The trauma of racism impacts our children's physical and emotional health. In this episode, we talk with Dr. Roger Harrison, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University and a pediatric psychologist in the Division of Behavioral Health at Nemours/Alfred I DuPont Hospital for Children; Dr. Lonna Gordon, the Division Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Florida. She is board certified in pediatrics, adolescent medicine and obesity medicine; and Cindy Bo, Senior Vice President, Delaware Valley Strategy and Business Development and Interim DRIVE Enterprise Leader.
In this episode, we cover:
We talk a lot about the impact of trauma on children and often we do so in the context of neglect, loss, abuse, removal from biological family, and prenatal exposure. Today we are going to expand the concept of trauma to include the impacts of racism.
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Welcome, everyone to creating a family talk about adoption and foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am your host as well as the director of creating a family.org. So you can get tons more information about adoption, foster and kinship care. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But we're afraid to ask at our website, creating a family.org. Today's topic is a big one and an important one and one I am so thrilled to be tackling and that is the traumatic impact of racism. We will be talking today with Dr. Roger Harrison. He is the clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, and a pediatric psychologist in the Division of behavioral health at Morris, Alfred I DuPont Hospital for Children. He also serves as a diversity and inclusion practitioner in the Office of Health Equity and Inclusion at numerous. He serves in a number of diversity related roles including Chair of the Diversity Committee for Delaware Psychological Association. We also have Dr. Lorna Gordon, she is the division chief for Adolescent Medicine at Nemours Children's Hospital in Florida. She is board certified in pediatrics, adolescent medicine and obesity medicine, she has both her doctorate in pharmacy as well as her doctorate of medicine. All I gotta say is well, humbled here. We also have with us Cindy bow. She is the Senior Vice President of the Delaware Valley strategy and business development and as well as the interim Dr. Enterprise leader. So welcome Dr. Harrison, Dr. Gordon and Cindy bow to creating a family We are so happy to have you here to talk about this topic. We talk a lot, both on air as well as in our courses and in every which way about the impact of trauma on children. And we often do so in the context of most often we do it in the context of loss abuse, removal from a biological family, as well as prenatal exposure. Today, we want to expand that concept of trauma to include the impact of racism. So I thought we would start with just the basics. And that is because I think we all think we know racism is a word that's used in a lot, if only because it's being given lip service now, but it's it's a term that's thrown around a lot. But it takes so many different forms. And I want to make sure to begin with it. We're all talking about the same thing. So I want to start with you, Dr. Harrison, if you could talk about what is racism and then and the different forms that it can take that that we would that we need to know about if we're going to be talking about the traumatic influence of it.
Certainly, and also, thank you, Don, for inviting me, it's a pleasure to join the conversation, it's a really important question that you're asking about what is racism, because often, when the conversation about racism happens, people imagine that racism is simply the act of some people being mean or hateful in their hearts to some other people. And then that is racism. And when we think about racism, that we actually really restrict the power that racism has in creating trauma for people. And so the definition that I like to think about when I talk about racism, and there are several, the definition I like is that racism is simply a system of advantage for people who have white identity, at the same time creating disadvantage for people who don't have white identity, and racism, rather than being measured by you know, searching someone's heart because some, a lot of people go well, in my heart, I'm not racist. And it's certainly not something that we can, you know, do an X ray and look through your body. And some people say, I don't have a racist bone in my body, but you will not find racism in the heart or in the bones. So we think about three core forms of racism. First, we think about the individual racism. And so this would be the ways that ideas about people based on race play out in interactions that people have. And so if I'm forwarding racist jokes, through my social media, if I believe in the inherent superiority of a certain group of people, typically we're talking about white people in the American context over certain other people, you know, if I were if I didn't hire someone, if I didn't promote someone, if I didn't go over and engage with someone because you know, something doesn't feel right, or that person is a bit fit, that would be an individual form of racism. And if that were the challenge, we'd be talking about one conversation, but unfortunately, there's racism that sits really within our culture. That's not about people. And so cultural racism is this idea that whiteness, or attributes associated with whiteness are considered to be of more value than things that aren't white and cultural racism is everywhere. It's in like music. It's an immediate it's an art. It's an effect that when something is called nude, like band aids, and pantyhose, it's the color of white skin. It really centers the idea of racism. And then finally, there's more of an idea of institutional racism. And this is the way that institutions have practices and policies that might never ever mention race. But this these practices serve to disadvantage people who aren't white. And so when we think about institutions, people are like, What are you talking about? Well, think about housing, and banking, and education, and transportation, and finance, and credit, and our court system, and illegal systems. All of these institutions in America have outcomes that favor people who are white, and disadvantaged people who are not white and putting them all together. Or when we talk about systemic or structural racism, we see that these factors together, continue to play a really harmful role to the point that if you live in a white body, you simply live longer than if you live in a black or brown body in America.
Yeah, I mean that. And we have to actually think about that, that is, if you are white, you live longer and that impact, and we're going to talk about that in a minute, the physical impacts of that. But before we move to that, Dr. Gordon, can you give us some specific examples of the of the belief, a Dr. Harrison mentioned three types of racism, cultural and then the other one was, was whiteness being the norm is what I wrote down. And then the last being institutional, and I may have missed one of those, can you give us an example, that that our audience would recognize as a racism and and each of those types to kind of bring it home for people?
