In observing Black History Month, we rightly celebrate the many contributions and successes African Americans have achieved throughout the history of our country. This short month isn’t nearly long enough even simply to mention the icons from Frederick Douglass to Lizzo who have had a profound impact on the world’s political, scientific and cultural development. Where’s the space to do more?
But, since Covid changed our world, it behooves us to consider the future as well as the past, and our African American youth now have an even steeper hill to climb. According to the CDC, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on African American and Hispanic populations has been documented across age groups, including children and teens. Poverty rates have been estimated to have increased during Covid by 1.3 points to 12.3% for Whites, by 2.9% for Hispanics to 26.9%, and by 2.3 points to 26.3% for African Americans. And, of course, the mental health issues that all our young people are experiencing are exacerbated by loss of family members, the stress of caring for parents and siblings, and poverty. Carolyn Jones of EdSource tells us that rates of depression, anxiety and suicide are rising for all school-age children, but especially among African Americans.
Let’s put our arms around the young people in our community and do what we can to support their mental health. Patience and kindness go a long way; taking time to listen and then coming back to follow-up costs nothing, but can wear down feelings of isolation and loneliness.
And, incidentally, February 14 – 20 is Random Acts of Kindness Week this year. Let’s remember how good it feels to be kind and carry on the practice well beyond the week, especially when we can lift up a child. Thanks!