General Question

Strauss's avatar

Is racism a public health threat?

Asked by Strauss (22144points) 1 month ago

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, stated “What we know is this: racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans.”

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40 Answers

janbb's avatar

Yes, for the victims of it.

chyna's avatar

Sure, especially to the Asians and Blacks and other minorities that are getting beaten and killed daily. Also it’s a health risk to those people that are carrying around so much hate and anger.

rebbel's avatar

Yeah, it’s a cancer.
Very threatening.

Caravanfan's avatar

Of course it is.

RocketGuy's avatar

If POC are prevented from getting vaccinations and other health care, they will spread disease. That is a public health threat to everyone.

Yellowdog's avatar

That’s what’s happening right here in Memphis. People of Color are denied vaccines. They have to have a photo I.D. to get vaccinated, and this is how they get away with such blatant discrimination,

Caravanfan's avatar

@Yellowdog Seriously? That’s terrible.

Cupcake's avatar

@Strauss What are your thoughts? Why are you asking?

As a public health researcher, it is so engrained in me that racism is a threat to public health. It is impossible to take myself out of that perspective.

si3tech's avatar

@Strauss Definitely. And we live in an time where “fake racist crimes” are common. Jussie Smollett as one of the more notorious. In France a few days ago, a student, 12 year old female (muslim) created a lie about her teacher and she, the teacher, was beheaded! Not all racism/prejudice is black or white. Regardless of the source, it is vile. IMHO our government fosters this.

rebbel's avatar

@si3tech I think you mix a few facts up there.
The teacher, Samuel Paty, male, was beheaded, in October 2020.
The girl has come forward, through her lawyer, admitting that she told lies about the day of the ‘incident’ with the Muhammad cartoons.

rebbel's avatar

Yeah, thanks for putting a link to an article which says the same as I pointed you to.

flutherother's avatar


Strauss's avatar

@Cupcake Why are you asking?
The article caught my eye as another example of the systemic racism in Euro-American society. It seems there’s a veneer of equality, but you don’t have to go too far below the surface to see that some are “more equal” than others, the others being BIPOC and other generally discriminated against segments of the population.

crazyguy's avatar

First, let us try to define the oft-used terms racism and public health.

Here is one definition of racism:

prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.

Public health is a term bandied about often, but rarely defined. According to APHA, Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play.

Now let us examine the interplay.

Some aspects of interplay are obvious. If a person charged with responsibility for POC is prejudiced against them, the impact is obvious. However, I think the question is aimed at indirect effects of racism.

In every society on earth that I know of, there is an unconscious preference for one’s own kind of people. So, if all other factors are equal, or close to equal, a kind of racism may dictate the final choice. If people in power always make a choice dictated by racism rather than other factors, Dr Rochelle Wallensky may well be right. However, I do not think she is correct because of two factors:

1. If anything, POC are adequately (some may say over) represented among the lower echelons of Public Health.
2. The upper echelons, that theoretically dictate policy, may be overwhelmingly white. However, one thing we have learnt from the tenure of the previous administration, the lower echelons are much more important than the upper echelons.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@crazyguy I can’t understand what you mean by “lower echelons are more important” Are you saying the lower echelons have priority in determining the allocation of public health services? Or are you telling us the lower echelons dominate our public health problems?

I believe it is a mistake to assume racism victimizes only those targeted. All of us pay the price, whether we are aware of it or not. In fact, it is exactly this insidious aspect of racism which renders it so intractable. In strong 2nd place regarding the persistence of racism is the assumption of people that for racism to exist, it must be planned or deliberate. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is these 2 factors which permit the deplorable reality of otherwise decent well meaning people to unknowingly nourish and sustain racism to the detriment of all including themselves.

Cupcake's avatar

@crazyguy In public health, we tend to consider racism within the contexts of systems and power. Since we are interested in the health of populations (i.e., “public” health), we generally do not address interpersonal racism or discrimination. We, instead, focus on how power, opportunity and value are structured (hint: not evenly). Camara Jones, a former president of the American Public Health Association, physician and public health researcher, is one of our leaders in studying racism from a public health perspective. You may be interested in this interview:

To be honest with you, I don’t have any idea what the rest of your post means. It looks to me like you are considering only the interpersonal implications of racism, which is not where public health focuses. And I don’t understand your perspective on the “echelons” of public health. The field is generally quite diverse, with women and POC leaders at all levels (Surgeon General, APHA administration, CDC, state/local public health departments, research and teaching faculty, etc.). But that has nothing to do with the original quesion.

crazyguy's avatar

@Cupcake Thank you for a thought-provoking response. And thank you for a very interesting link to the Camara interview.

Just by the way, I find it strange that you were perfectly able to understand the allegations of Carrara, but had difficulty understanding my post. I personally had a huge problem with the following:

1. First, racism unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities. When we think or talk about racism at all in this country, this is what we see.

So does economics. Are we talking about the simpler-to-grasp things like income inequality and wealth inequality?

2. When the brilliance in some of our communities is ignored and we’re not investing in the full education of our kids. To me this statement proves what Dr Camara Phyllis Jones is all about. SHE WANTS MORE RESOURCES DEVOTED TO HER RACE! Otherwise, why bring education into a discussion of public health?

3. We need to understand that in this country there are people just across town who are as kind, funny, generous, smart, and hard-working as you are, but live in very different circumstances from yours.

And some of them are even white or brown!

4. First, valuing all individuals and populations equally. That means looking at who’s at the decision-making table and who’s not. And what’s on the agenda and what’s not. And being intolerant of inaction in the face of need. If you value all individuals and all populations equally, you will not allow inaction in the face of need.

I refer to the people who do this as the upper echelons. And they are indeed mostly white.

