Boys and young men of color are increasingly affected by exposure to violence in their communities and everyday lives, according to the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). The November 2013 report titled “Improving Supports for Youth of Color Traumatized by Violence” delves into the geographical and economic factors, and offers a number of strategies for positive change.
Violence, encompassing anything from interpersonal conflict to institutional racism, continues to be a staple in the lives of minority youth. However, the report asserts that place – where one lives – has the greatest impact on violence.
Children of color or more likely to live in poor communities in comparison to their white counterparts; 27 percent of all African-American children live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, as opposed to only 3 percent of white children. Poor communities tend to lack opportunities for youth engagement and do not have the resources to manage the effects of violence.
Minority youth are also more likely to live in areas with concentrated disadvantage (poverty, school drop out and unemployment), which in turn leads to a higher rate of violent victimization. For African-American men, the murder rate is 17 times that of white men, and for Latino men, six times greater than the white male rate. Exposure to chronic trauma and toxic stress in disadvantaged neighborhoods can hinder brain and social development. According to research done in Chicago, African-American children taking achievement tests within a week of a homicide occurring in their neighborhood scored significantly lower than other children living in neighborhoods with the same concentrated disadvantage.
The report offers a series of school-based strategies that include systematic approaches to work with families and provide children with the necessary supports for dealing with violence and trauma. School Attendance Improvement and Behavior Modification are just two of the strategies being implicated to increase engagement, reduce aggression and stem the ripple effects of violence.
The study also found that high violence in communities correlated with extremely high rates of unemployment. Employment-based strategies such as Baltimore’s “Healthy Minds at Work” program seek to provide more opportunities for young men of color through comprehensive services that address anxiety, depression and other mental health barriers to success.
The report, developed in conjunction with the Sierra Health Foundation, include national statistics, theoretical models and action steps. CLASP is a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the lives of low-income people. The report was written by Rhonda Bryant, interim director of youth policy at CLASP, and Robert Phillips, director of health programs for the Sierra Health Foundation.
Read the report here.