How Racism Affects Babies
How can racism affect a baby?
Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health
According to a report from Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, “Years of scientific study have shown us that, when children’s stress response systems remain activated at high levels for long periods, it can have a significant wear-and-tear effect on their developing brains and other biological systems. This can have lifelong effects on learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.”
The report continues, “A growing body of evidence from both the biological and social sciences connects this concept of chronic wear and tear to racism. This research suggests that constant coping with systemic racism and everyday discrimination is a potent activator of the stress response.”
In our recently released State of Babies Yearbook: 2021, data show “Collectively, Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, and other people of color…in America have been subjected to centuries of institutionalized and interpersonal racism that have limited equitable access to resources…that are fundamental to family stability and well-being.”
“The consequences of these and other barriers manifest themselves in the additional challenges families in these historically marginalized communities face in their efforts to ensure their babies have every opportunity for healthy development during their critical early years and set them on the path to thrive in the years beyond,” the report continues.
Supporting children and families, who have and continue to face the harmful effects of racism, is something educators can do in the classroom setting. Creating loving, safe, and happy spaces where children and families are honored and respected is foundational in helping to offset the harmful effects of racism. Educators are uniquely positioned to provide a soft landing for children and their families by nurturing spaces of belonging; all lives are sacred and deserve to be loved, voices heard, and working together to build community.
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