Why Is It Important for Black Parents to Talk About Racism?

New research explains how racial-ethnic socialization helps Black youth

Posted Sep 30, 2017

Decades of research have explored how racism affects the mental health and functioning of African American and Black youth. In an article published in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, the authors discuss that Black youth may experience discrimination and racism; but still be resilient and experience positive outcomes (Jones & Neblett, 2017). The question that may come to mind is “how can someone experience racism and not have negative effects such as depression or low self-esteem”?

Image courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Source: Image courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Many scholars have highlighted the importance of having the “race talk” or engaging in racial-ethnic socialization (RES). RES involves teaching children about their racial and ethnic heritage, as well as, preparing them to cope with discrimination (Hughes et al., 2006; Jones & Neblett, 2017). Earlier this year, the American Psychological Association released a tool-kit to help parents engage in healthy communication about race and racism. This resource is particularly important given the continued rise of racism and discrimination in America, particularly through social media. The article by Jones and Neblett (2017) demonstrate that engaging in racial and ethnic socialization improves academic performance, decreases depression risk, reduces problem behavior, and provides positive racial identity attitudes. By talking about racism, researchers note that Black parents prepare their children to overcome adversity by challenging stereotypes and allowing Black youth to view their racial identity more positively (e.g., Jones and Neblett, 2017).

In a previous blog, I provided some brief tips on talking about racial differences.

  • Recognize your own views on racial issues
  • Be prepared to manage your emotions and help your child cope. Children often pick up on the behaviors of adults and repeat those. It’s important to model effective ways to cope with racism and discrimination. 
  • Use activities, books, or movies to talk about racial differences. By exposing children to books or museums can help share information and start conversations.
  • Share some of your experiences in dealing with racism and discrimination

Copyright 2017 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D.

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References

Hughes, D., Rodriguez, J., Smith, E. P., Johnson, D. J., Stevenson, H. C., & Spicer, P. (2006). Parents' ethnic-racial socialization practices: a review of research and directions for future study. Developmental psychology, 42(5), 747-770.

Jones, S. C., & Neblett, E. W. (2017). Future directions in research on racism-related stress and racial-ethnic protective factors for Black youth. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 46(5), 754-766.