Tag Archives: Culture, Ethnicity and Race

Finding My Passion: To Be Young, Gifted, and Black


Welcome to our new blogspace, We’re Psyched!the purpose of this space is for undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs to share engaging topics surrounding new research, current social issues and timely thinkpieces related to women of color in the field.

This post falls under the “Finding My Passion” theme of the blog series.


By Sarah L. Cooke, MEd (School Psychology Doctoral Student, Howard University)


While attending a public-school deemed a “School of Excellence,” I was initially identified as gifted in the third-grade.  After scoring in the 99th percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), which is a national standardized test, I was referred for gifted testing and subsequently placed in the gifted program at my school.  I was the only Black student in the program, and always felt as if I did not quite belong in the program.  Being “smart” came naturally for me, and it was something my parents, teachers, and even I recognized at a young age; however, being in this environment was a bit intimidating and created feelings of competition, a fear of failure, and a desire to be perfect.


Although, I questioned my belonging and my social and emotional needs began to change. As a result of participating in the gifted program, I have since realized that my feelings were not unique.  The fact that I was the only Black gifted student in the program speaks to the broader aspect of underrepresentation of certain populations of students.  These special populations of gifted children include, but are not limited to, children who are from cultural, linguistic, low-income and ethnically diverse backgrounds (NAGC, 2011).


Research shows that Black and Latino students are far less likely than their White and Asian peers to be assigned to gifted programs.   According to the U.S. Department of Education, the likelihood of getting assigned to such programs is 66% lower for Black students and 47% lower for Latino students (NCES, 2012).  These statistics are alarming and quite frankly disappointing because gifted students benefit from educational programs aimed to meet their needs and develop their talents, and this indicates that there are certain populations of students whose needs are not being met.


The socioemotional issues that I experienced in my gifted program was also more common than I realized.  Research shows that these underrepresented populations are at higher risk for socioemotional issues than White and Asian populations (Stormont et al., 2001).  In fact, there is an alarming rate of Black students choosing not to participate in gifted programs because of negative peer pressures and racial identity status (Grantham, 2004). Other socioemotional aspects may include heightened awareness, anxiety, perfectionism, stress, issues with peer relationships, and concerns with identity and fit (NAGC, 2014).


Currently, as a PhD student in school psychology, I have found my passion for advocating for diversity in learning as well as promoting relevant and accessible services for all students, particularly gifted students.  Even in research of this population, there seems to be a lack of research surrounding different aspects including definitions of giftedness, identification, and servicing the population.  My personal experiences have helped to develop my passion for determining the services which are most appropriate for this population.  This has proven to be challenging; however, as I pursue a career in psychology, I will continue to support and address the learning needs of all students, including students who are gifted and from underrepresented populations.



Grantham, Tarek C. (2004).  Multicultural mentoring to increase Black male          representation in gifted programs.  Gifted Child Quarterly, 48, 232-245.

National Association for Gifted Children. (2014). Definitions of giftedness. Retrieved from http://www.nagc.org/

National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). Digest of Education Statistics.  Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012001.pdf

Stormont, M., Stebbins, M. S., & Holliday, G. (2001). Characteristics and educational support needs of underrepresented gifted adolescents. Psychology in the Schools, 38, 413. doi: 10.1002/pits.1030



Sarah Cooke is a third-year doctoral student in the School Psychology program at Howard University. She received a Master of Education from Howard University and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Georgia State University. Sarah is currently a member of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), American Psychological Association (APA) Division 16 and National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC). Her research interests include culturally responsive gifted assessment and intervention, advocacy for state-mandated gifted programs and underrepresentation of minorities in gifted education programs. A future goal is to practice as a school psychologist assisting in the understanding of students’ unique strengths and needs while providing effective and culturally appropriate prevention and intervention services.

Want to contribute to the We’re Psyched blog space? Send us your blog topic idea here.

We Achieve What We Believe: How to Encourage African American Students to Believe in Their Academic Abilities


This post continues our blog series regarding racial/ethnic socialization practices, programs, and approaches. APA is putting together a clearinghouse of resources to help parents/caregivers to protect youth of color and themselves from the psychological damage of discrimination and racism. For more information regarding APA’s new initiative and to provide feedback as we continue to engage in this series, please visit: www.apa.org/pi/res


By Giselle Hendy (Special Project Coordinator, APA’s Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs)

For too long educational stakeholders including researchers, administrators, teachers, parents and even students placed value in the notion that African American students have less interest and capacity in education. What is most troubling is that African American students may themselves hold these beliefs.  This could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, so to speak, contributing to achievement at standards below actual capabilities.  Parents and teachers must be sure that they are instilling positive beliefs around African American students and high levels of academic achievement.

Many years ago, I worked as a third-grade teacher. One of my students, Anya*, was truly a model for all; very helpful, obedient, and always on task. Anya earned straight A’s across subjects, with the exception of math. I couldn’t understand her persistent low scores in math, so, I talked to Anya and her grandmother about this anomaly.  The response I received and the lack of reaction from grandma was absolutely shocking.

Anya told me “I just can’t do math. Black women aren’t good at math.” Appalled, I replied “Who told you that?”   Anya replied, “My mama.”

Consciousness is awareness of reality within the limitations of our minds.”

Or, how about this one “Thoughts become things.”

Or, the classic “What one believes one can achieve.”


However cliché these anecdotes may seem, the underlying message is poignant: we are only limited by what we believe we cannot do. Anya’s mom had the best of intentions for her daughter. She did not realize how her words, probably made in passing, had such a profound effect on Anya’s beliefs about her ability and her academic performance.  The beliefs we hold have power over our behaviors.  Cognitive biases influence our interpretation of and reactions to experiences in our lives.  It is imperative that African American youth are encouraged to develop a positive academic identity, fostering the belief that they can achieve at high levels in school.


