Black teenagers experience daily racial discrimination, suffer depressive symptoms

Teens in the study experience anti-black microaggressions are most frequently online, according to Rutgers researcher.

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According to a new survey that involves 101 black youth between ages 13 and 17 from predominantly black neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., suggested that black teenagers experience daily racial discrimination, most as often as possible on the web, which can prompt adverse mental health effects.

Through this study, scientists analyzed how frequently black teens experience racial discrimination every day- either actually or vicariously and on the web or offline. During the survey, scientists asked participants about their experiences with racial discrimination and measured changes in their depressive symptoms across that period.

Almost 5,600 experiences of racial discrimination were reported- an average of more than five experiences per day.

The experiences ranged from teasing about physical appearance to overt discrimination, mainly occurred online, and led to short-term increases in depressive symptoms. Examples of discrimination included teasing by peers about wearing their hair natural, seeing jokes about their race online, and witnessing a family member or friend being treated poorly due to their race or ethnicity.

Lead author Devin English, an assistant professor at Rutgers School of Public Health, said“This research reflects what researchers and activists have asserted for years: Black adolescents are forced to face antiblack microaggressions daily. Importantly, this study expands the research on the many ways that discrimination happens, whether peers are teasing it, asked to speak for their racial group in class, or seeing a racist post on social media.”

“Racial teasing is important because it is one of the most common ways adolescents communicate about race. Critically, young people and adults, such as teachers, often see this teasing as harmless and choose not to address it. Our results, however, show several types of racial teasing are harmful to black adolescents.”

“Although public discourse can indirectly or directly blame health inequities on black youth, our study provides evidence that racial discrimination in society is a fundamental cause of these health inequities. Knowing this, people in positions of power such as clinicians, school administrators, and policymakers have a responsibility to consider discrimination as a critical aspect of the daily experience and health of black teens. Racial discrimination prevention should be a public health imperative.”

The study is published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.