5. The most socialistic idea espoused by the good doctor: Third, providing resources according to need. For example, if I’m the health director of a state with five counties and I have a million dollars, the easiest political solution would be to give $200,000 to each county. But it would be politically courageous to recognize the differences in need across these counties, and say “I’m going to provide resources according to need.” Maybe County A is not going to get any money in this funding cycle, or the next cycle, or the next cycle—until the other counties catch up. A challenge is that people who are privileged don’t always recognize their privilege, or they often don’t recognize that there exist real differences in need.

GIVE, GIVE, GIVE until you have nothing ti give any more!

stanleybmanly's avatar

Once more you miss the conclusion implicit in the doctor’s analysis. Her message is not so much about giving up privilege or a tome about sacrifice on behalf of the have nots. But at least you do understand that racism is SERIOUSLY entwined with poverty in that it is very much a system for ENFORCED disadvantage and systemic poverty. The problem IS NOT that the rich aren’t charitable enough . They are simply playing the game the system has declared as “fair”. The problem is the playing field, the system ITSELF. It is the failure to appreciate that we ALL suffer when kids are not educated or you don’t dare walk away from your car after you park it.

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stanleybmanly's avatar

Racism is unfortunately more resistant to elimination than the other prejudices afflicting us. And that is simply due to the fact that we have been conditioned since birth to react to dark skin with the same impulse as we would spiders or snakes. It is all but a Pavlovian response.

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Strauss's avatar

@crazyguy …why bring education into a discussion of public health?

Because racism, past and present, has an impact on many aspects of society that directly or indirectly impact public health and access to healthcare for BIPOC’s.

Education can lead to more accurate health beliefs and knowledge, and thus to better lifestyle choices, e.g., the need for masking, vaccination, nutrition, etc. It can also lead to better skills and greater self-advocacy. Education improves skills such as literacy and helps to develop effective habits of hygiene and other health related activities.

blackbirdbrownbear's avatar

Calling everything you disagree with racist as a catch all designation whether it exists or not is a public health threat. For example. Gang related and neighbor on neighbor crime, murder, violence, drug addiction are increasing and violence is escalating. The resentment against law enforcement is causing too many people to resist lawful orders at their own peril and the peril of the police. The condition is blamed on past injustice real or imagined and systemic racism today. I say that when what ever brought the police to the crime escalates in violence and resistance. The police response is to increase the force and intensity they need necessary to control the situation. That is not systemic racism. That is what police were trained to do. That is also fertile ground for unintended deadly consequences and the civil unrest that follows Nobody wins and everybody loses. We can train the police until they act like robots, but a more effective solution might be for community leaders to find a way to transform at risk members of the communities they claim to lead into productive law abiding citizens so police are not needed and seldom called.

birsy's avatar

@Strauss “Education can lead to more accurate health beliefs and knowledge, and thus to better lifestyle choices, e.g., the need for masking, vaccination, nutrition, etc. It can also lead to better skills and greater self-advocacy. Education improves skills such as literacy and helps to develop effective habits of hygiene and other health related activities.”
Seems kinda racist to assume BIPOC’s don’t understand &/or haven’t been doing these things already.

Cupcake's avatar

@birsy That would be an extremely racist position. I doubt completely that @Strauss meant it that way. There are systemic barriers to BIPOC receiving high-quality education, even when you consider income. At the population level, there are differences in health literacy by race and socioeconomic status that are probably largely based on education and access to resources. This is not in any way a comment on intelligence or motivation (including hygiene, self advocacy, etc) based on race.

On a side note, it would likely be much better received to ask a clarification question than to assume that @Strauss is an overt racist.

crazyguy's avatar

@Cupcake @birsy I disagree with you guys when you assume that BIPOCs do understand and have been practicing effective habits of hygiene and other health related activities. You guys want to have your cake and eat it too. On the one hand you have been preaching that because of systemic racism BIPOCs have been held back. On the other hand you seem to be saying that BIPOCs have not been held back.

Please make up your minds.

crazyguy's avatar

@Cupcake @birsy How about Latinos?

Strauss's avatar

@Cupcake Thank you!

@birsy Seems kinda racist to assume BIPOC’s don’t understand…

It’s racist to assume anything based upon race. It’s not racist to point out facts that affect various racial groups disproportionately.

—@crazyguy “BIPOC” = Black, Indigenous (and other) People Of Color, and is generally used to indicate anyone who is “not white”.

crazyguy's avatar

@Strauss Thanks for the education. I must confess I had to look up BIPOC. I got the Indigenous, but obviously missed (and other).

Strauss's avatar

@crazyguy No problem! Stick with me and you just might learn something!~~

Strauss's avatar

@crazyguy Just a thought…“BIPOC” can also refer to South Asian ethnicities that might be anthropologically considered Caucasian.

crazyguy's avatar

@Strauss You are right – by including (and other) in the definition, any person of color is a BIPOC. I wonder about European Jews. Would you know?

Strauss's avatar

Discrimination against European Jews is another matter. So was discrimination against other Euro-ethnic immigrant groups (Irish, Polish, Italian, etc.) at the turn of the 19th to 20th century.

In the US for so long there’s been the binary attitude that one is either “white” or “not-white”, reflective of the anti-miscegenation laws that enforced racial segregation at the level of marriage and intimate relationships by criminalizing interracial marriage and sometimes also sex between members of different races. One drop of non-white blood means you’re not white.

crazyguy's avatar

@Strauss I am wondering whether Jews and other Euro-ethnic groups are included in BIPOC. I am pretty sure they are not. So that brings up an interesting question. Since we know such Euro-ethnic groups were discriminated against, is the discrimination more of a “not one of us” versus “racist”?

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Here maybe this will help @crazyguy BIPOC as defined by the BIPOC Project.

People in BIPOC are minorities not all minorities are in BIPOC !

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