The Impact of Racism on Children’s Health

The Impact of Racism on Children’s Health

A new statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics looks at the effects of racism on children’s development, starting in the womb.


CreditEdwin J. Torres for The New York Times

This month the American Academy of Pediatrics put out its first policy statement on how racism affects the health and development of children and adolescents.

“Racism is a significant social determinant of health clearly prevalent in our society now,” said Dr. Maria Trent, a professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who was one of the co-authors of the statement.

Racism has an impact on children and families who are targeted, she said, but also on those who witness it. “We call it a socially transmitted disease: It’s taught, it’s passed down, but the impacts on children and families are significant from a health perspective,” said Dr. Trent, who is the chairwoman of the A.A.P. section on adolescent health. Social transmission makes sense here, because race itself is a social construct, she said: “Genetically, we’re very much the same.”

But the impact of bias on children’s health starts even before they’re born, Dr. Trent said. Persistent racial disparities in birth weight and maternal mortality in the United States today may in part reflect the deprivations of poverty, with less availability of good prenatal care, and poorer medical care in general for minority families, sometimes shaped by unacknowledged biases on the part of medical personnel. High rates of heart disease and hypertension also persist among African-Americans.

There is also increasing attention to the ongoing stress of living with discrimination and racism, and the toll that takes on body and mind throughout life.

That kind of chronic stress can lead to hormonal changes and inflammation, which set people up for chronic disease. Studies show that mothers who report experiencing discrimination are more likely to have infants with low birth weight.

Dr. Nia Heard-Garris, an attending physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, was the lead author of a 2017 review of research studies looking at the impact of racism on children’s health. Too often, she said, studies control for race without considering what experiences are structured into society by race.

The experiences that shape parents also resonate in their children’s lives, Dr. Trent said; parents and caregivers who reported they had been treated unfairly were more likely to have children with behavioral issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In another study, African-American boys from 10 to 15 who had experiences with racism were more likely to have behavior problems like aggression. During childhood, she said, stress can create hypervigilance in children who sense that they are living in a threatening world.

And though the A.A.P. has been preparing the statement for almost two years, it comes at a moment when discussions of racism are often in the news, and children may need extra support and care. “While I think society has made tremendous leaps, the reality is we’re seeing a bump in these issues right now,” Dr. Trent said.

The statement directs pediatricians to consider their own practices from this perspective. “It’s not just the academy telling other people what to do, but examining ourselves,” Dr. Trent said. Pediatricians and others involved in children’s health need to be aware of the effects of racism on children’s development, starting in the womb, she said.

Pediatric clinical settings need to make everyone feel explicitly welcome, with images of diverse families up on the wall and with the capacity to provide care in different languages. Those efforts can also include the reception families get at the front desk — and who is staffing that front desk — as well as who is seeing patients in the exam rooms.

“The toys you have in your waiting room should be multicultural,” said Dr. Adiaha I.A. Spinks-Franklin, an associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “Bring in multicultural dolls, multicultural figurines, books, videos.”

And the pediatric office needs to be a “safe space” to talk about anything that is worrying the child or the parents, such as whether a child is being bullied, or is bullying.

The statement calls on pediatricians to improve their own practices, but also to get involved in their communities. “Many of us work in education settings and then also justice settings — the goal is really community change,” Dr. Trent said, citing collaborations with emergency medical workers, for example, or advocacy for clean and safe water for the children of Flint, Mich.

“I think there are times where racism is super explicit: Somebody called my kid a name, wrote something on a wall, said something at school,” said Dr. Heard-Garris, who heads an A.A.P. group working on minority health, equity and inclusion. But children may also face more insidious bias in terms of lowered expectations from teachers.

Dr. Spinks-Franklin, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, said that racial awareness in children follows a set of milestones. By the time children are 3, she said, they begin to recognize normal human variations, including skin color, but without assigning value to them. “A 4-year-old recognizes basic racial stereotypes,” she said. Parents need to be aware of what their children are watching, and provide diverse books and stories with strong positive models.

And then in adolescence, as children explore racial and cultural identity, they tend to show strong preferences for their own groups, sorting themselves out by table in the cafeteria.

The goal of racial identity development, Dr. Spinks-Franklin said, is by young adulthood to have a healthy sense of who you are, recognizing your own cultural group without demonizing others. But not everyone gets there.

The most harmful thing is when children internalize racism. “They see so much negativity about people like them they develop negativity about themselves,” Dr. Trent said.

