For Black families, particularly those dealing with the weight of poverty, threatening situations are plentiful. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 64 percent of Black children have been exposed to one or more frightening or threatening experiences, while only 48 percent of white children are.
When accumulated, trauma—which is the emotional, psychological, physical, and neurological response to stress—can lead to adverse effects. From daily racial microaggressions to lethal encounters, when children are frequently exposed to sustained traumatic events, they are more likely to have adverse behavioral effects and/or suffer from depression.
A study launched by Dr. Monnica Williams, a psychologist based at the University of Ottawa, found that Black students who reported higher rates of perceived discrimination had higher rates of alienation, anxiety, and stress about future negative events.
Each generation of Black Americans has faced horrific forms of racial discrimination whose scars they still carry today. The vestiges of slavery can be seen through our mass incarceration policies. Police officers, stationed around the clock in Black neighborhoods, evolved from plantation overseers. Even our economy, as detailed in the New York Times’ 1619 Project, has the fingerprints of slavery all over it. This history, and our current experiences, does not simply affect people in one single moment in time.