The Effects of Having a Lack of Mental Health Care in Black Communities

In a study released a few years ago on black mental health by the Rand Corp. A realization was made showing that black Californians were more likely to experience mental health problems than other ethnic groups and were even less likely to have access to the care they need. The study showed a connection between untreated mental health problems and multiple absences from work, which can take an economic toll on individuals and families in the form of lost pay and even lost jobs. That dynamic was shown to disproportionately affect communities of color much more than white communities.“This could have important repercussions for black Californians’ ability to earn income and stay employed in the face of mental health problems,” said Nicole Eberhart, a senior behavioral scientist at Rand who was lead author of the study. Eberhart went on to state that what she found most surprising in her data was that mental health problems were causing 12 percent of blacks in California to miss four or more days of work per year. That compares with 6.1 percent for Asians, 7.9 percent for whites and 9.4 percent for Latinos.

The report reveals that blacks are three times as likely as Asians and nearly twice as likely as whites to suffer from severe psychological distress and goes on to note disparities based on gender. According to Janette Robinson Flint, executive director of Black Women for Wellness, this is a particular challenge for African-American women because “there is a great deal of stigma, of guilt and shame surrounding mental health, and also women are dealing with the requirement to be resilient, like Superwoman”. What’s more is that she noted that discrimination, along with the direct or indirect consequences of violent crime, can lead to depression, anxiety and heightened psychological stress, especially in the black community.

Maintaining one’s mental health is a necessity for a person to reach their maximum potential and be the best version of themselves. With disproportionate access to needs such as these, black communities will continue to face major obstacles. These obstacles will only serve as  hindrance unless a better representation of their needs is achieved as well.

Fighting Against Discrimination Within American Airlines

In the last 20 months, passengers who have flown with American Airlines have filled over 29 complaints rooted in racial discrimination. According to the U.S. department of Transportation, these startling number of complaints are among the most amount out of any airline in the United States currently. While air travelers can often be unhappy, American Airlines, which typically has anywhere between 8-12 million passengers in a given month, has recently come under particular scrutiny for its treatment of African-American passengers. Given these alarming rates, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) responded by issuing a travel advisory for the airline in October of 2017 by citing four incidents that,”suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias”.

Since the travel ban was issued, the NAACP has received testimonies from hundreds of concerned passengers and employees regarding alleged racially discriminatory and racially-biased treatment. In response to these allegations, the Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker addressed the announcement by stating “Discrimination, exclusion and unconscious biases are enormous problems that no one has mastered, and we would never suggest that we have it all figured out either-We want to keep learning and we want to be even better”. In the preceding months, the NAACP and American Airlines met many times to address these concerns. In December of 2017, the NAACP announced that they were pleased that American Airlines would start addressing their concerns about the airline’s treatment of African-American passengers. However, they have yet to drop the travel advisory that they issues back in October. Personally, I believe this to be a wise decision.

American Airlines is only one of many corporations that have started to receive heavy scrutiny for their treatment of people of color. No company wants to lose revenue generated from discriminatory practices, and so actions such as meeting with the NAACP or stating ones “drive towards inclusion” are simply easy solutions to help try and alleviate the growing issues rooted in racism. Regardless of whether or not issuing a travel advisory has caused American Airlines to lose revenue, the simple fact remains that the notice makes their practices known to the world. It puts the company in a tough position and I personally believe that by making these types of issues public, real conversations about inequality can be had and sustainable solutions can be achieved.

The Effects of Implicit Bias on Black Preschoolers

Implicit bias is the idea that people create certain judgements on a person’s character based off of their race, gender or physical appearance. It has been generally accepted that all people have implicit bias, however research from a Yale University Child Study Center has found evidence of implicit bias among preschool teachers. This could possibly help explain why young black students are expelled or suspended from school far more often than white students. The study also showed that black teachers recommended longer suspensions regardless of the child’s race or gender.

In the research, 132 teachers were asked to watch video clips of preschool children and to note instances of challenging behavior. The videos were filmed using actors and didn’t include any signs of trouble. However, eye tracking software showed that the teachers spent more time looking at black children than white children. In particular, they spent considerably more time watching black boys. This study suggests that some preschool teachers expect trouble from certain students based on their race and gender, and if this is the case, additional training for these teachers would be needed to rectify these assumptions.

The study also found that white and black teachers evaluated a child’s behavior differently depending on their race. When asked to read about an instance of misbehavior from a child with a stereotypically black name, white teachers were less likely to say that the child’s misbehavior had been severe. This could suggest that white teachers hold black preschoolers to a lower standard; they expect misbehavior from black children and so acting out is not as much of an issue for them.

