Tag Archives: racism

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

res-elementary-kids

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.

 

MiddleSchool-feature

 

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.

 

Biographies:

 

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!

 

Biography:

 

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

“But Daddy, Why Was He Shot?”: How to Talk to Children about Race Today

Facts of Life

This is the first 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 Riana Anderson, PhD (Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania)

 

Whenever there is news of a criminal’s non-indictment for violence committed against Black people, I run to Facebook to assess the pulse of my friends and colleagues. It’s a phenomenon that started the day after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin. My newsfeed was ablaze with the desperate, despondent, and disastrous beliefs of current and hopeful parents.

 

“It almost seems irresponsible now to have and raise a child of color in this country.”

“Deeply saddened. Disappointed. What is the message for my sons, cousins…don’t go outside?”

“…I love you and I am scared as you guys get older.”

 

All parents are concerned for their children’s safety, but parents of color shoulder a particularly challenging burden raising children in a racially charged society. In particular, the messages and behaviors that parents express to their children regarding race are known as Racial/Ethnic Socialization (RES). Much has been written on RES —formal review articles, blogs, more blogs, and even more blogs—but at a time when racial conflict is especially visible via social and mass media, caregivers may be wondering what is best to say to children of color.

 

Although no magic formula exists for helping children of color get through the racial dynamics of our society, here are a few things that research tells us are useful:

 

1. Talking is both said and unsaid

You may believe that you have said all the things you want to say to your child, especially the things the research indicates most parents of color say to their children—cultural socialization (or pride), preparation for bias, promotion of distrust, and equality—but have you also noticed what you are not saying to them? If the TV is on and you are full of emotion, do you explain to your child what it is that is making you so scared and frustrated? RES is not just the explicit sharing of messages, it is also implicit—what we don’t say is just as important as what we do say. This is true for actions too – what we do and don’t do both provide models for our children. Children are always watching (and parents thought they had eyes in the back of their head!), so be mindful of what they see and how you explain your actions.

 

2. You have to start somewhere

Sometimes, parents can be so paralyzed by our own frustrations or fears that it is challenging to talk to our children about race. Some parents may even feel like bringing up race can add to the anxiety that our children feel about racial experiences. On the contrary, the majority of research shows that there are some great benefits to instilling pride and preparing both children and adolescents of color for the bias they will face. Children of color often have better psychological, physiological, and academic outcomes when parents use some combination of pride and preparation. We think of it this way – if a flight attendant prepares passengers for plane crashes, wouldn’t it be just as logical for parents to prepare children for the sting of discriminatory experiences that the majority of Black people report facing throughout their lifetime?

 

3. Do you understand your own stress?

Just as my peers indicated in their Facebook posts several years ago, a very real fear may exist in communicating with our children about racial encounters. Oftentimes, parents have unresolved stress and trauma ourselves, so asking us to provide assistance for our children can be challenging. Prior to talking to your children, it may be useful to talk to your partner, parent, friend, or therapist about how you feel.

If we as parents are not attuned to our feelings on racial matters, we may be unconsciously communicating our discomfort to our children. Indeed, children who receive more frequent messages of distrust (which can be a generalization from a personal or communicated experience) and/or equality (which may just be avoidance of racial topics for some parents) have less consistent well-being outcomes relative to their peers who receive pride and preparatory messages. Although it is important to start somewhere with our children, we may have to start with ourselves first.

 

Since very young children can detect differences in race and start to make meaning of those differences, it is important for caregivers to be prepared to have open and honest dialogue about the history, present-day practices, and future hopes for race in our society.

 

To learn more about APA’s new initiative on racial and ethnic socialization (RES), please visit http://www.apa.org/pi/res and watch the video below:

 

Questions for you to consider:

  • What are my personal beliefs about racism and discrimination today?
  • How is my child being impacted by the racial climate around him/her?
  • In what ways am I addressing both my and my child’s concerns about race?
  • What resources would help me to feel comfortable and confident in addressing race issue with my child?

 

Don’t miss our Twitter chat!