You know, what's interesting is that there are three types, but they all intertwine with each other individuals experience. And so, for instance, if we just think about, you know, the practice of historical redlining, for an example. So that was a practice where, you know, certain people couldn't live in certain neighborhoods. And so, you know, in order to do that, you know, prices were changed of houses, who could get a loan, you know, was impacted on loan applications. And so certain people were just historically excluded from certain neighborhoods, particularly those were people who were black or brown. And so because of the exclusion from those neighborhoods, we think about how our educational system is funded. So our educational system is funded through property taxes. So how so you know, so neighborhoods that were you know, charted as being white neighborhoods had, you know, a system where the property values were higher, so the amount of property tax that was paid was more, and then that allowed you to have a better quality school. So you have other individuals who are excluded from that area. So they went to a school that did not have as much property tax funding it. And so as a result, that school was of a worse quality, that lower quality of the school then equals kind of the educational attainment that happens. And so in your educational attainment, the classes that are offered, so the variety of classes, the rigor of the classes, then impacts your ability to go to college, versus, you know, a two year school versus a trade school versus maybe not having an opportunity to further education. Well, the amount of education you have to have is then directly impactful on the type of employment you can get. And so you can get employment that is more salaried, or you could get employment this hourly, well, if you have salaried employment, that it means that if you need to take time off to go to a doctor's office, it's pretty easy to do that you can, you know, take whatever time the doctor's office has available, if you're employed hourly, you may not have a benefit where you can do that. So when the doctor offers you an appointment, you can't take it because you're choosing between going to the doctor or going to work. So then how does that impact a child well, so those two people get pregnant, one person can go and get prenatal care very consistently, because it's easy for them to go in for those every other week, or once a month, prenatal appointments that are needed another person, every time they make that choice, they're losing income. So they choose maybe to forego some of those appointments, or they can't be seen as readily. So then that leads to what complications is that child who's born born with. So a person who gets good prenatal care, their child is less likely to be born prematurely is less likely to have you know, multiple chronic medical conditions like lung problems, or kidney problems, vision problems, which then equals to lots of appointments for that child, which is more time off of work, but also leads to that child's potential now in terms of their educational attainment, and so now we have a cycle that's compounded over one system. But when people interact with the individuals who have had all of these systemic events happen to them, what they see is a snapshot of this moment. And so what that person sees is someone who, you know, has a low paying job didn't get a higher education. And then take quote unquote, advantage of the opportunities that were afforded to them. And so, you know, so now the, the institution or the system of racism has now impacted the individual. And so based on, you know, these attributes that we say have now happened to large groups of people, we have an opinion of these large groups of people that might equal lazy, not industrious, added upon a system. And then that causes those groups of people then to be treated differently by individuals, which then further compounds the problem. So, it's hard because it's not, you know, although, you know, Dr. Harrison was able to give us those nice definitions that are, you know, so concise, the way that it plays out in individuals lives is anything but concise.
And, and all of the everything you describe, stems from the example you gave in this particular situation stems from redlining, the discrimination in housing, and then but the trickle down effect was, you took it all the way down to being able to get prenatal care on a regular, consistent basis. And the other thing that occurs to me is that redlining just to kind of circle back to make the point that all forms of racism are tied. redlining, in the past was blatant where, you know, blacks are not welcome or Asians are not welcome or whatever. But now it can be more coded and more subtle and more systemic by using words in the in the listings of sales of saying crime ridden our safe neighborhood, our desirable neighborhood are things such as at our great school system, or whatever that can be code for the type of neighborhood you would be moving into. So just to tie it back to the both the blatant racism as well as the more subtle forms of racism, that that may be existing now, but that the end effect is, is the same.
And that, you know, even in the language, that's such a good point that you make, because many people when they say, you know, I'm moving to a better neighborhood, and you ask, Well, what is a better neighborhood, a better neighborhood is often defined by there are fewer black people, fewer brown people and fewer poor people, not because of the system of racism that has caused it so that black and brown people in America disproportionately live in concentrated areas of poverty, that ideas like Dr. Gordon is saying about black and brown people have been contributed to like significant racism. And it's also again, to to just describe the complexity, we're in a pandemic. And during this pandemic, we've seen, you know, some ideas about the disease itself, specifically, you know, ideas about the origins of COVID that have related to direct harm to large populations of Asian families in Asian communities. And so, you know, racism reverberates through our system. And sometimes it harms us directly in ways that we see. But a lot of times racism harms us in ways that we don't even perceive because we don't understand, for example, when it comes to, you know, where do we dump garbage, environmental pollutants and toxic waste, we don't get where poor people live, on course, disproportionately poor black and brown people. So who develops medical complications as a result of exposure to waste, disproportionately black, brown and indigenous people in American so all of these things are tied away. And sometimes when racism harms us, we don't see it. But sometimes when it harms us, it traumatizes us when we feel it directly,
you know, there's a recent report that came out talking about I believe it was the interstate highway system, and the how interstate highways have been having to make a choice where they're going to go through urban areas, they invariably go through communities of color, thereby disrupting the community, not to say anything about exposing to the, to the exhausts, and things such as that. So the chemical pollutants, but also just the just the trauma of disrupting a community, often a vibrant community. So just as another example, and as well as sewage treatment plants are disproportionately located near communities of color in cities as well. So, yeah, so now let's talk about the something that I think Dr. Harrison mentioned, at the very beginning, and that is that the dramatic impacts of racism but but in specific the physical impacts of our physical health of minorities, and Dr. Gordon is the MD here wanted to tell us this question to you. So can racism hurt our physical health, the physical health of people of color.
