By Noni G.
It was absolutely refreshing to hear some news that somewhat calmed my black rage. In this political climate, it has been tough for me to have any silver lining of hope in our government more specifically our justice system. But there is a small light in this tunnel. There are some white people that do get it! I could not scream ‘Yes’ loud enough while reading an article in the Los Angeles Times about the plans in store for the justice system in California. Governor Gavin Newsom is planning to redirect the control of the Juvenile Detention Centers to social services in order to truly target the issue with high rates of black and brown teenagers being criminalized. The proposed bill urges the Health and Human Services agency to oversee approximately 600 youth offenders by providing mental health services and therapy. For once, a politician is taking into consideration the suggestions that are being supported by black psychologists and therapists and addressing the issue at a different angle.
Youth should never be instantaneously criminalized! Instead one of the more ethical tactics should involve a full investigation of the racial, mental, emotional and socio-economic circumstances that are actual factors in particular choices and actions made by such child. Despite the odds, children that come from harsh realities live a much different life than children that come from privilege. Even as a child, impoverished children have REAL problems and are dealing with REAL emotions that they may not be prepared for. African American children commonly suffer from major mental health disorders such as depression, suicide, and post traumatic stress disorder according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness. In addition, The strong sense of misinformation and distrust that stems from our community when it comes to mental health does not add to the sense of urgency society should pay when it comes to our children’s development. Black kids particularly have to deal finding their place in the world and figuring out how to compete in society’s rat race with little or no support. If and should they mess up, is it worth compromising their freedoms and spirit?
It’s very interesting how the race of a troubled child can determine which sort of help they have access to. We all know the narrative of white kids who get more than enough second chances and are granted access to mental health seminars, community service and rehabilitation centers. Perfect examples include Lindsay Lohan, Justin Beiber and the list goes on. The presence and access to these resources could help our children in more ways than one. Like schools and art programs , these resources can help shape the psychological development of minority children by providing outlets for verbal and physical expression. Governor Newsom is making a small but powerful stride in the right direction. But the work does not end here. This is the spark that is needed in every community globally.
We as a community have to realize that we have to do our part by not being part of the problem. Find ways to help our youth in our community no matter how small or big. Make your voice known and make sure the ones we vote in power will actually tackle the issues stifling the younger generation. Encourage the youth to speak up, show them that you care and exercise patience and understanding that would become scarce as the get older. A small step forward is better than no step at all and the power to change stems from a change of heart and perspective.