As children are growing and developing, race and racism are tricky topics for parents to navigate, Dr. Heard-Garris said. She wrote an essay in the journal JAMA Pediatrics about her “4-year-old caramel-skinned son” telling her that he was white sometimes, because he had a friend in preschool who played only with white kids. “We may not always get this right — here I am, a person who studies the effect of racism on kids,” she said. “I totally missed the mark.”

[Read the A.A.P.’s guidance on discussing racial bias with children and tipsheets for parents from EmbraceRace.]

These conversations aren’t only for families of color. Dr. Heard-Garris said that one important message parents can convey to their children is, “We’re not perfect, we’re going to mess up when we talk about this, but I think it’s important that we talk about this, and please come back and talk about this when you see things.”

Children, Dr. Trent said, are watching.

“They’re watching our words, our behavior — they’re waiting for us to teach them differently for a healthy future.”

Study Highlights Biracial Americans

Study Highlights Unique Stereotypes About Biracial Americans

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A new study looked at stereotypes developing around biracial people. Portra/Getty Images

Biracial people are one of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S. From 2000-2010, the number of self-identified biracial people (that is, people who identify with two races) increased by over a third. But, so far, very little research has been done on them. However, a study, published in July, 2019, in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that as the population of biracial people in the U.S. grows, stereotypes about them are taking shape.

The researchers asked a sample of more than 1,000 people to check off from a list which stereotypes they felt described people in six different types of biracial identities: black/white, Asian/white, black/Hispanic, black/Asian, Hispanic/Asian, and Hispanic/white. A seventh study had participants compare biracial stereotypes in more than one biracial category.

Two stereotypes consistently came up: Biracial people are attractive and struggle with fitting in.

Biracial Sterotypes

“It seems like when people think about biracial people, they attribute unique stereotypes that are not consistent with their monoracial parents,” says Sylvia Perry, co-lead author of the study and a psychology professor at Northwestern University.

The researchers found this aspect of the findings extremely interesting. Previous research suggested that people might assume biracial individuals are much more like the race of one parent than the other. For example, most people think of President Barack Obama as a black man, even though one parent was black and the other was white. Based on the results of this study, however, it appears biracial people are being thought of more and more as having their own unique characteristics.

Perry says understanding these emerging stereotypes is important because “they inform assumptions. We use these mental shortcuts to inform us about who they [biracial people] are, if they are someone we want to connect with or even hire.”

You might be thinking this means that biracial people have a leg up because they’re thought of as attractive. Not so fast.

“Stereotypes are positive and negative,” says Perry. “One might characterize it just as a positive attribute, but that doesn’t mean the way it manifests in life is positive.”

Perry uses an example of a common stereotype applied to Asian people, that they’re good at math. It might be thought of as a good thing.

“But if an Asian person is not good at math, or wants someone to think about other parts of them, that could be very threatening or negative toward their self esteem,” Perry explains.

The same might apply to stereotyping everyone in a group as attractive — it might mean that people don’t think they could also be smart or something else at the same time.

Perry says researchers still aren’t entirely sure where this stereotype about being biracial and attractive originated, but they have some ideas. One draws on biology, and suggests that people with greater genetic variation, i.e. different combinations of genes, are better able to adapt to their environment and survive. So, perhaps humans have evolved to find the outward manifestation of genetic variation attractive.

lenny kravitz lenny kravitz
Lenny Kravitz performs during the third day of Lollapalooza Buenos Aires 2019 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Kravitz’ father was white and his mother was black.
Santiago Bluguermann/Getty Images

A second idea is that across the U.S. a lot of people still haven’t knowingly had many interactions with biracial people in person, and thus their only exposure comes through the media. It would follow that their impression of biracial people is based on an unrepresentative sample that skews towards what the masses might deem attractive.

As for biracial people struggling to fit in, Perry says there is other research that shows this is consistent with what many biracial people experience. How this plays out in social situations may confound the problem.

“If people assume because you can’t fit in you might be socially awkward, it might impact your ability to connect in friendships,” Perry says.

In Their Own Words

One of the limitations about these findings, Perry points out, is that 71 percent of the participants in the study were white. “It’s possible people of color and biracial people might have different stereotypes,” she says. She and her team hope to do follow-up studies in the future. In the meantime, I asked some biracial people what they thought of the findings.

Rube Hollis, 36, is a civil servant who works and lives in Washington, D.C. His mother is Korean and his father is black, but he is hesitant to identify as biracial. “The term ‘biracial’ is a bubble on a scantron [form] to me,” he says. He notes that the only time he thinks about being biracial is when he’s had to identify his race on a government form.