So, what can we do about it?

There is much to be done at every level, from a policy level down to the social interactions between educational stakeholders.  Each of us must be mindful of what our foundational beliefs are regarding African-Americans and academic success.  Whether we mean to or not, our implicit beliefs about students influence the ways in which we interact with them and ultimately how students feel about school and their place in it.


  1. Assess your personal attitudes and beliefs. We don’t’ always understand how deep our beliefs may go. Sometimes our behavior may even surprise us. In the same vein, we may not always directly, or verbally express our beliefs; they are oftentimes transmitted through our actions. For this reason, it is important to assess our own beliefs, and examine how those beliefs can be translated to students through our actions. Watch this video on Understanding your Racial Biases, then imagine how your own biases around race may have affected the youth you interact with in positive or negative ways.
  2. Promote a narrative of African American intellectual excellence. Provide African American youth with a counternarrative for their place in education. Beyond Black history month, parents and teacher should seek and provide examples of intellectual excellence displayed by African Americans nationally and globally, currently and historically. The more information students have on examples of other African Americans, people who look like them, exceeding standards for education, the less they will be influenced by negative messages about what they can achieve.
  3. Intelligence and ability are malleable. Being smart is not a fixed trait. Oftentimes we send messages that only some people can do very well in school. The incremental theory of intelligence reveals that intelligence and ability can be improved with persistence and hard work (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007). If students believe their efforts can improve their outcomes, they are likely to persist and be more engaged in school. Encourage your students to have patience and keep trying to see better results.
  4. Provide positive socialization messages with regards to race. It is important to prepare our students for the inequities they may face in society. However, research has shown that preparation for bias messages can have a negative effect on academic outcomes (Howard & Bowman, 1985). More positive messages regarding race can lead to improved academic outcomes for African American students. Such messages celebrate the richness of the culture, or promote notions of basic equality among people. Students who are positively socialized around their culture tend to do better in school.

I made a few of these points during a long discussion with my former student Anya and her grandmother. With some additional tutoring through their church, Anya brought an F to an A in math by the end of the school year.  I recently ran into Anya’s grandmother, and she explained to me how influential that one social exchange was to her family.  The younger grandchildren have not received the same messages about Black women, education and ability as their older sister.  Per grandma, Anya continues to thrive academically, and socially as she makes plans for college!

*The student’s name has been changed to preserve confidentiality.



Blackwell, L.S., Trzesniewski, K.H., & Dweck, C.S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, 78(1), 246-263.

Bowman, P.J., & Howard, C. (1985). Race-related socialization, motivation, and academic achievement: A study of Black youths in three-generation families. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 24(2), 134-141.



Giselle Hendy is the special project coordinator for APA’s Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs. She is also a professor at Baltimore City Community College and a doctoral student in developmental psychology at Howard University under the supervision of Dr. A. Wade Boykin.  Ms. Hendy focuses her research efforts on improving academic outcomes for African American youth through the incorporation of student cultural resources during instructional pursuits.

What Does A Professor Look Like?



By Kevin L. Nadal, PhD


As a child of poor immigrants from rural Philippines, I often heard about how my parents grew up without running water and limited electricity. They told my brothers and me stories about the things that they didn’t have while growing up, and how they overcame traumas of war and poverty. These anecdotes made me feel equally grateful and guilty, while also motivating me to strive for success. In fact, it is through these stories that I learned the importance of attaining a college education as a way of fulfilling our parents’ American dreams and somehow compensating for the historical trauma that my family had overcome for centuries.


When I was accepted into the University of California at Irvine, I declared a major of psychology. In retrospect, I did so for two basic reasons: 1) because I enjoyed an introductory psychology class I took in high school and 2) because I wanted to help people. I thought that when I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree that I could be a psychologist, and I naively held onto that belief until my third year of college.


At some point during my college career, I realized that I had only had two high school teachers of color – a Filipina who taught World History and a Chicano who taught Religious Studies. Having gone to a high school that was 70% people of color (and about 50% Filipino American), being taught by White teachers (and learning through White lenses) was the norm. In college, my first few semesters were taught by White professors (although more than half of the students were Asian American), which made me feel like it would be the same type of educational experience.


However, sometime during my third year, I was introduced to my first professors of color – a Korean American woman who taught Political Science and a Black American man who taught Psychology. From that point on, I went out of my way to find other professors of color too. So, I signed up for the Multicultural Education class taught by Dr. Jeanett Castellanos – a class that would forever change my life.


Our classroom was filled mostly with students of color – each with unique perspectives and ideas. Dr. Castellanos had a way of connecting with each student – finding a way of making them feel special. Everything she had taught in the class was something I had great interest in. We talked about racism and immigration and privilege. I found myself participating more than I had in any other class. I wondered why I loved this class so much more than my psychology classes, and I realized that it was because we were talking about issues that were so meaningful to me.


Dr. Castellanos (or Dr. C as I affectionately called her) pulled me aside one day and asked me to meet with her in her office. At first, I thought I was getting in trouble (which I later learned is a common first reaction for any student of color or child of immigrants when a teacher asks for a personal meeting). However, she assured me that it was because she wanted to talk about my future. She asked me what I would be doing after college, and I told her I was going to be a psychologist. She asked me about where I would be going for graduate school, and I said, “What is graduate school?”


She sweetly replied: “Well you’re going to have to go to graduate school if you want to become a psychologist.”


