Living With Intolerance

It’s hardly a revelation that adolescents belonging to visible minorities often face racial/ethnic discrimination.   Cases such as the Trayvon Martin shooting have polarized American society and generated anger that will likely take years to die down.   Many African American,  Hispanic, Oriental or other visible minority adolescents across North America can describe experiences from their own lives in which they experienced discrimination, whether from teacher, police officers or even people of their own age.  

But what kind of psychological toll can this kind of unfair treatment have on young people?  Whether it takes the form of police accusing them of acting “suspiciously” in public places, being harshly disciplined at school, or receiving verbal or physical abuse from peers, the impact lingers over time.    Though psychologists have long studied the impact of discrimination on minority adolescents, there are still  unanswered questions about what causes the discrimination to happen and the how adolescents can deal with it.

Ironically,racial and ethnic tension in schools and neighbourhoods often rises with increased ethnic diversity.    As more minority groups come in and the proportion of established minority group populations change, cultural clashes create a negative racial or ethnic climate.  This triggers greater tension as well as incidents of verbal or physical abuse.  Since teaching staff  are often unable to keep up with these changes, minority group members often see themselves as being “on their own” and not being able to rely on authority figures to help.

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.

           

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