A new Rutgers University study finds that Black teenagers in the United States face discrimination multiple times a day, most frequently online.
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, was done to examine how often Black teens experience racial discrimination. The study has concluded that discriminatory incidents often lead to depression.
“This research reflects what researchers and activists have asserted for years: Black adolescents are forced to face antiblack microaggressions on a daily basis. Importantly, this study expands the research on the many ways that discrimination happens, whether it is being teased by peers, asked to speak for their racial group in class or seeing a racist post on social media,” lead author Devin English said in a press release.
Researchers studied the day to day lives of 101 Black teenagers living in predominantly Black neighborhoods in Washington D.C. The participants, ages 13 through 17, were surveyed daily for a two-week period, looking at each student's experience with racial discrimination. It explains that while most examine discrimination over a year-long period, daily assessment is a more accurate.
The study concludes that on average, Black teens face over five incidents of discrimination each day — a total of over 5,600 occurrences were reported.
It was concluded that the internet is a major source of discriminatory behavior directed toward Black youth, as they spend more time online than kids of other races and ethnicities. The internet has also been found as a source of frequent discrimination because of the anonymity and lack of consequences.
Results also show that teasing about things such as hair and skin tone are happening at a similar rate to more general forms of discrimination.
The students’ changes in psychological state were also examined during the two weeks. While there was a wide variety of incidents faced, including name-calling and jokes about physical appearance, almost all of them led to short-term depressive symptoms.
Researchers say that while many teachers see the teasing as harmless, the results show otherwise.
“Racial teasing is important because it is one of the most common ways adolescents communicate about race,” English said. “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 for black adolescents.”
Researchers say that there is a need for more “developmentally-appropriate” and more modern approaches to racial discrimination among youth.
In their findings, researchers suggest that schools incorporate programs to specifically prevent microaggressions. They find that racial discrimination is a factor in health inequities among Black people.
“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,” English said. “Knowing this, people in positions of power…have a responsibility to consider discrimination as a critical aspect of the daily experience and health of black teens.”