We join with our colleagues in organizations across the country working to support young people by endorsing the statement put out this week by the America’s Promise Alliance, quoted in its entirety below. The staff and board of the Network are continuing to work on a strategic planning process through which we will be explicitly affirming our values as an organization, so stay tuned from more from us over the coming months. Please see the original post to view the co-signers.
Racial Trauma and Young People – Why We Can’t Stay Silent
June 01, 2020
Like so many others, we were deeply pained by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis this past Monday. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. Violence against Black Americans, as we’ve seen with the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others this year alone, is emblematic of the systemic racism that remains in our country. The accumulation of incidents like these, either experienced or witnessed, can have a profound effect on our young people, particularly young people of color. They worry that people in positions of power do not value and respect the worth of each individual and that there’s a real reason to fear for their safety when they go about their daily lives.
As leaders of youth-supporting organizations, we cannot be silent. These acts of violence are manifestations of the inequities and injustices that far too many of our young people encounter on a regular basis. We know that this week’s headlines are a symptom of a larger problem—one that cuts across every aspect of society, including schools and other systems that serve young people and their families. We must continue to address the well-documented psychological and developmental damage that occurs as a result of systemic racism. Decades of research have linked racial trauma experienced by children to chronic stress, inflammation, lower self-esteem, worsened sleep, and even chronic disease.
This trauma is not lost on young people. In the youth-led Barriers to Wellness report, many young people described racism as a threat to their health and well-being. In particular, young people of color cited feeling overpoliced, undervalued, and unsafe in their own communities. They also indicated a lack of trust in and fear of police, leading to anxiety and avoidance of public places. Our young people cannot learn and thrive if they fear for their own safety and well-being. As adult allies, it is our responsibility to create space for the pain and suffering of so many young people and communities, to actively engage in strategies to help mitigate and prevent racial trauma, and equip adults with the tools to show up as allies, mentors, and supports.
As leaders of national youth-supporting organizations, we are committed to working hand-in-hand with communities and young people across the country to address these challenges and their root causes. We know that this work takes time and concerted effort. We balance the fierce urgency of now with humility for the persistent challenge that many have fought for so long to address. All of our organizations want to make clear our deep commitment to ensuring young people of color are valued and safe, and that the inequitable systems young people face every day are reimagined and rewired for justice and equity.