I was dumbfounded; I had no idea.


She continued: “Well, I think you should get a Ph.D.”


“You mean medical school? I don’t want to be a doctor.”


Smiling, she responded, “Well, you would be a different type of doctor. You’d have a doctorate.”


What I remember most about that conversation is that she did not shame me; instead, she educated me. She taught me about what I needed to do to get into graduate school. She recommended that I get my Master’s degree first, so that I knew exactly what I wanted to do. She told me to apply for the Ronald E. McNair program and another undergraduate research program – which were both designed to ensure that students like me were aware of the resources and opportunities to succeed. I got into both.


In my senior year, Dr. C pulled out the brochures of the programs that she thought I should apply for. (The internet was not as sophisticated back then, so very little information was available online). I chose a handful of schools that seemed interesting, and each sent back big catalogues with applications. I wrote my essays about how I wanted to be a Filipino American professor and how I wanted to study Filipino American psychology.


When I got my first acceptance letter, I was absolutely shocked; I thought there had been a mistake. As a few more rolled in, I was still in disbelief. While this would continue to be a theme in my life – that any success I have is somehow a mistake – Dr. C assured me that I deserved all of those acceptances. She helped me navigate my decision of where to go, and for twenty years, she continued to be someone who I could reach out to for support and guidance.


Experiences like these are why it has become so important for me to ensure that young people of color, particularly those with multiple marginalized intersectional identities, could indeed recognize that they, too, could be become professors. Perhaps many of us do not know what is possible because we don’t have exposure to professors or others who look like us. Perhaps many of us are used to seeing White people as our teachers, authority figures, and celebrity role models, that we don’t recognize that we, too, can be those same influential figures. As my good friend Dr. Silvia Mazzula always says, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”


Ten years later, after attaining a Master’s degree and a doctorate, I actually became a tenure-track assistant professor. The only problem was that I was still one of the few professors of color in my department, one of two queer people, and definitely the only Filipino American. Though I had the same (and arguably more) credentials than my peers, I was used to being talked down to by my older White male colleagues or being asked “Where is the professor?” when I started lecturing on the first day of class. So not only is visibility important to encourage young people of color to enter the academy, but it is also important for us to change the face, the narrative, and the norm of academia.


Today, Dr. Mazzula and I continue to work on different projects to enhance visibility of people of color within academia – from the Latina Researchers Network to the LGBTQ Scholars of Color Network. More recently, we’ve promoted the hashtag #ThisIsWhatAProfessorLooksLike to show the faces of academia – or at least the faces that we often don’t see. No longer should we be comfortable with the status quo of having only White professors. No longer should we be complicit in allowing our future generations to believe that they cannot achieve their goals. While there could definitely be more of us, we do exist. And we are fierce, fabulous, loud, and proud.


Nadal Blog Post



Dr. Kevin Leo Yabut Nadal is a Professor of Psychology at both John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Graduate Center at the City University of New York. He received his doctorate in counseling psychology from Columbia University in New York City and is one of the leading researchers in understanding the impacts of microaggressions , or subtle forms of discrimination, on the mental and physical health of people of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people; and other marginalized groups. He has published over 100 works on multicultural issues in the fields of psychology and education. A California-bred New Yorker, he was named one of People Magazine’s hottest bachelors in 2006; he once won an argument with Bill O’Reilly on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor”; and he was even once a Hot Topic on ABC’s “The View”. He has been featured in the New York Times, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, the Weather Channel, the History Channel, HGTV, Philippine News, and The Filipino Channel. He is the author of eight books including Filipino American Psychology: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice (2011, John Wiley and Sons), That’s So Gay: Microaggressions and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community (2013, APA Books), and Microaggressions and Traumatic Stress (2018, APA Books). He was the first openly gay President of the Asian American Psychological Association and the first person of color to serve as the Executive Director of the Center for LGBTQ Studies. He is a National Trustee of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) and a co-founder of the LGBTQ Scholars of Color National Network. He has delivered hundreds of lectures across the United States, including the White House and the U.S. Capitol. He has won numerous awards, including the American Psychological Association Early Career Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest.


This is What Psychology Looks Like: Dr. Celeste Malone

Welcome to the first post in our new blogspace, We’re Psyched!the purpose of this space is for undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs to share engaging topics surrounding new research, current social issues and timely thinkpieces related to women of color in the field.

By Dwayne M. Bryant (School Psychology Doctoral Student, Howard University)

As a current student in the school psychology program at Howard University. Dr. Malone has served as an instructor and advisor to me over the last three years. She is an assistant professor and coordinator for the school psychology program. In this role she has guided many students in their pursuit of finding their passion in school psychology related research. Since 2014, Dr. Malone has added a spark to the program by engaging with students and building strong relationships with community leaders.

Another important role she serves is the Field Placement Coordinator. In this role she screens and places students in schools and other community support programs to provide practical experience as future psychologists. She works extremely hard to set an example for students to uphold ethical guidelines and to practice with a level of professionalism. Currently, she is the only African American female faculty member within the school psychology program.

In 2012, she earned her Ph.D. from Temple University, in school psychology. Here is where she developed a passion for research and to use research to make informed decisions related to practice. A large portion of her research focuses on multicultural and diversity issues embedded in the training and practice of school psychology. and her dissertation examined the personal and professional characteristics related to the development of multicultural competence in school psychology trainees (Howard University School of Education, 2017).

