The negative impact and consequences that systemic racism wields on the human condition can be seen in obvious ways. One only has to look around them and see the gross disparities when it comes to educational achievement, employment, quality of housing, and other living conditions between white Americans and other minorities, especially blacks.
Less obvious are the other insidious and often unspoken acute and chronic health consequences that systemic racism breeds among racial minorities and ethnic groups.
Inarguably, one’s health is the greatest asset he or she can possess. How many countless times have you witnessed or heard those with wealth or position lamenting that they would willingly trade it all to regain good health.
So how tragic it is that aside from the socio-economic, educational, and other environmental tolls racism takes on its victim, study results are confirming that racism is claiming, perhaps, the greatest toll of all on its victims – their mental and physical well-bring. Especially, its black victims.
Results from just study in 2011 (others have followed), and published in the online Journal of Psychology Counseling,found that experiencing racism has similar negative effects on mental health of black adults in the United States – and in many instances subsequent physical health conditions – as with some major trauma. This particular study analyzed the findings of 66 previous studies that looked at more than 18,000 black adults, which showed common conditions that occur as a result of experiencing racism and trauma.
Those conditions include psychological distress that is expressed as physical pain, depression, and higher rates of hypertension, which leads to strokes, heart disease, diabetes and other concomitant illnesses.
The study goes on to suggest that the link between mental health and racism does not only contribute to the physical health disparities between blacks and whites, but also other Americans of different races and ethnicities.
The study concludes that it is critical that mental health providers must include as a part of their therapeutic routine and treatment an assessment of their black patients' experiences with racism.
The scourge of racism can be compared to cancer with its negative and potentially deadly affect on those who are subjected to it repeatedly, at a sustained level or as a way of life.
If it were not enough for us as a society to work toward eradicating racism because of its obvious negative effects when it comes to education, employment, housing, etc., now that it has been confirmed that it erodes mental and physical health as well, how much more are we willing to pay to allow it to continue?
What will it take to show that racism is one of the greatest threats to health and the well-being of contemporary society?
Improving understanding across race, ethnicities, and race relation should be high on our national agenda.