So absolutely, so racism can hurt our physical health in some of the ways that Dr. Harrison you know, kind of directly talked about. In terms of, you know, where you're living, and then where as a society, we have determined that certain things that impact our physical health can be placed, such as toxins, but racism can hurt our physical health in terms of our physical safety, as we also talked about in terms of health, hate crimes, but racism, also through the psychological effects of racism can also hurt our physical health. So our body is, um, you know, we think about the human race, the human race has been around for millions of years. And it is a very well oiled prime machine to learn recognize the threat and respond to threat. So the body has responded to threat from when it was wild animals that may have threatened their physical safety to when it is experiences that we have, you know, that trigger us in a very predictable way. And that is through our adrenaline cortisol fight or flight type system. And so whenever anything happens, that causes threat, the body then starts to respond in a very predictable way, the heart rate goes up, the breathing deepens, and becomes more rapid, the eyes dilate. All of these are things that existed for us so that if we needed to physically flee from danger, the body would be capable of doing that digestion slows down, our body function, slow down. The challenge is that that was very useful if the danger that was facing us was that we needed to get up and running. But when someone lives in a neighborhood, where there are gun shots that go off in the middle of the night, the body has that exact same response, even though the danger may not be eminently physical, when someone has the memory of being domestically abused, or watching someone else be domestically abused, or being physically neglected, the body responds in the exact same way, when someone has the experience of someone threatening them or calling them a name or treating them badly. because of the color of their skin, the body responds to the exact same way. And what we now even know even further because, you know, as adults doing adolescent medicine, I think a lot about you know, reproductive health, the you know what I tell my patients this all the time, so the eggs that became me, resided in my grandmother, body, because women carry all of their eggs from the moment that they were born. But that determination happens when you were 24 weeks gestation when your mother was only four weeks gestation. So my eggs, the eggs that became me ultimately was in my mother's body when her when my grandmother was carrying her at 24 weeks. And so everything that my grandmother experienced at that point in time in her life, all of that trauma, effects the egg that became my mother, but it also affects the eggs that she carried that became me. So when we talk about why is there generational physical harm from racism, it has to do with what we call in science, epigenetics. So the genetic imprint of the trauma that has happened on that DNA, so it's not just, you know, kind of the fluid piece of I feel bad or this bad thing happened to me, which, as you know, Dr. Harrison said means that then I could maybe work harder or get over the bad thing that happened to me. It is actually physical harm that has been done to my DNA, the programming of how my body is supposed to respond to the stress, and that leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, obesity, poor vision, cancer, we have over 35 illnesses that we used to relate to obesity, and we now realize is actually related to inflammation and inflammation comes from cortisol, that response to
And I assume that there's that these diseases that are connected to stress and trauma are disproportionately present in minority communities. Am I correct on that?
Absolutely. Unfortunately, very sadly. Yeah.
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Sure. And so, you know, I wanted to back up and distinguish between two terms that I think are really important to the conversation we're having, and one is, you know, what is stress? And what is trauma. And so if you think about stress as being a pull on your system, you know, that they weren't mentioned cortisol, there are lots of things that we experience in everyday that we can consider stressful. And so if someone is pulling on their arms for a while, it's you can tolerate it, but we're the pull continues, think of stress that way, that constant pull on your system that requires you to cope in some way. And so yes, if I'm, you know, the only one that looks like me in the classroom, or maybe the only one who looks like me, in my home, and people are making comments about me, and why do I look different from the rest of my family? or Why don't I go back to China or go back to Mexico or go back to Africa, and I'm dealing with this kind of the constant pool every single day, that is stress, I think of trauma as being that I hit to our system where stress is a pull on our system. And so if I turn on the TV, and I see, you know, a police involved shooting of someone who was unarmed, but they look like me, or they look like my father, or my mother or my sister, that is a hits to my system. If I'm walking home, and I see someone being, you know, brutalized by someone of another race, that's a hit to my system, if I'm, if I'm dealing with a number of both my personal or just vicarious, I'm seeing someone else being traumatized, these hits are to my system. And so we know that there's stress, and trauma, and both of those increase those, those stress hormones, as those stress hormones continue to increase in our system, it actually burdens our system, it overwhelms our immune system, it makes us more prone to every single disease of every single organ system in our body. And so the psychological effects of stress and trauma are great. And the physical and medical effects of stress and trauma are great. And for lots of people who who do not have white identity simply living in a country where the messages center and idealize whiteness, and tell us that you know, lighter skin is more as beautiful and more attractive, and the attributes associated with white culture are normal, and the ones associated with cultures that are not white, or foreign, exotic, but not as normal than all of that is stressful. And then when we see so many things that you know, we see, you know, kids in cages, we see, we see hate crimes being perpetrated against, you know, people who are Muslim people who are Asian people are Hispanic, that is, those are hidden store system. And we do the same kind of post traumatic responses, that people who are in war getting shot at development as far as our bodies are concerned.