By having a faculty member that is so involved in the training process, it ensures that our students will be properly prepared as they enter the workforce. In addition to her service she is a very active member in several professional psychology organizations (National Association of School Psychologists, Maryland Association of School Psychology Association & the American Psychological Association). In 2017, she was selected as the strategic liaison for professional information services on the National Association of School Psychologist Board of Directors. It is an honor for me to learn from her and it is equally an honor for me to highlight her as a model for an ideal psychologist.


Want to contribute to the We’re Psyched blog space? Send us your blog topic idea here.



Howard University School of Education . (2017). Retrieved from Howard University : https://education.howard.edu/spotlights/dr-celeste-malone



Dwayne Bryant is a fourth-year doctoral student at Howard University studying School Psychology. His research interests are social media and digital technology. Most recently he gained experience in providing psychotherapy at a behavioral health clinic in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. This experience provided him with a sense of confidence in his field of study.  Over the last two years he has worked on research projected gear towards the advancement of women in STEM fields. He is currently working as an intern in the APA Public Interest Directorate on the issue of women and STEM. He has a passion for advocacy and fairness for all people. In the future, he plans to open a private practice and a learning and recreation center in his hometown of Oak City, NC.

“Shall We Dance?” How Parents Can Work Together to Teach Kids About Race

Family dancing together


This is the fifth in a series of blog posts that the American Psychological Association (APA) will publish regarding racial/ethnic socialization practices, programs, and approaches. APA is putting together a clearinghouse of resources to help parents/caregivers to protect youth of color and themselves from the psychological damage of discrimination and racism. For more information regarding APA’s new initiative and to provide feedback as we continue to engage in this series, please visit: www.apa.org/pi/res


By Shawn C. T. Johnson, PhD (Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania)




In the world of reality contest shows, are any more fun than those that center around dancing? On shows such as Dancing with the Stars (above), individuals with varying levels of talent pair up with others—sometimes as novice, sometimes advanced—to practice and eventually perform a set routine.  If you have ever watched these shows, you can appreciate the time and effort it takes to get the count right, keep rhythm etc.


As a racial-ethnic socialization (RES) scholar, watching these shows has also gotten me to think about another dance that goes on (and is often unnoticed) for many parents: working together to teach their child how to navigate a racialized world. Unlike faulty steps meaning the difference between staying on a show and going home, the stakes for effectively providing your child with affection, protection, and correction, as Dr. Howard Stevenson describes it, are much higher. Yet, while we often consider racial socialization one of the most critical parenting practices, there is not much that exists to help parents think through how their individual and collective skills, what they bring to the dance, can have important consequences for safeguarding their children physically, mentally, and emotionally.


So You Think You Can Dance?


Individually, it may be important for each parent to consider their styles and comfort around talking to their children about race. For example, one parent’s experiences with racial discrimination may make them more or less committed to preparing their children for potentially similar experiences. For another parent, they may still be carrying forward the messages that they were taught about race as a child, and these messages may inform how they plan to talk about race. Even experiences such as where parents’ grew up can impact how they think about race and the importance of teaching lessons to their children. So it is crucial to ask your co-parenting partner to share thoughts and feelings on race and RES.


It Takes Two…


giphy (1)


In addition to what each parent brings to the dance floor independently, how well parents work together impacts how successfully they can teach their children about race. Have you ever seen two capable dancers stumble through a routine? Oftentimes it has to do with a lack of communication. The most seamless routines are often found when communication is open and frequent. For RES, like dancing, this can mean using verbal or non-verbal means to let your partner know where you are going.


Another element of effectively navigating RES may center on discussions of role-taking or leads. Have you discussed who might be the one to teach your child what to do if they get stopped by the police, or is called a racial slur?


No Parking on The Dance Floor




Even once parents are able to work together to get into a groove that includes mutual understanding and open communication, it is important to also take a look at what is going on in you and your child’s world. Very skilled dancers may still find it difficult to be successful on a dance floor that is too crowded, and communication may become difficult if the music is too loud. Does the neighborhood or school your child inhabits make having these conversations more critical? How do the current political climate and exposure to social media change the ways in which your maneuver? How do other important people—grandparents, stepparents, and fictive kin— fit in with how we are teaching our children about race?


While RES unfortunately does not come with an instructional dance guide, and there may not be just the “right moves”, working together to teach your children about race is achievable. Share experiences and perspectives on race; support one another in co-creating an approach to talking about race; and accommodate one another when disagreements about how to proceed inevitably arise.


So tonight, perhaps after watching the latest episode of DWTS, you can pull up APA’s RESilience Parent Tip Tool, and ask your co-parent, “Can we have this dance?”




Shawn C. T. Jones, PhD, is a National Science Foundation SBE Postdoctoral Fellow in the Human Development and Quantitative Methods division at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Currently, Shawn works with Dr. Howard Stevenson in the Racial Empowerment Collaborative (REC), which centers on applied research to promote racial literacy and empower families as a means of reducing the deleterious impact of race-related stress. He received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology with a Child and Family emphasis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was a Child Clinical Psychology Pre-doctoral intern at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. During his time at UNC, Shawn was both a Ford Foundation Predoctoral and Dissertation Fellow. Shawn also holds a Master of Health Science in Mental from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (2010) and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University (2008).

Dr. Jones endeavors to impact the psychosocial wellbeing of Black youth and their families by: a) exploring mechanisms undergirding culturally-relevant protective and promotive factors; b) translating basic research into interventions that harness the unique strengths of the Black experience; and c) disseminating this research to be consumed, critiqued and enhanced by the communities the work intends to serve. Clinically, Dr. Jones is committed to the provision of culturally-informed child, couple and family therapy and assessment. Finally, Dr. Jones is passionate about eliminating racial health disparities, particularly those related to mental health services, which he sees as obtainable through stigma-reduction and mental health literacy interventions.

Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: children's mental health, ethnic identity, parenting, parenting tips, racial and ethnic socialization, racial discrimination, racial identity, racial socialization, resilience

3 Essential Tips to Help All Kids to Embrace Their Race and Ethnicity


This is the fourth in a series of blog posts that the American Psychological Association (APA) will publish regarding racial/ethnic socialization practices, programs, and approaches. APA is putting together a clearinghouse of resources to help parents/caregivers to protect youth of color and themselves from the psychological damage of discrimination and racism. For more information regarding APA’s new initiative and to provide feedback as we continue to engage in this series, please visit: www.apa.org/pi/res


By Chelsea Derlan, PhD (Asst. Professor of Developmental Psychology, Arizona State University)


In their daily lives, children receive many direct and subtle messages involving their racial-ethnic background from others:


“But how can he be your dad? You don’t match.”


“You should put on sunscreen because you don’t want to get too dark.”


“I always thought Black people couldn’t swim. You act White though, maybe that’s it.”


Although we cannot control every interaction our child has with others, what we can do is build up positive messages that influence the effect these interactions have on them. For example, what if we had engaged in racial-ethnic socialization (RES) that involved the following messages:


“You are such a perfect mix of mine and your fathers’ cultures.”


“You have beautiful brown skin. I love how you get darker in the sun.”


“Your ancestors are Black kings and queens. You can do anything you put your mind to.”

The RES we provide can have profound effects on our children’s well-being. Here are a few tips:


1. RES is important for all children.

It is important that we talk about race-ethnicity with children – all children. A recent ethnic-racial identity intervention study provided an opportunity for teenagers to explore their culture and develop a clearer sense of what their ethnicity-race meant to them. Participating had positive effects on youth from all racial-ethnic backgrounds.

As caregivers, we can set up similar opportunities by providing a space for our children to ask questions, process, and learn. Given our unique histories and everyday realities, we will want to tailor messages based on our children’s specific culture and experiences. For example, we might choose to prepare children for bias they may encounter, highlight stories of their ancestors, or build pride in their appearance. For ideas and activities, check out 25 mini-films for exploring race-ethnicity.


2. It is never too early to start.

Caregivers often wonder when it is the right time to begin RES. The answer is that it is never too early to start. Research tells us that by kindergarten, many children already know what their race-ethnicity is, and use race-ethnicity as a way to understand themselves and others. We know that when caregivers engage in RES it has positive effects on children’s academics, behavior, and language skills.

An important thing to keep in mind is to craft messages so they make sense to children based on their age and level of understanding. Very young children tend to focus on the parts of culture that they can see, such as skin tone and hair. For example, with Black children, you might start with books or videos that highlight how all hair is good hair, skin comes in lots of wonderful shades, or that feature Black boys and Black girls as main characters. Sometimes it is easiest to simply start talking, and other times it is helpful to read a book or watch a video, and then build a conversation afterwards.


3. Don’t give up!

Despite our most dedicated efforts, there will be times when children question and/or disagree with our teachings.

I came across an article in which a mother wrote about a time when her daughter said: “Mommy, I don’t want to be Black like you.” After talking to her daughter she realized that

“… it wasn’t that my daughter didn’t want to be Black, she was simply struggling to deal with her perception and understanding of who she is. Realistically, I know how the world will view her, and I can’t shield her from it. What I can do is make sure she knows who she is, that she is loved, and that she loves herself, fully.”

Although times like these can be discouraging, we can’t give up. We have to listen, and remember that the ways our children are understanding and interpreting their experiences may not always match our own.


RES is a process that involves many lessons over time. As children have different experiences, new things will pop up. Our goal is to create a support system so they know there is someone they can go to who will talk and/or listen. It is about planting those positive seeds for them that they can water when they need to. It is an opportunity for us to show our children love and compassion, to help them understand themselves, and to prepare for a better tomorrow with our children today!


Learn more:

Start healthy conversations about race/ethnicity with your kids today. Download APA’s RESilience Parent Tip Tool




Chelsea Derlan, PhD, is an assistant professor of developmental psychology at Arizona State University. Broadly, her work examines how risk factors (e.g., discrimination) and resilience factors (e.g., cultural socialization) inform ethnic-racial minority youths’ positive psychological, academic, and health outcomes. Guided by cultural ecological models, she considers the role of family, school, and other key contexts. Her research is focused in two main areas:

(a) assessing what young children understand and feel about their culture (i.e., ethnic-racial identification), and how this plays a role in development, and

(b) examining the interplay between individual and contextual factors as they inform adolescents’ ethnic-racial identity and adjustment.


Image source: iStockPhoto.com

Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: children's mental health, ethnic identity, ethnicity, parenting, race, racial and ethnic socialization, racial identity, resilience, stereotypes, stereotyping

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child: Racial and Ethnic Socialization (RES) Beyond the Curriculum


This is the third in a series of blog posts that the American Psychological Association (APA) will publish regarding racial/ethnic socialization practices, programs, and approaches. APA is putting together a clearinghouse of resources to help parents/caregivers to protect youth of color and themselves from the psychological damage of discrimination and racism. For more information regarding APA’s new initiative and to provide feedback as we continue to engage in this series, please visit: www.apa.org/pi/res.

This post is also featured in our recent “Back to School” blog post series.


By Chynere Best and Noelita Bowman (Doctoral Psychology Students, Howard University)


All parents have probably noticed that raising a child is not only the parent’s job. You are constantly getting input from other family members, friends and teachers. Children spend more than half their day in school so it is safe to say that the school system, and those who work in it, play a huge role in your child’s life. That means that answering tough questions on topics like race and ethnicity is a challenge that teachers will have to face.


