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A 15-year-old Brooklyn high school student told The Atlantic that his skin color is an obstacle to getting good grades. Zion Agostini explained that, as a Black male, the cops target him for stop and frisks on the way to school.

When he enters the school building, Agostini must empty his pocket before passing through a metal detector—frequently ordered to go through a second time if he forgets to remove certain items. The whole routine all too often causes him to miss the beginning of his first period chemistry class, when the teacher presents important information.

Agostini understands that he’s a victim of racial profiling—navigating his way through a larger society that views him with suspicion because of his race.

A new study reported in The Atlantic found that dealing with racism creates physiological and psychological harm to students of color that contribute to their persistent academic gap compared to White students.

The team of Northwestern University researchers confirmed previous studies that found higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in Black youth that are linked to dealing with racial discrimination. High levels of stress hormones have a negative impact on cognition.

They examined two specific sources of stress: perceived discrimination and stereotyping.

The researchers found that the Black students’ perception that they will be treated differently or unfairly by teachers often manifests itself in reduced academic motivation, low grades and yielding to academic challenges.

At the same time, academic performance also declines when Black students feel high levels of anxiety and stress from dealing with stereotypes of academic inferiority.

Making matter worse, the researchers said that some Black students develop destructive coping mechanisms to reduce the racial stressors, such as deciding that academic excellence is not part of their racial identity.

They acknowledged that stress caused by racism is only one factor that contributes to low academic achievement, along with other factors like poor quality schools and a lack of resources in their schools.

The ideal solution, the researchers said, is eliminating racial discrimination. But what’s more realistic is reinforcing positive racial identities.

SOURCE: Atlantic | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty 


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