Every day is a day to act towards ending racism, and today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD). We condemn racism in all its forms, and especially the anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, and anti-Asian racism and hate crimes that have surfaced throughout the pandemic at the hands of white supremacy. Hateful actions need to stop and white supremacy must be dismantled.
IDERD’s 2021 theme is “youth standing up against racism” and we want to draw attention to the health repercussions for youth who are targeted by racism, specifically among sexual and gender minority Black, Indigenous, and youth of colour in British Columbia.
According to data from the 2008, 2013, and 2018 province-wide British Columbia Adolescent Health Surveys, experiences of racial discrimination appear to be increasing among youth. In 2018, 11% of students reported they had experienced discrimination because of their race, ethnicity, or skin colour, which was the highest percentage among all three surveys. Similarly, according to the 2018 Canadian Trans and Non-binary Youth Health Survey, 10% of trans and non-binary youth reported experiencing racial discrimination.
Being targeted by racism can have significant health effects, including higher odds of stress, poor physical health, and suicidal thoughts and attempts. For youth who also identify as sexual or gender minority (SGM), these odds can be even higher. SGM youth repeatedly have been found to have higher risk of some health issues than heterosexual counterparts, and SGM youth of colour may experience double minority stress being targeted by homophobia/biphobia/transphobia and racism.
At SARAVYC, we are working on several research projects that identify gaps in health outcomes between heterosexual and 2SLGBTQIA+ youth from various ethnocultural backgrounds. Much of these health differences are linked directly to stigma and discrimination. We are also documenting how families and schools can help improve health outcomes within these groups in spite of stigma, because research shows that family and school connectedness play a key role in youth well-being.
Racism is a public health issue. And while families can and do help support youth well-being, it should not be up to families who experience racism to end racism. We each have an individual role and a group responsibility in disrupting racism and the systems that perpetuate it. We’ve known that racism is a public health issue for a long time, and we must turn this knowledge into action.