The Importance of Black History on Black Youth

Children’s mental health. Let’s talk about it. In a society where mental health practices are finally starting to become mainstream, the mental health of a child is still slightly marginalized. I’m sure you’ve heard comments like “man up”, “don’t act like such a girl”, and many others. Words like these can make it seem like expressing their feelings is a sign of weakness and be harmful to a child’s emotional intelligence. In recent years, society has started to loosen up on the reinforcement of such gender roles but this isn’t the only thing causing harm to our children’s mental wellbeing, especially our Black children.

Being Black in the United States is difficult enough. Most of our ancestors were forcibly taken from their countries, brutalized for profit, and tortured for fun. To this day Black people continue to hop over hurdles just to get to the starting line. Our skin has been weaponized; our history has been hidden and the system that brought our ancestors here continues to tell us we’re “less than”. The effects of this generational trauma can be felt by many Black adults, so imagine what it is doing to our children.

Think about what you learned in history class when you were younger. How did your textbook introduce Black people into the world? How many of your teachers actually taught you about the history of Black kings and queens before White people turned them into slaves? Dr. Daina Ramey Berry, a professor of American history at the University of Texas at Austin addressed these same thoughts.“Those that populated the colonies were free people from communities in Africa with large scale civilizations that had tax systems, that had irrigation systems, that had universities -- they came from civilized nations that were advanced.” Dr. Berry continues to touch on this issue by saying, “That’s where the curriculum should begin, that’s the biggest omission from my perspective. It’s an erasure of culture and heritage so that identities of African Americans for some are that of slaves and those fighting for their freedom”.

This gross minimization of injustice experienced by Black people and the miseducation of our origin is what continues the cycle of generational trauma. Our history books only tell us what’s most important to White people, and the fact that our true history isn’t in it speaks for itself. The holes that this kind of history leaves can be detrimental to the mental health of Black children. Not knowing your ancestry can leave you with a sense of aimlessness, which is partially why so many Black have sought out DNA testing in recent years. So many of us are searching for an answer to a question many of us have had since we, ourselves, were children; who am I? Responding to this question with truthful history can create a more positive outlook of self for us and our children who are still struggling with finding the answer.

Learning of the injustices done to our people and the obstacles we’ve overcome is necessary. It teaches perseverance, courage, and resilience, but learning about our true origins gives us so much more. It breeds confidence, positive self-efficacy, purpose, and a sense of belonging. Oftentimes we have to look at how far we’ve come to move forward. Teaching children about their true origins would do that for them. Reaching back for that knowledge and bringing it into the present is what will help our children to make positive progress with their physical and, most importantly, their mental health.


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