February is dedicated to Black History. During this month it is dedicated to remembering and honoring African Americans who have advocated for equal rights for African Americans such as Martin Luther King. It is also a month where we explore the role African Americans have played in our history. This is important so African Americans have heroes they can admire and everyone can understand the role African Americans have played in our history. One example is the African American Wall Street in Oklahoma and how it was burnt down. I attended UC Berkeley and took American History from one of the leading experts in the country, but I never had any lectures covering the African American Wall Street. This was a major event in our history so we need to be educated about it. So besides acknowledging African American leaders this month is also used to examine how racism continues to impact African Americans. As a psychotherapist who works with black adolescents and other minority adolescents, I am seeing these adolescents feel hopeless and angry. Many of these teenagers have dreams of going into the military so they can serve our Country. They are very proud of the United States, but they want to know why they are treated like second class citizens. Incidents such as the murder of George Floyd by the police and the recent killing of Tyre by the Memphis police result in Africa Americans feeing like their lives are not valued the same way as White Americans. Many people thought after George Floyd’s murder by the police that the way police treated African Americans would change. However, there have continued to be African Americans being killed by the police for no apparent reasons with the most recent incident being in Memphis, Tennessee. As a result, many African American teenagers do not feel like they are treated the same way as White Americans. They feel people view their lives as less important than White teenagers and therefore they feel like second class citizens.

The Former President Trump did a great deal to increase the fact that African Americans feel like second class citizens and his actions pointed out the systemic racism in the United States. Here are a few events to consider as we look at systemic racism in the United States. When the violence occurred in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Former President Trump insisted on visiting the city even though the governor and mayor requested him not to visit the city. Since an African American man had been shot seven times in the back you would assume Former President Trump would have mentioned Mr. Blake or would have visited him in the hospital. However, he did not mention Mr. Blake nor did he visit him either. However, he did mention, Kyle, the 17 year old white adolescent from Illinois who decided he had the right to go to Wisconsin because of the protestors in Wisconsin. While he was there he shot and killed two people and seriously injured a third person. Kyle is 17 years old and legally cannot own or carry a firearm. However, he carried a shot gun from Illinois to Wisconsin and back, killed 2 people, seriously injured a third and paraded the gun in front of the police and he was not arrested. Instead the police gave him a bottle of water. The Former President had sympathy for Kyle and mentioned that case. However, Kyle is also white and was an outspoken supporter of the Former President. Additionally, while he was in Kenosha, Wisconsin, two reporters asked the Former President about systemic racism. He ignored the first reporter and told the second reporter he was asking the wrong question. The Former President denied systemic racism and did not want to discuss it. Kyle was never charged with a crime nor was the officer who shot Mr. Blake in the back seven times.

Not mentioning the real victim is not uncommon for the Former President especially when the victim is a minority. While he was allowed on Twitter he mentioned Kyle, but never mentioned Jacob Blake. He stated he spoke to the family’s pastor. However, the pastor he spoke to was from Illinois and was not Mr. Blake’s pastor. When George Floyd was murdered by police, again he did not mention Mr. Floyd or Tweet about it. Here is another incident when a black man was killed but the Former President did little to nothing to get involved or to rectify the problem. However, how can you rectify a problem when you are denying the fact that systemic racism exist. How does this make black teenagers feel? The Former President addressed issues when White people were involved but if the victim was black or a minority, he ignored the situation. Former President Trump was not the only person denying and ignoring systemic racism. The majority of the Republican Party was doing the same thing and blaming Black Lives Matters for the issues. This makes black teenagers feel like they are not important.

Another fact black teenagers see is that the Former President and Republicans in the South want to protect Confederate statues and military bases and schools named after Confederate soldiers. This is the same President who verbally attacked football and basketball players who did not stand or took a knee for the flag during the National Anthem. These players were protesting the systemic racism in our society. The Former President attacked these sport stars, but wants to honor Confederate soldiers. The Confederate soldiers destroyed the flag of the United States and they were trying to destroy the United States and they supported slavery. What does this tell a black teenager if the Former President and Republican Party support people who advocated for slavery? In my opinion it would tell me, I’m not important to in this country.

Why is this important? Currently depression and anxiety are at epidemic rates for teenagers (CDC). Also suicide has moved from the third leading cause of death for teenagers to the second leading cause of death for teenagers (CDC). The terrifying fact is that the suicide rate for black teenagers is five times the rate for white teenagers (CDC). If that is the case, how many black teenagers are we losing to suicide? The teenagers I am working with are telling me based on everything I outlined above, they do not see a future for themselves. They feel hopeless and don’t see any point in trying due to systemic racism they are having to face daily. They are even more confused because many of them are wanting to serve the United States. They don’t understand how a Country they want to serve and protect is willing to allow systemic racism to exist. They do know there are many Americans who support them, but when you hear this support for systemic racism coming from the Former President and the Republican Party supporters daily, it gives black teenagers little hope that anything will change.

Because there is a belief that nothing will change, this is why groups such as Black Lives Matter are important to teenagers. Black Lives Matter is focused on changing the systemic racism in our Country despite what other people may think about the group. The group is not racist, it is designed to eliminate systemic racism. This gives black teenagers some hope for their future. Another group, Alive and Free in San Francisco which was founded by Dr. Joseph Marshall also provides black teenagers with hope for their futures and the teenagers need this hope. For this reason I am proud to be one of the founding members of the National Alive and Free Board which connects professionals across our Country to provide teenagers with hope and to work on eliminating systemic racism. Dr. Marshall has helped over 200 black teenagers get into and graduate college. This is what can happen when we remove racism.

Finally, the attack on the Capital Building really upset many black teenagers and other minority groups. Many people agreed if they people attacking the Capital Building were Black or Hispanic, the police would have killed them. Instead we witnessed white supporters of Former President Trump calling for the death of the Vice President, blacks and Jewish people. They even brought a Confederate Flag into the Capital. To me it looked racist and if you were black, Hispanic or Jewish, you are not welcomed in the United States. This is the message I received and so did many other people.

The good news is Nancy Pelosi, before her term as Speaker of the House, put together a commission to study the institutional racism black teenagers have to face today in the United States. She appointed Dr. Joseph Marshall, who founded Alive and Free, to the commission. We will get honest answers from this commission. The reason I am convinced is because I have worked with Dr. Marshall and I am on the National Advisory Committee for Alive and Free. Dr. Marshall has been confronting this issue all his life and has improved the lives of many black teenagers over the years.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.


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