By: Anuja Khemka, Executive Director
As an organization dedicated to the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color, the Steve Fund is extremely concerned about recent incidents at colleges and universities where college students of color have been racially profiled and subjected to harsh consequences. We recognize that when racial profiling is not acknowledged, the health impacts can be wide ranging.
At Yale University, a black graduate student fell asleep in her dorm’s common area and a white student called the police on her, because the white student believed she had no right to sleep there. Similarly, earlier this month, while two Native American young men were on a campus tour at Colorado State University, a visiting parent called campus police because she reported feeling anxious by the boys presence on the tour.
It’s clear that students of color experience a variety of difficult situations which can contribute to greater psychological distress, especially when they’re victims of microaggressions and racism. The incidents at Yale and Colorado State University are not only examples of racial profiling, but also examples of how there’s been a recent string of white people calling the cops on people of color for minor incidents. These incidents also highlight how racial profiling can have a negative impact on college students of color, because it can make them feel as if they have no real way to effectively respond or handle the situation, which, as a result, could lead to poor academic performance, feeling distraught and hopeless, and even becoming depressed.
Difficulties posed by these circumstances may be worsened when students lack a supportive social network and face barriers to seeking help, which is why it’s critical that we continue to talk about these issues and offer support for these students.
The Steve Fund has focused its efforts on reducing the risks that students of color face and removing the barriers to seeking help, before, during, and after college. In partnership with the JED Foundation, the Steve Fund has established an Equity in Mental Health Framework with a set of recommendations to support the mental health of college students of color, such as increasing diversity of faculty and staff, making resources that support the mental health of students of color available and publicizing them, and gathering data to increase understanding about how to meet students’ mental health needs.
However, this is just a start. More research, population-specific supports, and attention to campus climate are needed to improve college life so that all students can thrive