should discuss this with our children, too.

As children may be worried about safety and security issues, it is important to share with our children what communities are doing to keep everyone safe. It is also important to help children consider how they would like to show an act of kindness. This may be participating in a community event/vigil for healing. It may be writing a letter or creating a drawing for community first responders or other positive figures in the community; it may be helping a neighbor or a friend in some small way. Rather than tell our children how to act with kindness, let’s be role models by our own actions and words. Let’s include them in the conversation. Oftentimes the ideas of children, even the very young, and teens surprise and impress us! We all have heard the quote, “children are our future,” perhaps now, more than ever, we need to decide what kind of future this will be.

For more information and tips, check out the resources and articles below.

Related Resources:

 

Recent News Articles:

Biography:

Dr. Robin Gurwitch has been involved in understanding the impact of terrorism and disasters on children since the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, providing direct service, training, and conducting research. She is a member of the APA Disaster Resource Network, American Red Cross, and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Dr. Gurwitch was recently appointed to the HHS National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters.

 

 

 


Filed under: Children and Youth, Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice, Violence Tagged: Children, children's mental health, Dallas, difficult dialogues, excessive force, Louisiana, mass shootings, Minnesota, police brutality, police shootings, policing, race relations, racial bias, racial discrimination, racial profiling, racism, social justice, trauma, violence