Black and Brown children are too often denied their inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by teachers and school officials whose unfulfilled purpose is to support these children, not harm them. All children go through hardships but from my vantage point (the only one I can in fact speak from with any authority), Black and Brown children withstand adverse experiences in their childhoods more vividly and at a greater rate than their white peers. These experiences can have long-lasting detrimental effects.
The reality is that Black and Brown children are not afforded their innate right to be just that — children.
According to Time Magazine,, “a black first-grader at Lucius & Emma Nixon Elementary in Orlando, was arrested and brought to a Juvenile Detention Center after she misbehaved at school.” Arrested? Detained? A child? You read that right. Not just any child — a black child. Why such a drastic response to a normal part of child development? Without question, these actions would not have been taken if it were any other child except a Black child. Wait — I stand corrected: a Brown child with or without U.S. citizenship would also get treated like an animal and thrown in a cage. Only white children and their societal white privilege are granted the luxury of existing freely as kids.
Black and Brown children face astronomically disproportionate amounts of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in comparison to their white peers. The traumas that they experience at the hands of poverty, domestic violence, community violence, and parental incarceration, to name just a few, make them more prone to lives marked by a series of unfortunate events — events that society either ignores or normalizes.
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,
ACEs can have serious, long-term impacts on a child’s health and well-being by contributing to high levels of toxic stress that derail healthy physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Research shows that ACEs increase the long-term risk for smoking, alcoholism, depression, heart and liver diseases, and dozens of other illnesses and unhealthy behaviors. The new data show that 33 percent of children with two or more ACEs have a chronic health condition involving a special health care need, compared to 13.6 percent of children without ACEs.
Black and Brown children are too often forced to take on adult responsibilities and make adult decisions before they are mentally or emotionally ready and, because they are not viewed as children in that position, they are not afforded time to make mistakes like other children. That’s how humans learn, by trial and error. What kind of system do we live where a six-year old child — a baby in the big scheme of life — gets handcuffed, finger-printed, and detained in a jail for simply being a kid?
Perhaps it is the adults around them who view them as problems and deal with them punitively are the ones who require a mental health assessment? I’m not really certain what needs to be done. What I do know and what I will leave you with is what I opened with and will continue to reiterate until something is done to change it:
Mental Health Awareness and Help for Black and Brown Children Is a Need, Not a Want.
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What happens at the intersection of mental health and one’s experience as a member of the Black community? While the experience of being Black in America varies tremendously, there are shared cultural factors that play a role in helping define mental health and supporting well-being, resiliency and healing.