Join the conversation! APA will cohost a Twitter chat (#kidstalkrace) on the benefits of parents having healthy conversations on race with kids on July 28, 2017 from 4 to 5 PM (ET): http://vite.io/kidstalkrace

Resilience _KidsTalkRace Flyer 2.png

 

Biography:

 

Riana Anderson, PhD, is a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in the Applied Psychology and Human Development Division (APHD). Her current fellowship is with Dr. Howard Stevenson in the Racial Empowerment Collaborative (REC), which centers on cultural pride, coping and parenting, culturally specific parenting strategies, and other ways of reducing race-related stress. She received her doctorate in Clinical and Community Psychology at the University of Virginia and was a Clinical and Community Psychology Pre-doctoral Fellow at Yale University’s School of Medicine. Dr. Anderson graduated from the University of Michigan in 2006 with degrees in Psychology and Political Science. She then taught for 2 years with Teach For America in Atlanta, GA. She has also conducted community based participatory research at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, and neuropsychological research at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Anderson aims to assist at-risk youth with practical applications of her research and clinical services, as well as through academic instruction and policy recommendations. She strives to improve the psychological outcomes for African American youth through expanded coping strategies, discovery and encouragement of alternative outcomes, culturally and contextually relevant parenting programs, and community building, participation, and collaboration. One of her goals is to create youth centers and interventions that support the mental and physical health— as well as educational goals—of African American youth in urban communities.


Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: children's mental health, ethnicity, parenting, parenting tips, race, racial bias, racial discrimination, racial identity, racism, resilience

Historical Trauma in the Present: Why APA Cannot Remain Silent on the Dakota Access Pipeline

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By Susan H. McDaniel, PhD (2016 APA President)

Protesters being marked with numbers, put in dog kennels and shot with rubber bullets. These do not sound like events that should occur in modern day America. Unfortunately, according to media reports, these are some of the first-hand accounts of what is happening in North Dakota as protests escalate over the Dakota Access Pipeline.

For those unfamiliar with the dispute between environmental and human rights protesters on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and law enforcement, I would invite to you read the New York Times detailed summary of events. In short, there is a growing perception of injustice as a 1,172-mile oil pipeline that is slated to run from North Dakota to Illinois was rerouted near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation due its potential threat of contamination to Bismarck, North Dakota’s water supply.

Native Americans have been historically marginalized and mistreated by the United States. For instance, not all States recognized Native Americans’ right to vote until 1957 and many tribes experienced great loss of life, land and culture as the result of State and Federal legislation.

According to the psychological literature, chronic, systemic loss and mistreatment, as described above, may lead to historical trauma in which the pain experienced by one generation transfers to subsequent generations through biological, psychological, environmental, and social means. Studies show that historical trauma is linked to health disparities, including increased likelihood of early death due to chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, unintentional injuries, assault/homicide, and suicide.

APA’s mission is to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.” This mission makes it incumbent upon our field and our association to speak out when the health and well-being of marginalized and other populations are being threatened and when possible to prevent trauma from occurring.

Due to the current proposed placement of the Dakota Access pipeline, we are concerned about possible leakage, which could harm the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. As psychologists, we are troubled by the potential for adverse neurological effects arising from exposure to oil-contaminated water.

In response to current events, I sent a letter on behalf of APA to President Obama with Dr. Jacqueline Gray, President of the Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race (APA Division 45) that expressed:

  • Our support for the Administration’s hold on the construction of the oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Reservation, and praise for his consideration of alternate routes for the project; and
  • A request to urge law enforcement to show restraint as they try to diffuse the conflict.

It is critical that APA and the mental health community continue to show our support and bring attention to the issues impacting Native American communities and to help alleviate historical trauma.

In closing, I recommend you sign up for APA’s Federal Action Network to influence policy makers and make sure your voice is heard on critical issues in the future.

Dr. McDaniel is president of the American Psychological Association.

 

Image source: Flickr via Creative Commons.


Filed under: Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Health Disparities, Human Rights and Social Justice Tagged: #DAPL, #noDAPL, American Indians, Dakota Access Pipeline, environmental racism, health disparities, historical trauma, human rights, human rights abuses, law enforcement, Native Americans, police brutality, public health, public policy, racism, trauma, violence, water is life

We Need to Talk About How Race-Related Trauma Hurts Black and Brown Youth in Schools

School girl victim of violence

By Dawn Henderson, PhD (Associate Professor, North Carolina A&T State University) and Alexis Lunford (Research Assistant)

Witnessing or experiencing race-related trauma damages the psychological wellbeing of minority youth. African American, American Indian, and Latino youth not only encounter race-related trauma in their neighborhoods but also in school. Schools should be a safe space for all children, but some disturbing data prove otherwise.

  • The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice reported African Americans and American Indians between 20 and 34 will more likely experience death from police than any other ethnic group. Just within the past two years, African American, American Indian, and Latino youth have witnessed, via social media or directly, police officers kill fathers— for example, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, Allen Locke, and, more recently, Philando Castile.
  • Teachers, school personnel, and resource officers often enact violence against children of color. Hyman and Perone (1998) wrote about this understudied aspect of school violence more than fifteen years ago and while the CDC does not provide any indicator, a disturbing 2015 video captured a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, SC violently wrestling an African American female to the ground while other students numbly watched.

