“When They See Us” has captured the attention of people from around the world regarding the tragic experiences of Black boys in America. The Netflix series, created by Ava Duvernay, challenges us to listen to the stories of innocent, Black boys fallen victim to an unfair criminal justice system that lacks just that; justice.
Black boys aren’t safe showing up for school or leaving out of their homes.
We may call it being at the wrong place at the wrong time, but quite frankly, the media reminds Black boys everyday of the danger of their very existence in America. Yet we don’t consider the magnitude this has on them socially and emotionally.
If you think “When They See Us” is depressing, imagine all the Black boys living it!
The exonerated five truly define the experience of young Black boys who are swept into the school to prison pipeline simply because of the color of their skin. Their stories powerfully capture how innocent Black boys can’t even be children without their innocence being threatened or taken away from them.
Black boys aren’t exempt from stress and depression!
As a Black man, I can identify with the daily pressures of simply just getting to school safely. Black boys worry if the police are going to shoot them down because they “fit a description”. Schools are now pushing for more officers in schools when advocates such as Dignity in Schools are saying we need more counselors, not cops!
But it simply cannot be solely non profit organizations and Black educators advocating for mental health support in schools. We must do a better job of getting school district leaders and parents data on mental health and how depression is impacting Black boys.
I’m thankful for Aaron Hunt, MS (Graduate Intern, APA Health Disparities Office) and David J. Robles, BA (Graduate Intern, SAMHSA Office of Behavioral Health Equity) who spent their graduate studies doing extensive work on subject of mental health and depression with Black boys.
We dismiss the fact that Black boys see all of the shootings of innocent Black males too.
Black boys see people who look like them getting shot by everyone; from gang/street violence to police violence. The continued numbers of Black boys being pushed out of schools and into prisons is depressing for a young, Black boy to see daily. Constantly reminded of what not to be yet in an instance being able to have everything taken away from you even when you haven’t even done anything wrong.
We simply can no longer ignore the social and emotional impact this has on Black boys. We have a responsibility to help Black boys and their families cope with the tragedies happening to them. Efua Andoh is the Asst Director, Communications and Special Projects in Public Interest wrote a powerful piece on Black boys and depression.
The first step after acknowledging the impact of depression and traumatic incidents on Black boys is to implement ways to prevent it from continuing to happen.
Andoh provides six best practices to reduce depression-related health disparities in Black males. I believe these are helpful tips for teachers and parents to proactively address problems Black boys face in and out of school.
- Teachers should take continuing education courses on cultural bias and depression in Black boys to help address the problems they face in a school setting.
- Clinicians need to stay up to date on best practices in working with racial/ethnic minority boys and men to make sure that they are not missing signs of mental illness.
- Researchers should continue to study health disparities in boys and men of color as well as how resilience can be formed at a young age and strengthened through the life-course.
- Community members should consider how to create protective factors for vulnerable boys in their communities (e.g. mentoring opportunities, after-school programs)
- Policymakers should consider legislation, regulator, and administrative actions for vulnerable boys, and seek to remove systemic structures that marginalize boys and men of color (e.g. disparities in school discipline, school-to-prison pipeline).
- Everyone can work together to eliminate the persistent exposure to implicit biases and microaggressions in settings where boys and men of color live, learn, work, play, and seek healthcare.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.