Teachers, administrators, and other pertinent staff share the responsibility of educating our youth. In addition to teaching subjects like reading, math, and writing they also help to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students. Providing a safe environment includes being able to communicate about race effectively with students.


One way schools can address race and racial socialization is to embed its concept throughout the curriculum and beyond. For example, teachers should work to highlight the ways in which culture impacts our everyday lives. Schools should ensure their curriculum is one that promotes cultural diversity, and inclusivity for all students from different backgrounds. School personnel should ask themselves:


“What can I do to empower my students to embrace diversity?

How can I create an environment that promotes an understanding that different does not mean deficit?

What message(s) am I intentionally or unintentionally sending to my students about race in my classroom?”


Culture at its core is our identity! It influences our values, beliefs, and worries. When schools provide an environment that allows students to discuss differences and engage in perspective taking, they create a climate that is safe and nurturing for all to grow and learn.


In discussing RES outside of the curriculum, here are some sure ways that teachers can facilitate the conversation about RES in school.




1. Debate:


Debating has long been known to have numerous beneficial outcomes. However, if not initiated and facilitated effectively this exercise can lead to negative outcomes to include divisiveness and entrenched positions. It is critical to have well-trained school personnel lead these types of activities, as they would be more effective in recognizing the different nuances concerning debates. Using debating as an activity in the school is intended to open student’s minds regarding RES.


Effective debates enable participants to gain a broader perspective, promote critical thinking and analysis, and teach research, organization and presentation skills as students must consider all angles of the situation or topic as they build their argument. Furthermore, it encourages teamwork and respect since students must work together to build their case, eloquently express their views and politely consider and refute their opponent’s position.


The school can carry out the debate in various ways. The typical pro versus con positions can be given to discuss topics such as the integration of racially segregated schools in the United States. Past versus present situations can also be incorporated to help students find the connection between their history lessons and present-day situations.


An example of this type of scenario would be “Would Malcolm X have won the presidential election if he ran against President Obama?” Additionally, a multigroup question can be posed. In this case students would be divided into 3-5 groups, each tasked with a different perspective on a prompt. For example, language is a powerful tool used for direct and indirect communication. However, in most schools across the United States, very few languages are taught. A multigroup debate question that addresses language in schools could be “Which, if any, foreign languages should be taught in schools?” Teachers should present a wide range of languages for the groups to consider such as Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Mandarin/Cantonese, and Yoruba.”


2. Multicultural Events and Activities:


Acknowledging racial and ethnic differences can be even more fun and enlightening if we turn it into a celebration. Every culture has their own special holidays which hold varying types of significance whether religious, like the Muslim celebration of Eid Al-Fitr, traditional like the Chinese New Year or historical like Black History Month. One way to achieve this is to incorporate various cultural holidays and celebrations into the school calendar. Students can be a part of this process by suggesting celebrations native to their cultural backgrounds to be included on the calendar. Each group should not be confined to one major holiday or event such as Black History Month. All events should be supervised by a teacher or administrator to ensure that the focus is on appreciation of the specific culture being celebrated.


3. Discussion:


Sometimes addressing issues does not have to be wrapped up in a big event, project or assignment. Oftentimes the teachable moments that occur naturally are the best way to send a powerful message. Teachers should be aware of events that occur in school and society and be willing to address them openly with students. Addressing issues can be as simple as throwing out a question or topic for a student led discussion during lunch or a free period. The goal of these types of activities is to open the door for students to learn about current issues, express their opinions and have more open dialogue with their teachers and peers. Some examples of discussion topics include conversations around hair, skin color and racial stereotypes. It is important to note that someone should be appointed as a moderator for the discussion to ensure that no one person monopolizes the conversation and a level of respect is upheld as people express their views.


Ultimately, the purpose of these suggested activities is to help teachers get more actively involved in RES and to help students be more engaged as they learn about race and ethnicity. Teachers and administrators must be properly trained to carry out the above activities in order for them to be successful. This means being aware of the issues that occur in school and in society, being confident about your ability to address the issues head on and being dedicated to doing so in a way that unites, educates and builds appreciation for others among your students.




Chynere Best is a doctoral student in the Developmental Psychology Program at Howard University. She serves as the lab coordinator for the Cultural Socialization Lab (CSL), under the supervision of Dr. Debra Roberts, where the research focuses on culture as a buffer to the negative influences of toxic environments. Chynere’s specific research interests concentrate on culture and identity development in adolescents and young adults of African descent. She is originally from Trinidad and Tobago.


Noelita Bowman is pursuing a PhD in school psychology at Howard University. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Hampton University, where she was a summa cum laude graduate. Noelita has interned in several of APA’s offices including the Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs in Summer 2017. Noelita’s research and interests include exploring ways to improve the academic achievement and school readiness achievement amongst children of color. Her dissertation focuses on exploring parent and teacher attitudes on school readiness. She believes all children have the capacity to learn, it is the environment in which they function in that alters development in a positive or negative direction.


Image source: iStockPhoto.com

Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: academic achievement, back to school, culture, Education, race relations, racial and ethnic socialization, racial identity, racism

Charlottesville and Us

Black Lives Matter Protest, Montreal

By Kumea Shorter-Gooden, PhD (Chief Diversity Officer, University of Maryland)


I’m hoping we’ve reached an inflection point. I’m hoping the tragedy at Charlottesville has created that – that such a bright light has been shined on White supremacy and racism that it compels us as a nation and as a world to take this problem seriously and to act in a transformative way.