Yeah, that makes sense. So are, are there factors that make? We're talking about children, but really, I think it'd be people in general, some more susceptible to the stresses such as the age of the child when it is happening? Or the basic temperament of the of the person? Or who is responsible for inflicting the trauma, whether it's general society or whether it is, if they are in a trans racial family, whether it is their grandfather? Who is is inflicting this pain? Are there things that we can tie into that you can tie back and say that some some forms of this trauma are more likely to end up impacting children more than others.
So I'm, I'm happy to have Dr. Gordon or even Cindy, both speak to this. But I wanted to jump out and say, one really interesting finding that we see from research is that there's this idea, this concept of internalized oppression or internalized racism, and that is the degree to which I hold a negative perception of people who are like me. And one of the things that scientists are finding is that the degree to which I hold internalized forms of racism or oppression than racist events that I experienced are actually going to have a more significant impact on me. So if I'm a, you know, Hispanic person, for example, in my parents immigrated from South America or Central America, Mexico, and I, I don't like anything about my skin and my accent, and I'm embarrassed to be Iran, people like me, and I wants to be white, that that would be a form of internalized oppression, I internalize the sense that whiteness is better. And that being Hispanic is not as good as being white. And so when I have high degrees of internalized oppression, then experiencing racial trauma makes it worse for me to cope with that kind of racial trauma. But I'm certainly happy to have my colleagues talk about some of the other factors that might also impact how well we cope with race based stress and race trauma.
Yeah, Cindy, do you have let me start with beef? We have not included you yet. Sit up it, can you? Can you talk to us some about the I'm coming, I'm gonna circle back to internalized racism, because I think it's really important, but about the other factors that impact the ability to withstand racism and not have some of the more harmful impacts or vice versa, having more harmful impacts.
Yeah, I just wanted to talk about some more subtle ways of how racism has impacted certain races. So I'll use my own lived experiences. Let's just call out, for example, the model minority myth, right. And when we think about this is actually really subtle, because in, you know, just growing up as an Asian American, we have seen that some white people point out the fact that successful Asian Americans are proof that racism doesn't exist, right. And I've heard that in my entire life, from the standpoint of Oh, that's not racism, that's, you know, something else. And what that does is that it really creates a cascading effect. For example, when I was younger, I had struggles in school, but none of the teachers would say, oh, let's help her or help someone like Cindy who's struggling, because they actually don't believe that there is a struggle, they assume that there's a natural aptitude for math or science or whatever the some of these more general stereotypes are being perpetuated the model minority myth also disguised as a different experience that we each Asian Americans have. So right now I'm in a book club with Dr. Gordon, a book that we're reading is called miner feelings. And what it does is with the model, minority myth is sometimes kind of washes over all the different experiences of Asian Americans. So I'm no different from my Chinese are no different from a Korean or an Indian, or, you know, or Cambodian, or Japanese. And so that helps perpetuate the the sort of trauma and distress because I am no longer seen as someone who is from my own country, my own heritage and just kind of an Asia and right at large. And I think the other thing that I would just add one more subtlety is that in saying all of this, we've seen systems kind of defund programs for Asian American. So ESL or English as second language classes growing up, you know, we've seen, you know, defunding of those classes, because, because there's an assumption, again, that certain classes of people or races have a natural aptitude for science and math and English. And so therefore, we don't need to fund those types of classes to support services. And so what happens is that there is, you know, there are kids who are growing up, because of these sort of assumptions have a knee that are going to lose out that's traumatic, and it's because of systemic racism that continues to perpetuate some of those theories. So I'll turn it over Dr. Gordon. Okay, Dr. Gordon, thoughts on that. Definitely, you know, when thinking about kind of the individualized level, but then also the internalized level. So I will share an example of a patient that I saw when, shortly after the george Zimmerman verdict, and death of Trayvon Martin, and at the time, I was living in New York, I grew up in Florida. So you know, I was following the case very closely. And I remember, you know, hearing the verdict feeling, you know, very crushed, very, you know, hurt by that. But in some ways, you know, there wasn't, there was an expectation, I wasn't surprised by the verdict, having, you know, grown up in Florida, and, you know, experience some of the things I experienced along the way. But I remember going to clinics The next day, and, you know, I was seeing patients and I on the office that I worked in, served mostly black and Latino on or Latinx on young people. And so 95% my patient population were from those demographics. And, you know, I just saw the look of despair on each and every patient I saw that day, but one of the last patients that I saw was a young black man. And we were talking about, you know, just risk taking behavior, and we had kind of gotten into educational attainment. And, you know, he was making some choices that, you know, generally speaking, we would consider pour around his education. And I was really trying to encourage him to, you know, kind of continue to Pursue, you know, educational, you know, excellence just, you know, kind of get as high school diploma? And, you know, he said to me, Well, you know, he said, What's the point he said, no one on my block has, you know, has lived past 2121 year in jail, you're dead, you know. So he's like, so what's the point I might as well enjoy life, I only have four or five more years to enjoy life. And, you know, we kind of talked a little bit further. And I remember, you know, he, you know, brought up, he brought up, you know, Trayvon Martin's death. And I said to him, I said, You know, I said, you know, I've really been struggling with that myself. And,
