Images of racist violence traumatize black children, author says | Claudia Rankine

Images of violent racist incidents such as the murder of George Floyd traumatize black children, according to author Claudia Rankine, who believes this may be one of the factors contributing to an increase in child suicide in black communities in the United States. United States.

The poet, playwright, essayist and scholar said the frequency and availability of such images has not made black people feel safer and instead has a negative effect on the mental health of young people.

Rankine said there was now a “generation of children” in the United States who were “terrified” and “felt they had no options” in a world where they are criminalized “from the moment where they are children.

She added, “When you start to take into account the fact that suicide rates among black children, especially black boys, are increasing, you understand that they are traumatized by the information that comes to them.”

Claudia Rankine received the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Photography: MacArthur Foundation

A recent New Yorker article cited research that found racial discrimination can exacerbate mental health problems, while having to deal with things like body scanners at school and violent racist images on the internet means that at “an increasingly young age, [black children] begin to wonder if life is worth living.

In the United States, as in the United Kingdom, the pandemic has triggered warnings about increasing mental health problems in children, which were already a problem before March 2020. A 2018 American study revealed the suicide rate among black children, ages five and 12, was double its white peers.

Rankine’s latest piece, The White Card, directly addresses the use of traumatic imagery by exploring the white liberal racism of a family of art collectors and its impact on a black artist during the Trump era.

Its European debut comes in Newcastle-upon-Tyne at the Northern Stage ahead of its UK tour, and when first published and staged in 2019 it was described as “subtly dramatizing the full spectrum of racism, microaggression to watch to death. as a spectacle.

Northern Stage artistic director Natalie Ibu said the piece would be relevant to a UK audience due to heightened interest in anti-racism following the Black Lives Matter protest movement and news stories such as the Child Q case. .

Ibu said: “If you live in a country where a black teenage girl can get stripped at school by the police and no one bats an eyelid, then we are a country that needs to have a conversation about race, racism and gender. whiteness.”

Natalie Ibu, artistic director of Northern Stage, says the UK needs to have a conversation about race.
Natalie Ibu, artistic director of Northern Stage, says the UK needs to have a conversation about race. Photography: Christopher Owens

The carte blanche was inspired by a conversation Rankine had with an audience member, who asked him the question, “What can I do for you?” How can I help you?” during a question-and-answer session.

When Rankine told the man he needed to ask what he could do to change himself, he became hostile, leading her to write a play about white liberal prejudice and “put it in the theater in real white bodies so they know I’m talking to them”.

Rankine thinks culture can play a vital role in reshaping the way people think about race. She said she loved Steve McQueen’s Small Ax series because the five films questioned the racism black people in Britain faced in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and showed how it wasn’t all that different from United States.

She said: “I think these films are about how the same issues that black people have to negotiate here in the US have a long history in Britain. This is what it looks like, in case you haven’t noticed.

Her writing has also been credited with popularizing concepts such as “microaggressions” and following the success of her book Citizen: An American Lyric, she received the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and a “Genius” Fellowship. MacArthur 2016.

She says one of the biggest problems in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement is convincing white people that they need to take on white supremacy personally. “How do you get white people to understand that they really believe they’re better than anybody else?” ” she asks.

“It’s not something they were born with, it’s something the culture made them believe.”

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