The White supremacist rally which led to the death of one counter-protestor may seem worlds away from the lives we lead in schools, non-profits, government agencies and corporations. Charlottesville represents the most extreme, virulent and lethal form of racism—a form that is repudiated by most everyone. But racism occurs along a continuum. And the far other end is anchored by everyday acts of bias and prejudice. These everyday acts are often not intentional, not deliberate, not directly aimed at advantaging one race and disadvantaging another. They often reflect implicit rather than explicit prejudice and bias. The perpetrators of everyday bias are usually well-meaning people who see themselves as decent, fair and egalitarian, and surely not as racist. People like you and like me.


White Lives Matter Rally, Austin, Tx, Nov. 19, 2016


Everyday bias takes the form of racial micro-aggressions (for example, “He’s really smart for a Black guy”) and manifests in decision-making that can have far-reaching consequences (for example, “I can’t see a Latina woman from her background fitting in here”).


Racism does not persist because of extremists. They add fire and fuel, definitely. But racism persists because of the behaviors of everyday folks who have grown up in a world that’s rife with White supremacist beliefs. And racism persists because it’s been baked into most societal institutions and organizations – into how we admit, hire, evaluate, reward and promote; into the culture of the organization; into how we do business.


Thus, to end racism, each of us needs to do some work, starting with asking ourselves some questions: How do I collude with racism? Have I looked at my own biases and the ways that they manifest at home, in my community and at work? How am I actively addressing my biases? How does my company collude, perhaps unintentionally, with racism? Are there racial disparities in the workforce or in the experiences of employees of different racial groups? How are we actively addressing them?


Beyond these important questions, we need to do three things: First, we need to acknowledge that racism is real and alive – and not just on the streets of Charlottesville. Second, we need to find ways to confront our own racial biases—through looking inside; through listening and hearing from those who’ve been racially marginalized; through honest dialogue; and through learning about issues of race and racial oppression. Third, we need to engage our schools, companies and organizations in assessing their racial diversity and inclusivity—in acknowledging what’s working and in facing what’s not; in realizing that fighting racism is a systemic and ongoing challenge, even in the best institutions.


Let’s not let Charlottesville be for naught. We all have work to do!




Kumea Shorter-Gooden, PhD, a clinical/community psychologist and the principal of Shorter-Gooden Consulting, was the first Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Maryland, College Park. She can be reached at [email protected].


Image Source: iStockPhoto.com


Filed under: Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice Tagged: bias, Charlottesville, implicit bias, microaggressions, prejudice, racism, white supremacy

Black Pain, Black Joy, and Racist Fear: Supporting Black Children in a Hostile World

African American father and son

This is the second in a series of blog posts that the American Psychological Association (APA) will publish regarding racial/ethnic socialization practices, programs, and approaches. APA is putting together a clearinghouse of resources to help parents/caregivers to protect youth of color and themselves from the psychological damage of discrimination and racism. For more information regarding APA’s new initiative and to provide feedback as we continue to engage in this series, please visit: www.apa.org/pi/res

By Angel Dunbar, PhD (Post-Doctoral Associate, University of Maryland)

On Saturday August 12, 2017, I awoke to images from the night before of dozens of White nationalists marching through the University of Virginia Charlottesville carrying torches and chanting “you will not replace us.”

This chant, “you will not replace us,” embodies the perception held by White nationalists that people of color are eminent threats to the continuation of White supremacy. However, this dangerous fear is not limited to self-proclaimed White nationalist. It runs deep within and across various institutions that impact adults and children alike, including the education and justice systems.

Taking in the images from Charlottesville and considering them against the backdrop of other overt and covert displays of racism in recent years, I was reminded of the intense emotionality of racism and its effect on Black children.

I imagine the level of fear it must take for a police officer to shoot a 12-year-old Black child within two seconds of arriving on the scene. I wonder about the level of hatred one must hold to be able to shoot at Black teenagers enjoying music in their car. I recall the anger and pain one feels at not only experiencing racism but also vicariously witnessing and learning about racism. And I consider the constant emotional restraint needed to remain composed so as not to become another victim of racist fear.

Unsurprisingly, parents and caregivers are increasingly concerned for the wellbeing of Black children. Research shows that:

When it seems like Black children are mistreated for expressing anger, fear, joy, or for simply existing, it can be a daunting task to figure out how to best protect them from harm while also allowing them to live and thrive unapologetically. Here are a few things to consider from the research:


Facts of Life


1. Strike a balance

It is reasonable to encourage children to control their emotions (e.g., “don’t get too upset” “don’t react in anger”) and monitor their behavior in certain contexts—such as with teachers and administrators, law enforcement, and unknown adults—in an effort to decrease their chances of being harmed or treated with bias. Research shows that not talking to Black children about racism and what they may witness or experience can actually lead to more distress later, due to the shock of unexpected exposure.

However, excessive suppression of emotions without an outlet can lead to depression, anxiety, acting out, and can even take a toll on cardiovascular health. For balance, caregivers can encourage children to feel comfortable expressing their emotions at home and with close friends and extended family.

Speaking of emotional outlets…

Carefree children running and playing in garden


2. Processing emotions is essential

As adults, experiencing or witnessing racism can be extremely emotionally upsetting. So imagine how overwhelming it must be for children, who are still developing the skill of managing their emotions, to experience or even learn about racism. Research shows that validating and being sensitive to children’s feelings of fear, anger, and sadness helps them learn to effectively cope with these emotions. It also helps to prevent depression, anxiety, and behavior problems.