you know, I said, you know, I've been thinking, you know, a lot about how I can take action and the things that I can do, you know, I said, I don't think it's safe, you know, for myself, you know, we're talking about the protests, and I said, You know, I don't think it's safe for me or you to go into, you know, the streets in that situation, you know, that, you know, the police could be wrapping up, you know, kind of kind of could, you know, could be really high presence. And I said, but you know, there are these other, you know, positive outlets. And you know, and, you know, I said, I went to you know, New York, urban Lee's doing something, that kind of thing. And he looked at me, and he said, You said, you know, they say Black Lives Matter. But he said, he said your black life matters, but not mine. And I really had to stop and think I mean, that was hard for me to process for several days, because what I realized is that he was absolutely right. Society has said that maybe perhaps some black lives matter like me, as a black woman who is a doctor, yes, my black life might matter. But for him, a person who is thought of as poor, who is thought of as coming from a neighborhood that is marginalized and has been marginalized in the city for a very long time. There was nothing that indicated in his day to day experience of graffiti, and cops and stop and frisk, and poor schools without, you know, without books and teachers who, you know, didn't care. And were very vocal about the fact that they didn't expect their students to come to anything. He got signals throughout the entire 15 years of his life, that his black life didn't matter. So why should he care about taking care of his health? Why should he care about getting? Why should he care about avoiding marijuana? He's gotten he's gotten signals that said that his life is not valuable. And I think that, to me, those are the most traumatic aspects of kind of some of the structural, the institutional, the systemic, and then also the end. And when that becomes internalized how that impacts people,
how could it not be internalized when that's what he is, that's what he is existing in it has existed in from infancy. Let me pause for just a minute to talk briefly about the impact of this podcast in what you could do to help us and listener who calls herself a newt ng left us a review, in which he said, from a mother of three adopted children, thank you for podcasting. I'm constantly connecting with the information in this podcast and find it very helpful post adoption, to get more content for your family that will touch you the way our podcast impacted her follow the creating a family.org podcast now, that way, you'll never miss a crucial episode of content that will be helping us and we'll help you as well. You know, when we talk a lot about the aces study Adverse Childhood Experiences study that was originally done in Kaiser Permanente in California. And it was, interestingly, originally done with, I think the majority of the people were white, middle class. And it surprised everyone, what we found was that they had, even the ones that we would not think necessarily would have had adverse childhood impacts experiences that would have impacted their health. In fact, they did. And one of the things that that was clear from the study from the aces study, originally, as well, as many just subsequent studies that have been done is that there's a cumulative impact of trauma, that one trauma and then that you could expect the x impact, but as you start adding on and the multiplier, in fact adds on as well where that multiple, multiple traumas impact. People who've experienced multiple traumas and number of aces they have, it correlates to their emotional as well as their physical health. Does that hold true with the traumatic impacts of racism? Dr. Harrison I'm gonna start with you. And then Dr. Gordon and Cindy bow, I would like for y'all to discuss it as well. But let's start with you, Dr. Harrison.
Absolutely. And so like you mentioned, the aces study did not consider racism as one of the primary adverse childhood experiences, but we have so much data. So trauma is trauma, and I think Dr. Gordon explained it really well. That says our bodies have a nervous system that is activated to protect us from perceived threat and racism. is not only a perceived threat, but it is an actual threat, it's a threat or safety is a threat to our health. It's a threat to our well being. And for many people who don't hold white identity, it is a threat to your life. And it's also a threat to your sense of comfort in spaces where you do not feel welcome based on your race. And so for someone who has lived a life, in a walking through the aisles of a supermarket, where people are, you know, double checking their wallets to make sure you didn't pick their pockets or moving out of the aisle, when they see you coming to the aisle or, you know, scooting away on the bus or dropping the change Hi, so they don't run the risk of touching your hand because you don't look white. Those those small indignities or you know, sometimes what we refer to as the microaggressions, the repeated hits those small hits, over time, in our bodies, our bodies are not really good at differentiating threat or body just wants to protect us from threat. And racism is a persistent threat. It's a chronic threat. And it's it's pervasive, because we see it in multiple aspects. And the thing about racism is that it's perpetuated by really well meaning people who if you should talk to them to ask them would not believe that they're racist. I'll give you an example. In the context of transracial adoption, there are many, many parents who are really well meaning who believe that the best way to raise a child is to raise them to be colorblind, and cultural blind. And so I might have adopted someone who was from a place that's not here, who looks like not the rest of us. But I believe the best way to guide them into adulthood is to just ignore the fact that culture exists, that race exists, and try to treat us all like we're blind to it. But we have enough evidence now to know that, that colorblind and that cultural blind approach really creates confusion, it creates pain, it creates the same kind of internalized oppression, where children are likely to grow hating themselves and seeking white identity at the expense of, you know, the cultural identity that they were born into.