Hollis says it’s difficult to generalize because so much of his experience of race depends on the context. But if he had to make one generalization about biracial people, it would be that they “have a wider range of perspective in dealing with other cultures, and are therefore more likely to embrace and understand other cultures.”

Hollis grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood, and at the time he easily identified as black. Now, he tries to avoid being racially categorized as much as possible.

“As a male and being gregarious it’s always been easier for me to talk to strangers,” he says. But, “My sister had a lot of difficulty fitting in. This doubles down when she’s viewed as Asian because she is supposed to be silent and demure. If she speaks out, she’s fighting against the black stereotype of being loud and angry.”

Aila Gomi, 24, is a material engineer in Columbus, Ohio. Her mother is white and her father is Japanese. “I feel like it’s hard because when you say biracial there’s so many combinations. I have a friend who is biracial but she’s half Central American and half European. She doesn’t have the same [issues] I do,” she says. “One common thing can be language difficulty where people who identify as biracial but feel unaccepted by one side because of a language barrier or appearance, it can hinder that relationship as well.”

For instance: “In Japan I automatically get labeled as a foreigner; they don’t see me as Japanese because I don’t look it,” she says. “As soon as I start speaking in Japanese, they realize very quickly [that I am Japanese] based on the fact that I know their language and connect with them in that way. In the U.S. it’s not until I mention something about my culture that people realize, oh, I’m half Japanese.”

Susan Graham on Podcast!

I had the pleasure of recording a podcast on Multiracial Family Man recently with comedian Alex Barnett and it’s available at the following Internet locations:


Libsyn Podcast Network:


The interview is about 30 minutes and I would appreciate your taking the time to listen to it and find out what we have been up to at Project RACE. Also, Alex has some fascinating guests, so tune into the Multiracial Family Man podcasts. You can also leave comments and a review at the iTunes URL. Thank you!


Susan Graham

It’s Famous Friday!

Soledad O’Brien

Soledad O’Brien is an influential broadcast journalist and executive producer who just so happens to be multiracial. Born in St. James, New York, O’Brien grew up with her Cuban mother and Australian father. Interracial marriage wasn’t legal in Maryland at the time her parents wanted to be together but this didn’t stop them. They drove to Washington D.C. for the ceremony because the law was less strict there. Soledad was the fifth of six children who all graduated from Harvard University. Growing up her parents were never afraid to water down their relationship or who they were in public. They were proud of the love they had and taught it to their children every day.

O’Brien married Bradford Raymond in 1995.She was pregnant with her first child when she received her degree from Harvard University in 2000. She went on to have 4 children; two daughters and twin sons.

O’Brien started her career as an associate producer for WBZ-TV then joined NBC News in 1991. O’Brien was a co-anchor at NBC News with David Bloom. She presented stories on important events such as the 1990s school shootings in Oregon and Colorado and John F. Kennedy Jr’s plane crash. In 2003, O’Brien got a job at CNN where she reported programs that aired live from New York City.

O’Brien was always interested in giving a voice to minority groups in America. In 2009 O’Brien created a documentary called “Latino in America.” It brought light to the hard lives of the Latino community and how they faced each day in America. This documentary was the stepping stone to her CNN special “Black in America” which aired in July of 2007. This program highlighted the successes and struggles that black men and women have faced 40 years after the tragic death of Martin Luther King Jr.

Soledad O’Brien continues her work today helping others have a voice and a story through the media outlets she organizes.


Alexis Cook, Project RACE Teens Co-President


Source: Diane Cohen/New York DailyNews



Multiracial Lego Family!

Black-Owned Custom LEGO® Subscription Box Aims to Create Global Citizens and Develop Engineering Skills

August 5, 2019

Real Life Bricks, Black-owned custom Lego subscription box

Seattle, WA — Real Life Bricks, a company created to fill the LEGO® toy diversity gap, is set to offer their Real Life Bricks Playbox – a custom, monthly LEGO® subscription box designed to reflect the diversity of the real world with African American mini-figures. The box will also facilitate social-emotional learning and cultivate engineering skills.

In 2018, as a response to LEGO® sets’ ubiquitous yellow minifigures that the toy maker says are meant to represent every ethnicity, Real Life Bricks developed custom heads and hands to convert monochromatic minifigures to African American minifigures and minifigures representative of Black and Brown skin tones. The conversion kits also include biography trading cards for each minifigure character, meant to positively represent diverse people and lives around the world.Subscribers to the company’s new Real Life Bricks Playbox can choose from The Architect Playbox, loaded with LEGO® bricks; games and activities; and an exclusive, custom, collectible racially diverse minifigure and accompanying biography card introducing different modes of living and locations around the world; or The Engineer Playbox, which adds LEGO® Technic elements and guides children to build their own small-scale engineering projects.

