Racism negatively impacts children’s health, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) confirmed days before Latinxs were targets of a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas at the hands of admitted white supremicist, Patrick Crusius, last weekend.
El Paso Mass Shooting, A Terror Act: Mexican Foreign Minister
A pair of shootings in Dayton, Ohio and Texas rocked the United States, triggering conversations around gun control policies and violence, two things, pediatrician Maria Trent, says are the country’s main issues.
“Older children and adolescents around the country hear the news, listen to adults talking and see this on their social media feeds,” she said.
“They need grown-ups to be able to assure them that they are safe — and to know that it’s actually the truth,” said Trent, a specialist in adolescent medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who coauthored a policy from the AAP.
Over 30 people — including children, parents and eight Mexicans — were murdered in the double tragedy on Saturday and Sunday. The Texas shooting is being investigated as a hate crime.
Mexico has already denounced the El Paso incident as an act of terror laced with racism and white supremacy, while other countries have released traveling advisories, warning their residents against visiting the U.S.
“The evidence to support the continued negative impact of racism on health and well-being ... is clear,” the academy said in its statement published July 29, 2019.
Subjecting children the endless stress of being targeted by violence or racism can take a serious, life-long toll and manifest as a fight-or-flight response, Trent said.
Trent told Science News, “Racism is harmful to a child’s health starting from the time that they are born. It affects their development, their mental health, their physical health in profound ways.
“The problem with racism is that, oftentimes, people experience that over and over again, so they never have a chance to recover. They always have to be vigilant about their environments."
The expert added, “fear and stress, particularly if it’s prolonged, leads to toxic stress. People exposed to that serious early stress are at risk for heart disease, diabetes and depressive symptoms.
“This policy is not in response to any current event, but to the activities in our country over time. Racism is a socially transmitted disease. We pass it on to our children. We’re hoping that grown-ups, not just pediatricians, think about how their perspective, their speech, their behavior affects their children.
“Unequal access [to resources] is a part of the reason we see the kinds of scenarios we see. Every child should have a safe neighborhood to live in. Every child should have housing in a lead-free environment, that’s free of violence. Every child should have clean water. Young people should not have to be in places where they don’t have access to a bed or a shower or healthy food, or incarcerated just because they’re seeking safe spaces in the United States," affirmed the pediatrician and researcher.
“As pediatricians, we will be there to help families with these discussions and both the direct and indirect trauma that these events have caused. We will also continue our advocacy efforts to encourage our government leaders to adopt policies that broadly address gun violence and change the climate of racism impacting children, adolescents and families,” Trent said.