And wishing they were white and denying the parts of them that are not Yes. Yeah, that's absolutely we we do see that and we try to educate people now, who are adopting transracial a, that a colorblind approach, regardless of your intent is not in the best interest of your child. Cindy, any thoughts on that, too, about the cumulative impact of trauma?
Yeah, I would say that I would maybe absolutely agree with Dr. Harrison, let me put a slightly different angle, than immigrant child coming into this country. My parents have always wanted to assimilate into the culture and has actually in the beginning taught us, you know, let's not, let's not learn Chinese. You know, while we're the learning age, at age three, four, and five, you know, from that time period, we were learning how to speak and learning to know the language, right. So you use can be skills, effectively, I remember being told by my mom, that if we were taught Chinese, we wouldn't be able to integrate into our schools, we wouldn't be smart to catch up with our white colleagues, or white students in the classroom. So a lot of times we would shed our cultural observances and experiences so that we can better integrate into society into this. us. And at one point, it was my grandparents who said, No, that is ridiculous, because we do not continue to celebrate our cultural traditions and our heritage. Cindy will lose, you know, that that part of her and I think there was the, you know, obviously many conversations that happened within families, but it was at that point in time where we realized you can ask both, and I think especially if you show families, you can raise a child with you know, the, the celebration of cultural traditions and where the child is coming from, let's say China or Argentina or anywhere around the world. There's so many beautiful things about blending the differences between you know, what we're celebrating here as we go American holidays, American food, American celebration, with what you know the cultural aspects of where the child came from. So in my case, right, we continue to retain and even as a mom today have two children 121 and one, eight, we still celebrate all of the holidays. In fact, it is very important to me to retain that, to be able to celebrate the victories and in the holidays. And going back to Dr. Harrison comment, you don't want to just give up yourself entirely because you want to be white. And that is, that is something that is, you know, very, very much emphasized in my own family. And I don't ever want my children or other children to feel like they have to shed a part of themselves in order to mean something to this world or to be valued fully, like their colleagues.
Dr. Ward, and we've talked a bit about transracial adoption, our children of color being raised by white parents more vulnerable, do you think to the dramatic impacts of racism?
So I don't know that it's that they're more vulnerable. But it's instead that thinking through what are the risk factors are what actually what is the resilient factor, the resilient factor is having an adult in your life, who cares and can demonstrate for you that you have value, and can help counteract some of the the pressures towards internalized racism. And so one of the challenges that I think a child who is in a transracial adoptive family, or one of the things that that family has to be very cognizant of, is what they know, and also what they don't know. So, you know, I am, I am a, what they call a third culture kid. So my parents are immigrants, I was born here in the US, and then by being a minority, it means that I have a second culture here in the United States. So, you know, when we talk about kind of thinking about minority groups as a monolith, you know, we also think of black people as a monolith. But, you know, I'm a child of, you know, parents who are Caribbean. And so my experience, you know, in America, even though I was born in the US my entire life, my black American experience is different, because of my parents heritage. But at the same time, I'm not fully viewed as black by black people are not accepted as mainstream American, because that is defined as whiteness in America. But I'm also not considered fully Jamaican either by Jamaicans. And so while my parents had some knowledge of racism, you know, as they were learning that as an experienced as an immigrant, what my parents didn't have the knowledge of is the internalized racism within being black. So the fact that I was not accepted by black people. And they also didn't have the tools to kind of help me navigate that, because there were things that they didn't know were problems. And because no one prepared me for those problems. I didn't necessarily think it was something I needed to share with my parents. So for instance, you know, some things I innocently shared, I remember, I went to school one day, and you know, they were explaining the American flag and how the American flag protect citizens. And so I came home from school, and I said to my parents, you know, the American flag doesn't protect you. And my parents were kind of like, well, where'd you hear that I was like, bullet school, I'd only protect people who are Americans, and you're not American. So the American flag doesn't protect you. I heard you know, I also went to school and learned that, you know, foreigners were enemies. And so you know, so the piece of it was that, you know, my parents didn't prepare me for what that meant. And I think they were shocked. So they did the best they could with that piece of information. But, you know, there were many of those instances, but also recognizing, it's unsettling to a child to recognize that the adult who's caring for them, like doesn't know how to handle things that might have happened, that might happen to them, or it doesn't expect it. And so eventually, I kind of learned, well, maybe those aren't things I should be sharing with my parents, because they don't understand it, they don't get it. So that's something I need to take care of myself. And it really wasn't until I got to college, where there were no more third, more third culture children that I you know, I interacted with. And you know, that there's, you know, a lot of writing about that phenomenon now, that I recognize that this is not just like, Oh, this was a one off experience that maybe I had in the area of the country I grew up in, but that this is actually a common experience of children, who are minorities who are also children of immigrants, and having to navigate essentially, these three worlds.
