This roundtable discussion will bring together those who study community violence with special attention to children of color living in poverty. In the last twelve years since the 2005 Katrina disaster, there has been growth in the study of community violence and related trauma in New Orleans. The city is still recovering after the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike; as well as the Oil Spill of 2008, on top of the worsening financial crisis, many residents live in neighborhoods with blighted housing and where infrastructures remain destroyed, businesses are abandoned, and crime is persistent. New Orleans has witnessed what can only be described as a dynamic fluctuation in community violence, with a 2018 growth of 18% in gun violence, potentially surpassing the unprecedented high murder rate of 703 deaths in the prior year. In addition and related to prevalence of community violence, 62% of households in New Orleans are below the national poverty line (The Data Center, 2010). Also, 42% of all children under the age of 18 in New Orleans live in poverty, and 83% of New Orleans Public School students live at or below the national poverty line (The Data Center, 2013).
African Americans in New Orleans are at greatest risk for exposure to community violence and poverty. African Americans make up 60% of the New Orleans population, but 91% of murder victims in New Orleans from 2012 through 2015 (City of New Orleans, 2016). Sixty percent of the New Orleans population living in poverty are African American, while only 34% are White (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016). Nearly half of African American children live in poverty in New Orleans, while only nine percent of White children do (The Data Center, 2018). Children in poverty are at a greater risk for mental health disorders including depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and risk-taking behavior (Bascetta, 2009). Poverty engenders an environment of deprivation and is linked to underemployment, chaos, and community violence which also contributes to traumatic experiences for the children of New Orleans. The consequences of these events may lead to persistently lower mental health functioning, increased risk for subsequent re-injury, and premature morbidity and mortality.
This roundtable session will begin a dialogue about the role of race and inequity due to racism in understanding, helping, and protecting children exposed to community violence. Participants will discuss experiences with racial trauma related to community violence, racial trauma injuries and promising approaches to both mitigate the impact of trauma toward preventing it altogether. This will add to the current knowledge base in social work practice in communities suffering from poverty and violence that makes children of color especially vulnerable to harm and trauma. The focus of this roundtable will gather colleagues from a variety of settings to compare notes on the incidence and prevalence of community violence involving children of color and what steps have been taken. Best practices will inform systematic efforts to help reduce the community violence and protect the children of New Orleans.