Validation and sensitivity comes in many forms, including allowing children to express their feelings, comforting them with physical affection and reassuring words, and problem solving with them. Here are some questions you can ask your child the next time he or she is upset by images they see in the media or something that happened to them….

“What happened?”

“Why do you think that happened?”

“How did it make you feel?”

“What can we do to feel better?”

Also check out this blog post by Dr. Riana Anderson about how our own emotional distress to racism can impact these conversations with children.


Close up portrait of a happy little boy smiling

3. Surround children with love and remain joyful

Being discriminated against and learning that others may not like them simply because they are Black can take a toll on children’s sense of self-worth and overall health. Having positive, warm, and supportive relationships both in and outside of the home can buffer against the negative impact of racism.

Such warm and supportive relationships are a constant reminder to children that they have people to turn to and that they are loved, lovable, and have immense value. In addition to everyday love and support, sending children counter messages and positive affirmations about blackness can also boost their confidence and self-esteem.

Despite the violence against Black lives and the accompanying trauma, the Black community continues to persevere and remain joyful. In the words of activist and writer Kleaver Cruz, “Black joy is resistance.” Most importantly, Black joy is healing.



Dr. Angel Dunbar is a postdoctoral associate in the African American Studies Department. Dr. Dunbar completed her M.S. and Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of North Carolina Greensboro and her B.A. in psychology and sociology at the University of Delaware.

Dr. Dunbar is a Developmental Scientist whose research focuses on understanding the unique developmental challenges that children of color encounter and the family processes and individual factors that influence positive adaptation in the face of these challenges. Specifically, her program of research addresses the following: (1) the detrimental effects of racial/ethnic discrimination on the social-emotional, psychological, and academic outcomes of children of color, (2) the messages parents relay about race/racism and emotions in an attempt to mitigate these effects, and (3) children’s individual protective factors such as emotional, behavioral, and physiological self-regulation and emotion understanding. Dr. Dunbar’s research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice Tagged: African American children, African American youth, black children, children's mental health, racial identity, racial socialization, self-esteem, self-expression

Beyond the “Melting Pot”: Why We Need to Support the Multicultural Identities of All America’s Children

It’s that time of year again – back to school! Follow along with our newest blog series on prepping your young ones for the new school year. Most posts will focus on issues affecting children (K-12) and eventually college age youth.

By Kalina Brabeck, PhD (Associate Professor of Counseling, Rhode Island College)

At a recent community meeting I co-facilitated, a Guatemalan immigrant mother shared that, in response to the election of Donald Trump, her eight-year-old daughter posed the following question: “I was born here in the US. But I’m Latina, because you are from Guatemala. Does that mean even though I was born here [in the US], I don’t belong here?”

Embedded in this girl’s question was the assumption of a binary: She could be American, or she could be Latina/Guatemalan, but she could not be both. By eight years of age, this child has the cognitive skills to reason and think more abstractly, and to understand that identity is constant and multifaceted. Indeed, it is during this stage of development that personal identity becomes more complex (kids can understand, for example, “I’m a girl/ daughter/ Christian/ soccer player/ Latina/ American”). But after the US elected a president who ran on a platform which pitted (White) Americans against (Latino, Muslim) immigrants and posited families like hers as a threat to the United States, it is understandable why this child, despite her cognitive capacities, questions her ability to be both Latina and American.

Unfortunately, when we create an environment that leads children to feel ashamed of their ethnic identity, or to think that they cannot be both ethically identified and American, we are robbing them of a crucial protective factor that enhances their development. Numerous research studies have found that strong ties to cultures of origin, multilingualism, and multicultural identities provide cognitive, academic, social, and emotional advantages. Speaking multiple languages is linked to greater cognitive flexibility- like the ability to quickly go from playing outside to doing homework. It has also been linked to the ability to follow directions and stop/think before acting.

Kids who are adept at navigating different cultural contexts are better at taking the perspective of others and developing empathy. Embracing one’s culture of origin connects children to a community of people, a set of values, and a sense of history, all of which help offset the negative effects of racism, discrimination, and poverty. Children with greater ties to their cultural identities are more likely to value and be motivated to succeed in school. Moreover, when immigrant children are allowed- and encouraged- to bring their languages and cultures into US classrooms, White and English-speaking students benefit from learning from them. It’s important preparation for living in an increasingly global and diverse world.

The old idea of the “melting pot,” in which ethnically diverse individuals “assimilate” into a monolithic American culture and identity, while losing roots to the culture of origin, has long been debunked in the social science literature. Rather, we encourage integration– that is, adaptation to the dominant cultural and continued identification with the culture of origin. Multicultural identities, in which individuals are able speak multiple languages, navigate different cultural expectations and norms, and effectively interact with diverse communities, are linked to better health, academic, and social outcomes for all our children. Their ability to succeed in a global and multicultural world also benefits our country. Let’s not disadvantage our children, or our country, by forcing them to make a false choice.




Kalina Brabeck, PhD, is a psychologist who specializes in discrimination, immigration and trauma at Lifespan Physician Group and Rhode Island Hospital. She speaks English and Spanish and works as part of the Latino Mental Health Program team, where she provides psychotherapy to Spanish-speaking patients. Dr. Brabeck is an associate professor of mental health counseling at Rhode Island College. Dr. Brabeck’s research focuses on the effects that poverty, discrimination and legal status have on Latino immigrant families. Her work has been published in many peer-reviewed journals, books and encyclopedias. She is a member of the American Psychological Association. She is also a member of the APA’s Committee on Children, Youth, and Families.

Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: academic achievement, bicultural, bilingualism, children's mental health, cultural identity, ethnic identity, immigrant children, immigrant families, multicultural, multilingualism