Through their adolescent years and beyond, students of color are exposed to racial discriminatory acts that take on different forms of oppression- from implicit, subtle encounters, to explicit, overt messages and bias that can be detrimental to their mental health and overall well-being. The primary years for children are crucial in identity development; this is a starting point for self-esteem, feelings of acceptance, as well as acclimation into their environment and social groups (Mandara, Richards, Gaylord-Harden, Ragsdale, 2009). For African Americans and other minority groups, this is a period marked by self-examination of their racial identity and awareness of societal constructs and labels behind their racial group and heritage (Mandara, Richards, Gaylord-Harden, Ragsdale, 2009). African American students are subjected to acts of racial bullying and micro-aggressions from their peers and teachers, all reinforced by systemic racism within education that leaves behind an environment that threatens the performance and overall psychological health of African American adolescents (Mandara, Richards, Gaylord-Harden, Ragsdale, 2009).
African Americans students carry this racism as they proceed from elementary school to high school, entering in with more distress, and less confidence that can ultimately threaten their success and mobility. Simply stated, racism negatively impacts the mental health of minority students. African American students lose confidence within themselves, remain insecure, and internalize negative messages and reciprocate it back in harmful and unproductive ways (Mandara, Richards, Gaylord-Harden, Ragsdale, 2009). Their responses only add to the statistics that report an inability for minority ...
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...Harden and Ragsdale, 2009, p. 1662). Higher self-esteem is associated with greater fortitude and stamina in African American adolescents’ when faced with racial discrimination. A lower self-esteem is correlated with anger, anxiety, insecurities, and depression (Mandara, Richards, Gaylord-Harden and Ragsdale, 2009, p. 1662). Even when all other variables were tested, self-esteem had the strongest ties to impaired psychological functioning instead of socioeconomic factors, a student’s grade, or any threatening climate within a student’s home. When African American youth had their self-esteem destroyed or lowered, their mental health was largely impacted. In turn, this caused them to participate in dangerous situations, from drug use to other risky things that posed a threat to their performance in school (Mandara, Richards, Gaylord-Harden and Ragsdale, 2009, p. 1662).
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