Racism in Today's Adolescents

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Though none of my grandparents were born in the United States, I rarely characterize my upbringing as “traditional” Hispanic. I clearly remember a large fight with my parents after being told that my college tuition was more important than a quinceañera. I have fairer skin from my Spanish lineages and normally people consider me mostly Caucasian before learning I am completely Hispanic. Potentially due to this, I have been more prone to age discrimination than racial discrimination in my lifetime, being able to slip by with only a few instances of being asked if I spoke English or called “Sanchez” automatically.

Despite my fortune of being protected personally from this adverse effect, the media frenzy on racism dominated this summer. From Trayvon Martin to Oprah to demands for local state policies to be reformed, racism is not an issue that we left in the 1960s. And as we can see with Trayvon Martin, it is not an issue that is isolated to adults. Benner and Graham (2013) recently released a study that demonstrates just how prominent racism and discrimination can be to adolescents. They found that it is not only the discrimination itself but also the source of the discrimination (school personnel, peers, society) that can have consequences on adolescent academic performance, adjustment, and racial awareness.

But how does this knowledge help those that are in charge in these contexts that influence racism (i.e. teachers and peers)? Brenner and Graham (2013) not only present the solid research foundation but also provide implications that could aid the public in this crisis. Things such as schools fostering inter racial relationships through programs and extracurricular activities that promote inter racial mingling and working together. Teachers and other components of the education system could use these activities to foster positive inter racial interactions and feelings. They also suggest that policy needs to not only target individuals, but also institutions and those that lead the institutions if we want this issue of racism to continue to improve.