Real Life Bricks is helmed by a multiracial family – wife and husband, Giselle and Josiah Fuerte, along with their preschool-age son who is 10% owner – who developed their conversion kits after they had a difficult time finding Black and Brown minifigure characters to better represent their children, family, and friends.

“We are an AfroLatinx and white multiracial family. But there is a huge gap in toys that mirror the way my children look,” said President of Real Life Bricks, Giselle. “Research shows that when Children of Color play with toys and characters that look like them, it builds their self-esteem and lays the foundation for leadership skills. And white children develop compassion for other races when they see positive representations of People of Color in media and toys. Our product can help parents normalize diversity while also helping their children develop a passion and aptitude for STEAM.”

The Real Life Playbox is part of the new Real Life Bricks Membership that includes a number of benefits such as an online library of additional activities, games, and courses, and a private membership group to connect and learn with others in the Real Life Bricks community.

About Real Life Bricks LLC:
Real Life Bricks ( positions itself at the intersection of demographic reality, the promotion of the healthy self-image of children, and the benefits of constructing with construction toys like LEGO® bricks. They show parents of color and their children how valued and important they are by providing minifigures in the skin colors that resemble them. Non-POC parents and children are given the gift of playing with minifigures that reflect the demographic realities of the world they live in, thereby enabling their positive connections to humans of all races and ethnicities. Real Life Bricks is not associated with the LEGO® Group of Companies. LEGO® is a registered trademark of the LEGO® Group.

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Freedom of Speech?

Freedom of Speech?

I don’t react well when people tell me I can’t do something. It’s why I have been successful in getting many gains for multiracial people. I never let governments, local or federal, tell me my children and those like them could not choose to be multiracial. But, you can’t have it both ways.

Arguments recently came up on a popular Facebook page called, “The Multiracial Activist,” administrated by James Landrith. It’s his page, but is understandably for and about the multiracial community. This is what Landrith posted about the recent arguments:

“ENOUGH. I do NOT have time to police DECADES of disagreement between certain parties. If you want to fight, do it

elsewhere. You are already fighting in several other forums. Before anyone starts with the “I’m the true victim” play, no – after

20 years of this shit a lot of hands are filthy with bad behavior. Some of these animosities date back to the mid 1990s. There

are members of this forum who weren’t even born when some of the fights started. Move it along to another forum. Now.”

I have never personally met any of the people who are taking potshots at me. Not one. There is a woman named Pam who says I’m racist. I am white, was raised by a Black woman, was married to a Black man for 24 years, and have multiracial children. I am now married to a Portuguese-American and we live in a largely Mexican community. I can’t conceive of anyone thinking I’m racist against anyone or as Pam says that I don’t like Black people.

Another person, Thomas, has his own axe to grind with me, apparently, although I don’t know what it is. I’d sincerely like to know. But still….

In many ways, we’re talking about freedom of speech here. The right to say what we will, although we may have to step lightly on social media. You can’t tell me I’m not supposed to answer my few critics and expect me to just shut up. I’ll respect that it’s your forum, but you sure put many things up there that offend me. I don’t like racial epithets any more than the next person, but I would not harm someone over them.

Project RACE remains a forum that upholds our mission statement and will remain so unless someone is physically threatened or attacked, which is too frequent in this country. We send our love and thoughts to the victims of horrible racism in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton, and hope the true racists stop the madness.

Susan Graham

Author: Born Biracial: How One Mother Took on Race in America


It’s Famous Friday!

Caleb Ewan

This year’s Tour de France has captivated veteran audiences as well as lured in new cycling enthusiasts. Falling into the latter category, I have watched with bewilderment the high speed sprints, steep mountain climbs, and the overwhelming suffering that these athletes have endured in the world’s most physically challenging competition. I noticed, however, that the racial diversity of the competitors does not always mirror the colorful assortment of jerseys in the peloton. Team Lotto’s star sprinter, Caleb Ewan, is a rare exception.