Minority youth not only witness or experience physical violence in school, they also deal with constant alienation, discrimination, and microaggressions. In our work with suspended youth, we have uncovered these encounters and are capturing them more intentionally through interviews with minority students.

  • Alienation manifests in our interviews with students like Natalie[1], a Latina, who mentioned, “I felt like I did not belong, like I wasn’t worth anything and didn’t mean anything.”
  • Discrimination—Teachers and school personnel discriminate against minority youth in discretionary discipline practices and recommendations for advanced courses. Racial discrimination can increase anxiety and depressive symptoms among youth (Chavous et al., 2008; Cogburn, Chavous, & Griffin, 2011).
  • Microaggressions (intentional or unintentional language and behavior that is derogatory or negative) are evident for students like Samantha, an African American female:

I was the only black child, well the only black female in the computer engineering science class. And the teacher wouldn’t help me, he kind of pushed me [to] the side and he’s always like you can figure it out. But then Billy needed help so he just raised his hand and the teacher would assist him. But when I raised my hand he would overlook [me].

When youth like Natalie and Samantha begin to internalize the belief “I wasn’t worth anything and I didn’t mean anything”, it is obviously a detriment to their mental health. While Natalie and Samantha survived and are in college now, the scars from feeling alienated, encountering discrimination, and emotional abuse in public school remain etched onto their psyche.

Unfortunately, a number of African American, American Indian, and Latino youth may not be able to survive the emotional assault; they will either lash out in aggressive or self-destructive ways or leave school completely. The National Center for Education Statistics reports African American and Latino youth between ages 16 through 24 have the highest high school dropout rates.

 

How do we counter race-related trauma and build resilient youth and schools?

In order to decrease race-related trauma among children of color we will need to target the context in which they spend much of their time—schools. We offer a three-pronged approach to how schools can provide a context for intervention.

 

  1. Adopt Stress Reduction Practices in Schools 

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Stevenson (2008) wrote, “student-teacher relationships are stressful interactions that have the potential of being perceived as threats or challenges by both parties and that this primary appraisal is followed by a secondary appraisal of controllability or self-efficacy” (p. 356).

Adopting stress reduction practices, such as mindfulness, in schools to use with youth, teachers, and other school personnel can reduce tension and mitigate conflict. The work of the Holistic Life Foundation shows that mindfulness reduces stress-related behaviors by using meditative practices to improve attention, reduce stress, and increase self-regulation among adults and children. If we can identify ways to adopt stress reduction practices in school, we can reduce racial tensions.

 

  1. Support Advocacy through Youth –Adult Partnerships

Advocacy through youth-adult partnerships centers on improving community and civic engagement among youth. These partnerships can link youth to social support and provide opportunities for them to address racism and participate in decision-making in school. These types of activities can improve school engagement and build a number of skills for youth, such as social competence and self-efficacy (Zeldin, Christens, & Powers, 2013). In addition, training teachers and other supportive adults to model mindfulness in youth-adult partnerships only boosts the ways that youth manage stress and build resilience.

 

  1. Facilitate Truth and Reconciliation Groups

Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) are a restorative justice process used in global human rights violations. Modeling TRCs into smaller groups in schools can potentially bring together multiple stakeholders such as youth, teachers, parents and other community members to address racial disparities in schools and develop solutions. These groups may not only foster partnerships between youth and adults, they may also increase opportunities for parents and other community members to inform school practices. Androff (2012) indicates TRCs can target problems states fail to address because they rely on individuals impacted by the issue and foster collective action—such as redesigning discipline practices.

Reducing race-related trauma in public schools will require us to understand how it occurs and then identify ways to reduce stress, racial anxiety, and support the abilities of minority youth, their parents, and communities to drive decision-making in schools. This is a lofty goal but it can be accomplished if we work together to support youth of color and show them that they matter.

 

References:

Androff, D. K. (2010). Truth and reconciliation commissions (TRCs): An international human rights intervention and its connection to social work. British Journal of Social Work, 40, 1960–1977. doi: 10.1093./bjsw//bcp139

Chavous, T. M., Rivas-Drake, D., Smalls, C., Griffin, T., & Cogburn, C. (2008). Gender matters, too: The influences of school racial discrimination and racial identity on academic engagement outcomes among African American adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 44, 637–654. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.44.3.637

Cogburn, C. D., Chavous, T. M., & Griffin, T. M. (2011). School-based racial and gender discrimination among African American adolescents: Exploring gender variation in frequency and implications for adjustment. Race Social Problems, 3, 25–37.