And I would just add that in addition, your parents didn't know how to handle it. But this is not uncommon for children and perhaps in immigrant families as well, but certainly in transracial families, to have their parents deny that it is racism that deny that what happened. He didn't mean anything by it when somebody calls you a name, or just ignore him, are he you know, he's flirting with you. I've heard somebody say when a girl was an elementary age girl was being tormented in racial ways. And her parents responded by Oh, he's just flirting. The you know, things like that. I mean, they are that's that's a more blatant denial. So of course, but children would do all To do exactly what you did, which is figure, I'm not going to get supported home, or my parents are not able to support me at home, it may not even be a condemnation of their parents, but they just internalize it and never even never even bring it up to them because their parents are not going to be able to help them. So that's something that Yeah, has to be has to be dealt with. Dr. Harrison are, we've talked a lot about the impact of racism, the traumatic impact of racism on children, minority children, but our non minority children also impacted negatively by racism. Oh, absolutely,
I'm so I'm so glad that you brought that up. Everyone, racism hurts everyone. And I'll give you a couple of examples. If I'm a white student, and I live in a segregated white neighborhood, and I go to a segregated white school. And all of my teachers are white. And all of the administrators are white. And the few kids of color, who are in high school are also maybe the ones who get sent to the principal a little more often. Not only am I been robbed of the experience of fully understanding other groups of human beings in therefore, humanity, but if I all my teachers are white, then I'm creating in my own mind, this idea that, that smart intelligence, intellect resides with white people, that ambition, that hard working resides with white people. And so without anyone explicitly teaching me racist ideas, just living in a white segregated world, internalizes the sense of whiteness as the ideal. And then I'm robbed of the opportunities. And there's so many historical stories about how diverse groups of people solve problems better about how diverse teams run and lead organizations better about how diverse teams can solve complicated, you know, math and technological challenges better. So I'm robbed of the perspective of the richness of the varieties of people that we live in, simply because I live in a largely segregated experience. And so my life is actually less rich. And I'm more likely to hold of race based bias by living in a segregated white existence.
Cindy, Bo, any other negative impacts? I can think of some of my own Yeah, exactly. less, less richness in your life, but but other negative impacts on the non minority children from racism?
Sure. So Don, you bring up a great, and this is an excellent question, by the way, and Dr. Harrison mentioned about specifically race, but I would argue also, in those communities, where children of white, white children may not also experience the richness in no other forms, right. So understanding and respecting differences in sex, religion, sexual orientation, immigration, status, abilities, etc. so there goes beyond race, and ethnicity. And I think that because of that experience that's enriched by, you know, growing up in diverse communities, it is, it is essentially robbing you know, that a child of, of so many different lenses that when this child grows up, he or she, or they are able to see the world in a different light. So I think it's more than just racism, I would argue that seeing the world in those different lenses allows that child to really grow up much more fulfilled much more rich, right? And every ACM zoo. So I just wanted to just add a point that it's more than it's more than just racism.
You know, I would agree with you. And the, the other thing is that, if you are never if you are raised for for white children, without a conscious effort of the adults in their lives, pointing out racism to them, they were more likely to perpetuate the racism in the future. And you could say, well, that isn't a problem. But as our country becomes more diverse, it becomes more of a problem not for not to diminish the fact that the diversity of the I mean, the richness of their life, that would be but it's there, they're not that that world is no longer going to exist in they're going to be in that world. And if they have the subtle, they might say they don't have this I liked what Dr. Harrison said at the beginning about not a racist bone. Unfortunately, racism doesn't reside in our bones. Right. So but they but even if they don't think that they are racist, if they believe in the superiority of who they are, that has got to that will hurt. Across the board, there is just no way that it can't. I want to pause for just a moment to thank one of our long term partners, they have been partners with us almost from the very beginning. It's an agency that believes in us and believes in us enough that they are willing to support us and have continued to support us over the years. We are so very appreciative for their support. Children's connection is an adoption agency providing services for domestic infant adoption, as well as embryo donation and adoption throughout the US. They also provide home studies, as well as post adoption support to families in Texas. Thank you children's connection for your long term support. All right, Dr. Gordon, how can we help them I tried to end on a more positive note here. So how can we help children of color cope with racism and not be unduly impacted by the trauma? Or is that a Pollyanna dream that I'm living with here?