It’s unlikely that preschool teachers are intentionally prejudiced against certain students. However, with black preschoolers almost 3.6 times more likely to be suspended than white children, it seems implicit bias could be shaping teachers’ attitudes towards young children.

The Effects of Student Loans on Black College Graduates

Student loans have always been seen as a burden for college graduates and  are a constant reminder of the sacrifices that ones has to make in order to receive a higher education. However, despite this burden being a universal constant for any college student taking up student loans, the reality of the situation is that black college graduates are more likely to be heavily effected by these loans. There are several theories behind why these loans target and effect black students more than their white counterparts, one such theory is that because black borrowers often times have higher default rates, the amount of money they owe can be much larger. However as Emily Deruy, author for the Atlantic, makes note of “the U.S. Education Department doesn’t always keep track of how borrowers are faring by race. The FAFSA does not include information on race, nor does the system that keeps track of outstanding debt.” This in turn makes it difficult to pin point what the exact cause of these disparities are, but there are still ways to highlight the issue.

For starters, Judith Scott-Clayton, an associate professor of economics and education at the Teachers College at Columbia University, and Jing Li, a research associate in the Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis, found that black graduates have almost $53,000 in student loans after graduating at a four year college. Compare this to their white counterparts where it was founded that after the same amount of time lapsed, white students only had $28,006 in student loans. This means that after studying for the same amount of time, white students statistically leave college with less debt on their hands. With less debt, white graduates can use and save their money much more effectively allowing for them to start their adult lives much further ahead, as oppose to their black counterparts.  What’s more is that professors Clayton and Li were able to obtain this information through a set of data from two of the department’s “Baccalaureate and Beyond” surveys, which followed a set of graduates from 1993 to 1997, and another from 2008 to 2012. Using that information, as well as other data from the department and the Census Bureau, they found these disparities, which is how they were able to shed light on this growing issue.

The solution to student loans is an answer that requires its own time and energy to solve, however the fact remains that student loans for black graduates vs their white counterparts is drastically different. While there could be several other possible explanations for these disparities, the visible inequality caused by these differences is evident and a solution must be attained.

The Lingering Effects of the Preschool to Prison Pipeline

When I was junior in high school, I was a participant in a national speech competition known as the “Drum Major for Justice Advocacy Competition.” The competition mainly focused on  Dr. Martin Luther King jr’s legacy and pushed the participants to research Dr. King’s past in hopes of crafting a speech that was largely centered around how he would tackle current societal issues. It was through this competition that I first heard of the “school-to-prison-pipeline.” This pipeline is a systematic form of oppression that has involved pushing the country’s most at risk adolescents, in particular those of color, out of the classroom and into a life of crime. The pipeline has reached this effect through the implementation of various, strict policies known as “zero tolerance policies.” These policies focused less on teaching students and more on punishing students that could possibly create a disruption within the classroom. An example of such a policy was the The Gun-Free Schools Act which was passed in 1994.  The act, according to the U.S. department of education, mandated a yearlong out-of-school suspension for any student caught bringing a weapon to school.

As states began adopting these zero-tolerance policies, the number of suspensions and expulsions increased. Through adopting unforgiving policies such as these, several states saw dramatic increases in school suspensions, must notably however was that according to editor Libby Nelson,”[the rate] has increased even more for black and hispanic students.” While this has been the known history behind the growing disparities caused by the preschool to prison pipeline, a new article in 2017 that was written by Mackenzie Chakara, has started to address a new side to the pipeline: its effect on young black women.

One of the biggest issues created by the preschool to prison pipeline is its unequal treatment towards young children of color. However according to Mackenzie, these problems are much worst for black women for “efforts to correct this problem often fail to include black girls, who are six times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than their white counterparts.” This side of the debate is one that is often times overlooked, in most case studies researchers tend to group black people or hispanics into separate large categories. While this can often times be useful to draw important distinctions, it can also cause for women to be overlooked, which Mackenzie argues is an even greater injustice. In fact Mackenzie takes her argument even further and states that “these disciplinary practices damage social-emotional and behavioral development; strip away important educational experiences; interfere with the process of identifying and addressing underlying issues; and contribute to increased family stress and burden.”

While there does not seem to be a clear cut solution to this underlying issue, it is important that the disparities caused by the preschool to prison pipeline are raised and effective change be demanded. While disciplinary actions are important to have in schools, they should not hinder the development of the youth. Through analyzing Mackenzie’s new information regarding the pipeline’s effect on young black women, it becomes even clearer that a change must be attained.

Sources:   (Mackenzie’s article) and