Hyman, I. A., & Perone, D. C. (1998). The other side of school violence: Educator policies and practices that may contribute to student misbehavior. Journal of School Psychology, 36(1), 7-27.

Lanier, C., & Huff-Corzine, L. (2006). American Indian homicide A county-level analysis utilizing social disorganization theory. Homicide Studies, 10, 181–194.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). The condition of education 2015 (NCES 2015-144),Retrieved from the U. S. Department of Education website: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=16

Stevenson, H. C. (2008). Fluttering around the racial tension of trust: Proximal approaches to suspended Black student-teacher relationships. School Psychology Review, 37, 354–359.

Zeldin, S., Christens, B. D., & Powers, J. L. (2013). The psychology and practice of youth-adult partnership: Bridging generations for youth development and community change. American Journal of Community Psychology, 51, 385–397. doi: 10.1007/s10464-012-9558-y

 

Biographies:

Dawn X. Henderson, PhD, is a Community Psychologist and member of Division 27 (Society for Community Research and Action) of the American Psychological Association and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at North Carolina A&T State University. Her research includes how trauma occurs in the public school system and interventions targeting economically disadvantaged ethnic minority youth. Alexis Lunsford is a Research Assistant and graduate of Winston-Salem State University. Any comments or feedback can be sent to [email protected].

[1] All names listed are pseudonyms assigned to protect the identity of the students.

Image source: iStockphoto.com


Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: African American youth, American Indian youth, children's mental health, discrimination, Education, Hispanic youth, Latino youth, microaggressions, mindfulness, prejudice, race-related trauma, racism, resilience, school dropouts, stress, stress reduction, trauma

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

Islamophobia in the U.S.: A Threat to Justice Everywhere

blog-islamophobia

By Muninder Kaur Ahluwalia, PhD (Montclair State University) and Saba Rasheed Ali, PhD (University of Iowa)

A Muslim mom, Melissa Chance Yassini, recently wrote on her Facebook page:

Sad day in America when I have to comfort my 8 year old child who heard that someone with yellow hair named Trump wanted to kick all Muslims out of America. She had began collecting all her favorite things in a bag in case the army came to remove us from our homes. She checked the locks on the door 3-4 times. This is terrorism. No child in America deserves to feel that way.

This scenario illustrates how Islamophobia in the U.S. is making many American Muslims feel unsafe in the country they call home. Islamophobia can be defined as an unfounded dislike, distrust, fear, prejudice, or hatred against Muslims or Islam.

Islamophobia really began during the European enlightenment in early 19th century with the rise of Orientalism. On the Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Stereotypes website , Dr. Edward W. Said characterizes Orientalism in part as the Western depiction of Arab cultures as inferior or even dangerous. This philosophy is believed to be the foundation for modern day Islamophobia.

Islamophobia is exacerbated whenever the U.S. has conflict with Middle Eastern countries or a terrorist attack occurs on Western soil.  Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., Islamophobia has undergone a period of dramatic spikes and declines. Immediately after 9/11 anti-Muslim sentiment rose sharply and then declined until the controversy over the Ground Zero faith center saw an increase in anti-Muslim hostility.

The anti-Muslim rhetoric of the current presidential election coupled with recent terrorist attacks by the so called Islamic State (or ISIS) has also produced another spike in backlash against Muslims according to an article in the New York Times. They reported that the rate of hate crimes directed at Muslims in the U.S. tripled after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino according to data from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University.

The result of Islamophobia is discrimination and oppression against not only Muslims, but anyone who “appears” or “sounds” Muslim, including Sikhs and non-Muslim Arabs, and Hindus. Throughout U.S. history, we have falsely assumed that individuals who are visible racial and ethnic minorities are aligned with their country of origin or ancestry to the detriment of their loyalty to the United States. Our history provides numerous examples of this type of systemic oppression, where individuals with minority or marginalized identities were enslaved, denied citizenship, denied the right to vote, had their children taken forcibly from their families, and imprisoned.

In the 1940s during WWII, Japanese Americans living in California were branded as a “foreign enemy,” simultaneously stripped of their homes, property, and possessions and placed into internment camps. This violation of human rights occurred despite the fact that most Americans of Japanese descent expressed their strong allegiance to the U.S. and had never lived in Japan. In 1988, the Civil Liberties Act was signed into law, acknowledging that the treatment of Japanese Americans was based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

However, comments and proposals by a number of 2016 presidential candidates  evoke sentiments reminiscent of the 1940s, with political leaders using fear and anger to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment. Presidential candidates have invoked some of the same hysteria regarding Muslims (and Sikhs and Arabs) in the U.S. used for Japanese Americans during WWII. For example, politicians have suggested registering Muslims, banning Muslims from entry into the country, and constant police surveillance of Muslims as options.

