Racism is a Public Health Crisis

The previous post touched on the definition of racism, and the different types of racism in the previous post. Now I want to shift the focus to Racism as a Public Health issue. Racism has been in America since the founding of this country.

Before the founding of America, racism was born as a product of colonization. Those of us born in America, were not fully taught the history of racism, as we have been taught from history books written from the colonizer’s perspective. Thus, we have grown up not knowing the full story, especially if you did not have anyone within your community to give you other perspectives. So yes, I’m talking about all of us who aren’t black. The typical story about race in the US lays out a couple struggles – but without fully explaining the cases – which are particularly racist policies and actions of the US government. For example, the post 13th Amendment imposition of Jim Crow and Sundown laws, and racial profiling of Latinx and African Americans and other people of color that continues today.

The typical history story ALSO does NOT ACKNOWLEDGE the impact of these policies and laws TODAY. Specifically how it has significantly impacted communities of colors in the most foundational areas of life – HEALTHCARE, EDUCATION, HOUSING, etc. Knowing this history is critical to understanding racial inequities and structural racism. See last slide for some book recommendations.

With racism obviously impacting all aspects of life for communities of color, specifically black communities, we as public health professionals can state racism as a social condition is a fundamental cause of health and illness. A growing body of research shows, racism is a social determinant of health that perpetuates and exacerbates the very trends the public health field works to reverse.

Health disparities, discrimination, and residential segregation, which are topics familiar to public health researchers, are by-products of racism. YET, we constantly talk about RACE but NOT RACISM when discussing health. We – NONBLACK COMMUNITIES – need to do MORE as a WHOLE to change these trends for our black communities.

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