Black teens experience racial discrimination five times a day on average, study finds

If you think racism in America is dead, or perhaps not as prevalent as some people claim, you may want to rethink that stance.

A new study from Rutgers University has found that black teenagers in the United States experience racial discrimination more than five times a day on average. Five times. Every day.


The study authors asked 101 black adolescents between 13 and 17 years old, who live in predominantly black neighborhoods in and attend predominantly black schools in the Washington D.C. area, to log their race-based experiences each day for two weeks. The teens reported a total of 5,600 incidents of racial discrimination in that time period, or 5.2 incidents per day, per person.

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Discrimination was defined in various ways, from overt racism to microaggressions to teasing to harassment, and included both online and offline experiences. Vicarious discrimination was also included in the study, meaning teens reported witnessing racial discrimination of other people who share their racial background.

"This research reflects what researchers and activists have asserted for years: Black adolescents are forced to face antiblack microaggressions on a daily basis. Importantly, this study expands the research on the many ways that discrimination happens, whether it is being teased by peers, asked to speak for their racial group in class or seeing a racist post on social media," said lead author Devin English, assistant professor at Rutgers School of Public Health.

The authors point out that two forms of discrimination, teasing and vicarious discrimination, are particularly important to study in young people.

"Racial teasing is important because it is one of the most common ways adolescents communicate about race," English said. "Critically, young people and adults, such as teachers, often see this teasing as harmless and choose not to address it. Our results, however, show several types of racial teasing are harmful for black adolescents."

The study also found that racial discrimination occurs more often online than off, and that the daily exposure to racial discrimination may be contributing to depressive symptoms in black youth. With the exception of online vicarious discrimination, every form of discrimination reported was associated with higher depressive symptoms.

The overall negative health effects of racial discrimination have been studied, and we know that the findings aren't good. As Harvard professor David Williams told NPR:

"The research indicates it is not just the big experiences of discrimination, like being passed over for a job or not getting a promotion that someone felt they might have been entitled to. But the day-to-day little indignities affect health: being treated with less courtesy than others, being treated with less respect than others, receiving poorer service at restaurants or stores. Research finds that persons who score high on those kinds of experiences, if you follow them over time, you see more rapid development of coronary heart disease. Research finds that pregnant women who report high levels of discrimination give birth to babies who are lower in birth weight."

Experiencing racism is stressful, especially when it happens all the time, and chronic stress is a health risk.

The Rutgers study authors wrote, "The present study highlights the urgent, continual, and multidimensional nature of racial discrimination for contemporary Black adolescents and highlights its ostensible role in persistent racial health inequities. We believe the high frequency and impact of racial discrimination shown in our results necessitates concomitant policy and practice that fights to institutionally prevent and treat the negative effects of racial discrimination for Black youth."

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For black Americans in particular, it's clear that racial discrimination is alive and well. As this study shows, anti-black discrimination rears its head in myriad ways, and it's not uncommon or even occasional. It's also worth noting that this was a study of black teens in predominantly black neighborhoods, which leads one to wonder how many incidents teens in more predominantly white areas may experience.

If we want to end racism for good, we all need to be more aware of how it plays out in front of us on a daily basis, and do what we can to mitigate it when we see it.

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"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

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The story touches so many hot buttons at once—power, wealth, tradition, sexism, racism, colonialism, family drama, freedom, security, and the media. But as I sat and watched the first hour of just Oprah and Meghan Markle talking, I was struck by the simple significance of what I was seeing.

Here were two Black women, one who had battled sexism and racism in her industry and broke countless barriers to create her own empire, and one who has battled racism and sexism to protect her babies, whose royal lineage can be traced back through 1,200 years of rule over the British Empire. And the conversation these women were having had the power to take down—or at least do real damage to—one of the longest-standing monarchies in the world.

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Courtesy of Tory Burch

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This March marks one year since the start of the pandemic… and it's been an incredibly difficult year: Over 500,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. But the pandemic's economic downturn has been disproportionately affecting women because they are more likely to work in hard-hit industries, such as hospitality or entertainment, and many of them have been forced to leave their jobs due to the lack of childcare.

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Burch knows a thing or two about empowering women: After seeing the many obstacles that women in business face — even before the pandemic — she created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to empower women entrepreneurs.

And now, for International Women's Day, her company is launching a global campaign with Upworthy to celebrate the women around the world who give back and create real change in their communities.

"I hope the creativity and resilience of these women, and the amazing ways they have found to have real impact, will inspire and energize others as much as they have me," Burch says.

This year's Empowered Women certainly are inspiring:

Shalini SamtaniCourtesy of Shalini Samtani

Take, for example, Shalini Samtani. When her daughter was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder, she spent a lot of time in the hospital, which caused her to quickly realize that there wasn't a single company in the toy industry servicing the physical or emotional needs of the 3 million hospitalized children across America every year. She was determined to change that — so she created The Spread the Joy Foundation to deliver free play kits to pediatric patients all around the country.

Varsha YajmanCourtesy of Varsha Yajman

Varsha Yajman is another one of this year's nominees. She is just 18 years old, and yet she has been diligently fighting to build awareness and action for climate justice for the last seven years by leading school strikes, working as a paralegal with Equity Generations Lawyers, and speaking to CEOs from Siemen's and several big Australian banks at AGMs.

Caitlin MurphyCourtesy of Caitlin Murphy

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Simone GordonCourtesy of Simone Gordon

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Victoria SanusiCourtesy of Victoria Sanusi

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And Upworthy and the Tory Burch are just getting started. They are still searching the globe for more extraordinary women who are making an impact in their communities.

Do you know one? If you do, nominate her now. If she's selected, she could receive $5,000 to give to a nonprofit of her choice through the Tory Burch Foundation. Submissions are being accepted on a rolling basis — and one Empowered woman will be selected each month starting in April.

Nominate her now at www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen.

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When 59 children died on Christmas Eve 1913, the world cried with the town of Calumet, Michigan.

Woody Guthrie sang about this little-known piece of history.

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AFL Labor Mini Series

A one-man drill operation

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