Islamophobia can have grave legal, physical health and mental health effects for individuals in the Muslim, Sikh and Arab communities. These consequences parallel those that are faced by individuals with other marginalized and targeted identities, as referenced in APA’s report on discrimination and diversity. Islamophobia is deeply institutionalized in the U.S.

Law enforcement routinely conducts surveillance on Muslim communities, and the TSA often unfairly conducts additional screenings for Sikh boys and men who wear patkas and turbans, asking them to remove their religious head covering and testing their hands for explosives. Increased surveillance of Muslim communities (or those perceived to be Muslim) has been associated with heightened anxiety and stress (see “Under Surveillance and Overwrought: American Muslims’ Emotional and Behavioral Responses to Government Surveillance”).

In addition, there are numerous hate crimes linked to Islamophobia, including the 2012 mass shooting by a white supremacist gunman who targeted and killed Sikhs in their Oak Creek, Wisconsin gurdwara (Sikh place of worship). The gunman misidentified the Sikhs as Muslims because of mass media’s stereotyping of Muslims as people who wear turbans.

When individuals are targeted because of their identity, their persistent experiences with hate crimes and institutionalized oppression can result in anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. In addition, these individuals may internalize the oppression, taking in the negative, faulty messages about them and their communities as truth.

This internalized oppression can directly impact individuals’ feeling that they need to hide or discard their religious identifiers (e.g., the hijab or headscarf for Muslim women, the turban for Sikh men) or cease attendance at their places of worship. The indirect impact of Islamophobia on all minority and marginalized communities is that they feel their position in this country and thereby their rights are precarious. In addition, the impact on larger society is that justice becomes irrelevant.

In the Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote,

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects us all indirectly.”

Islamophobia is a threat to justice and threatens the shared destiny of humankind.

Psychologists, in their roles as mental health practitioners, researchers, educators, trainers, and consultants, have a responsibility to help combat Islamophobia within themselves and in others. Psychological science tells us that it can be done.

The first steps include a greater awareness of self, and an understanding of how privilege and power play out to continue oppression of Muslims, Sikhs and Arabs. From there, education and increased interaction amongst people from different faith and ethnic backgrounds can promote tolerance and respect. This is often referred to in psychology as the contact hypothesis. Even if the contact is not actual, but merely imagined, people can reduce prejudice. The imagine contact hypothesis (i.e., imagining a positive interaction with an outgroup member) has been shown to reduce prejudice against Muslims and other minority groups (for more information, see this meta-analytic test of the imagined contact hypothesis).

And finally, Islamophobia can be fought by openly advocating for respect and humanity. At the beginning of this blog entry, we spoke about the young Muslim girl living in fear. In response to that, U.S. soldiers and veterans from different faiths and ethnic backgrounds publicly stated their intent to protect her, using social media as an exemplary way to counteract widespread discrimination and prejudice directed at Muslim children.

Biographies:

Dr. Muninder K. Ahluwalia is an Associate Professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Leadership at Montclair State University.  She earned her PhD in counseling psychology from New York University in 2002.  Her research and teaching have focused on multicultural issues in counseling, the experiences of Sikh Americans since 9/11, intersectionality, and patterns of race and racism in academia. She was awarded the American Counseling Association Counselors for Social Justice ‘Ohana Award in 2012. In addition to her academic work, she currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology, and as an advisory board member on the Committee for Diversity and Public Interest for the Counseling Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. She has previously served as chair of the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs of the American Psychological Association. In her consultation practice, she provides diversity assessment, training, and programming for a wide range of organizations.

Dr. Saba Rasheed Ali is an associate professor of counseling psychology in the Department of Quantitative and Psychological Foundations at the University of Iowa. She earned her PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Oregon in 2001. Her research interest are concerned with issues related to Islam and psychology, feminism, and vocational psychology. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the current chair of the Society for Vocational Psychology. In 2004, she published an article entitled Islam 101: Understanding the Religion and Therapy Implications with her colleagues, William Liu and Majeda Humedian. She has been active in providing webinars, presentations, and workshops to psychologists, mental health providers, and community members on issues related to Islamophobia and Muslim Americans.

 

 

 


Filed under: Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice Tagged: bias, discrimination, hate crime, islamophobia, prejudice, racial profiling, racism, religious discrimination, stereotypes, stereotyping