Ewan was born in Wales to a Korean mother and Australian father. He began competitively cycling at ten years old. His intrinsic talent and explosive speed was spotted early on. At 17, he was crowned World Champion at the Junior Track World Championships. His years as a teenage prodigy were followed by professional success in the Tour Down Under and Giro d’Italia 2016 where he earned the nickname “The Pocket Rocket”. However, this year, in his first Tour de France, Ewan has truly stepped into the spotlight. He won Stage 11 in a field sprint, narrowly edging Dylan Groenewegen a few meters from the finish line. On July 23rd, he picked up another stage win in the 177 km route to Nimes. While his general classification time essentially puts him out of contention to win this year, Caleb Ewan has performed well beyond expectations and become an inspiration to young cyclists and multiracial people around the world.


Ian Shen-Costello, Project Race Teen Vice President


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Lawsuit Settled in Case Brought by Biracial Student

Lawsuit settled in case brought by biracial student

Davis School District in northern Utah has agreed to settle a lawsuit for $62,500. The biracial student was shut in the doors of a school district bus and dangled outside as the bus moved forward.

The mother of the biracial child sued the school district, the transportation director, and the driver. The lawsuit stated that there had been at least three other reports of the driver harassing multiracial students previously. The boy, who was a minor and not named in the lawsuit, was the only student of color on the bus at the time. He is one of 39 multiracial students currently at his school.

The boy will receive $21,250 and the remaining $41,250 will go to the law firm that handled the case. The agreement stipulates that he can use up to $500 per school year to attend a camp for black youth “where he can feel safe and included.” He can also spend $1,000 for a laptop when he starts high school and $5,000 for a car when he turns 16. The rest of the money will remain in a trust account until he turns 18.

The District is not required to offer any diversity training and no policies have changed because of the incident. Whether going to a camp for black youth will make him feel safe and included is an odd settlement and we’ll have to see how that works out. This is not a great answer for either side in this case. The boy will get rewards (the laptop and car) that have nothing to do with the treatment he received. The school district got to pay its way out of the problem without having to change any policies or even apologize for his emotional pain. The bus driver retired.

One reason we insist on keeping track of the number of biracial students there are is because racial and ethnic data are useful in proving statistics in discrimination cases. If you refuse to fill out complete racial information for your biracial and multiracial kids, children like them could be impacted. We need to be honest and thorough.

I don’t think the solution is to give the children things that may make them feel better, but have nothing to do with the situation. Nor should the school only be made to pay without any staff or administrative changes. Let’s think in the future about how all multiracial children can be helped when it comes to rectifying discrimination.

It would be great to be able to do away with discrimination and no longer have to face these lawsuits and racist actions. But like the school bus driver said in the Davis case when asked if he was racist, “No, look at my dog. He’s as black as he could be.” Enough said?

Opinion by Susan Graham for Project RACE


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It’s Famous Friday!

Cameron Boyce

As you all may know, Disney star, Cameron Boyce, recently passed away on July 6, 2019.  Cameron Boyce was born on May 28, 1999.  His father is Afro Caribbean and African American while his mother is White.

Boyce started his career in 2008.  He made an appearance in Panic! At the Disco’s music video for “That Green Gentleman (Things Have Changed).”  Cameron Boyce was best known for his roles in the Disney Show “Jessie” as funny and mischievous “Luke Ross,” the Disney “Descendants” series as Carlos, and his role as “Keithie Feder” in Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2.  He not only gave laughter to boys and girls all over the United States, he wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.

In Boyce’s interview with Haute Living, he explained his passion for giving back and helping others.  While Cameron Boyce was alive, he worked on many philanthropic initiatives that brought awareness to the Global Water Crisis.  He raised more than $30,000 for the Thirst Project; this organization brings underdeveloped countries clean water.  Along with the Thirst Project, Boyce supported United Way’s initiative to end homelessness.  He joined United Way at their Home Walk 2019, earlier this year in May in LA.

Cameron Boyce credited his family for his passion for those in need.  He said, “I’m following in the footsteps of some really strong men and women who have showed me what it means to give back.”  This included his grandmother, Jo Ann Boyce.  She was part of a group, the Clinton 12, made up of African American students who were the first to desegregate a southern, state-supported high school in 1956.  Boyce also said “Being African American and Jewish, I have plenty of ancestors and family members that I can look to for strength, and more importantly, for a grateful outlook on life.  Every one of them clawed and scratched for my sister and I to be in the position we’re in today.”

Cameron Boyce definitely left a hole in many fans hearts, but more importantly he left us remembering his light he shined on those in need.  Cameron Boyce was an incredible representative of the multiracial community.  We will miss you dearly, rest in peace Cameron Boyce.

Madelyn Rempel Project RACE Kids president

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