Well, no, I mean, I don't think it's Pollyanna to hope that we can help children of color to not have to live with trauma, racial trauma, we know that, you know, unfortunately, with the way that the United States of America currently is structured, there will be some experiences, at least for another generation of racial trauma. However, we can blunt that effect again, by you know, struggling to be, you know, positive, impactful influences in young people's lives. So, you know, recognizing that we should be promoting resilience at very early ages. So, you know, surrounding children with, you know, examples, experiences, interactions, that show them that a wide variety of people are successful, a wide variety of people can attain greatness, and a wide variety of people, including those who look like them can be positive examples. It's important in our society, sometimes for children of color to over sample, or over express those experiences, because there will be so many other societal things that will under express those experiences. And so, you know, one of the things, so one of the things, you know, for instance, that I'm very grateful that my parents did do was that, you know, they made sure that the only dolls that they bought me the books that they bought me, featured minority characters, the minority dolls, and as a child, I really did not like that always. But what you know, what they would always say to me is, you are going to get plenty of other white dolls. And they were right, because people would give them to me as gifts, people, you know, I would go to friends houses at school, you know, wherever. But they also made sure that they celebrated that they got me books, they got me toys, that celebrated my heritage as well, and celebrated other minority groups heritage, just so that I realized that the world existed beyond just what I saw, which was mainly black or white. I think that also making sure that we are each of us as adults, as people who can vote, people who have agency in this world to make policy or to impact policy, that we utilize that and leverage it to make sure that we are always promoting an agenda that promotes equity for all people, not just from, you know, the groups that we're from, or from the marginalized group that we may be from. So it's not just enough for me to think about, well, what helps black people but also what helps Latin people, what helps you know, Muslim people, what helps Asian people and so forth. Because, because when we live in a world that celebrates all types of people, then we actually are living in a world that is going to be more equitable, and it's not going to marginalize My child, and thinking about policies in that same way. So there's a wonderful book written called American poison, that actually outlines the impact of racist policies on what are the majority groups, particularly poor people from the majority group, and how, as a society, in the attempt to marginalize one group, we've actually marginalized several groups because of all of the downstream unintended consequences. So I always think about that any time that I start to think, well, I don't like this because it doesn't give my group a piece of the pie. I remember that, you know, at the end of the day, you know, anytime that we are lifting any marks the most marginalized group in any society, we are actually lifting every group above it as well. And so that's what gives me hope for the future is that we as a society are having these tough conversations, we're recognizing that there's work room for our growth in that we're we're taking steps and strides towards doing that. And hopefully that will leave us a better place for you know, our grandchildren or great grandchildren and so forth.
Gordon, your use just mentioned something that Dr. Harrison actually taught me? Well, first and foremost, you know, oppression over things, is what I think Dr. Harrison mentioned to me, and it really is that is that a characterization of marginalization as a competition, right, the most different marginalized communities and we should stop that, first of all, we should not think that like just by listening hours, you know, is that the expense of another marginalized community. And by the way, it's not just about racism. mentioned before, it's gonna be about gender socioeconomic status, disabilities, etc. But I think first and foremost as adults, right? We have to take a hard look at ourselves and take stock in our beliefs and biases as well. This is always a check that I have, every single night when I go home to see what did I learn in the world today? What did I learned what kind of bias these men were bringing home, as they entered through that door and see my child, you know, everything that I say that I do that I asked that I, whatever is mimicked is picked up is learned right by my child. And so when I think about transforming the future, I first have to look inward to see what is what is here what is inside. Because I am a I am a communicator, I am an ally, I am an advocate. So what I do is equally as important in terms of shaping and contributing to how we think about progress in this round. So always take care. And I would encourage everybody to do that as well. I also believe in you know, not pretending to know at all. So I talk to many different people I talk to Dr. Gordon, I talked to Dr. Harris and I talked to a number of different people, I also seek out resources that, if I don't know, I will, I will ask, I do believe in supporting, you know, different, different writers, different authors who are just super creative. And there's a whole host of books these days for children. There's a site called the conscious kid, I believe, and has really a book list that I wish if I could build a library around it, because there's so many wonderful books across different cultures, including, you know, books around my own culture, that I share that with my children, and I'm hoping to bring that to numbers as well, just a cold culture library that we can all tap into. So we can all collectively learn both as adults and as children.
I'm going to let Dr. Harrison have the final word. But I just wanted to say that we have, in addition to what you were saying, I also believe in I guess, as a white woman on the panel here, I do believe that for white children, we should be diversifying their books as well. And they need to be seeing the the whole host of and not just as sigh characters are as and not just as a character in a book that is being rescued by the white kid. But as the superhero as the heroine, as the the the person who's outsmarting the, you know the teacher, whatever we need are all children, our libraries, all of our libraries need to be diverse, maybe even more of white kids because they're less likely perhaps to get it perhaps not. But they certainly need to diversify. As parents we need to diversify our children's library regardless of of the race or ethnicity of our child. It creating a family we have a guide to raising an anti racist kid I probably anti racist child. And we have extensive lists of books for each of the points that that is listed for how to raise an anti racist child that we have children's books based on age of the child. And I am right now blanking on the web, whether there was a great website that we but there are a number of really great websites. So anyway, I throw that out there as a as a tool to utilize. Dr. Harrison, I promise you the last word, take it away.
So the last word I think I'm going to give credits to you know, ibram Kendi, the writer of books like how to be an anti racist and stem from the beginning anti racist, maybe it's that around? Because I've taken this piece of his wisdom that says in this battle for justice, they are there is no not racist. Either. I'm benefiting from racist systems or actively working to be an anti racist, not to suit to for those who are listening to say, well, this doesn't apply to me because you know, I am not racist, not being racist. Not only is it not a thing, but it is entirely unhelpful to be not racist. So either we acknowledge that we're benefiting from a racist system or perpetuating racism through our silence and our inaction. Or we are speaking and acting and voting and making our choices in ways that are anti racist, which is action to ensure that another generation of children aren't having shortened lives and disproportionately carrying disease and injury and depression and anxiety and stress due to the harms of racism.
Thank you so much, Dr. Roger Harrison, Dr. Ilana Gordon and Cindy bow for being with us today to talk about the traumatic impacts of racism. I cannot thank you enough.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai