Stand Against Racism is a signature campaign of the YWCA to build community among those who work for racial justice and to raise awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism in our communities. The campaign is now nationwide and Unity House is proud to lend our voices to Stand Against Racism.
Here are some ways we can each play a role in eliminating racism:
Starting out with declarations we can lead to change by speaking out against the systemic and institutional racism that has created the public health crisis we face today. Take the first step towards accountability and reform by making your community aware of the economic and social determinants of health. Get input from community members and public health experts, contact your local legislators, and gain support for declaring racism a public health crisis.
Social determinants of health are the conditions of the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect wide-ranging health and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. In addition to the social, economic, and physical conditions in schools, churches, workplaces and neighborhoods, patterns of social engagements and sense of security and well-being are also impacted by where people live. Decades of unfair social, economic, and political systems have created inequitable communities that are disproportionately burdened by injury, disease, and premature death. These unfair systems aren’t random. They are rooted in racism.
HISTORICALLY NEGLECTED COMMUNITIES
There has been a historical disinvestment from communities of color, from schools to fewer parks, sidewalks, bike lanes, and transit. This blocked access to quality education, safe and affordable housing, government-financed homeownership, financial development opportunities, access to transportation, access to affordable/healthy food, and other key determinants of health. Public health concerns were often used as a pretext for discriminatory policies; however, public health professionals—and the entire field—were notoriously neglected in the policymaking process.
Did you know? Racist housing practices from more than 50 years ago can be linked with poor health outcomes today. In 2017, researcher Andrea Weiler examined the relationship between racist real estate practices and health inequities in Seattle and King County, Washington. By mapping racial restrictive covenants and health indicators (such as low birth-weight, infant mortality, life expectancy, and overall mortality), they were able to find a geographic connection between restrictive covenants and poor health outcomes. Though racial restrictive covenants are no longer legal, they were common from 1926-1968; however, they were not removed from property deeds! The Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project and the University of Washington surveyed deeds and found 416 racial restrictive covenants still present in deeds, estimating that tens of thousands of additional Seattle homeowners have restrictive covenants in their deeds, unknowingly.
Engaging your public health officials to begin a conversation about approaching racism as a public health crisis, and the ways structural racism can be dismantled to address and improve public health. Structural racism in the United States has led to far higher rates of acute and chronic disease in communities of color, and much higher rates of death from disease. People of color are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions (such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, hepatitis, and hypertension) and infectious diseases (such as HIV/AIDS, and COVID-19) compared to their white counterparts. Starting conversations with elected officials, local leaders, public health experts, and community members will raise awareness about the public health impact of systemic racism and help foster calls to action.
Did you know? In the 20th and 21st century, one of the big trends in medicine has been the use of computer technologies to manage health care. But medical software can also be racist. In 2019, researchers discovered an algorithm that helps to manage healthcare for 200 million people in the US systemically discriminated against Black people; individuals who self-identified as Black were given lower risk scores by the computer than their white counterparts, resulting in fewer referrals for medical care.
There are many ways to advocate for improved public health policies and resources for marginalized individuals and communities. Supporting investment in public health determinants such as affordable housing, quality education, economic advancement opportunities, reliable transportation, availability of healthy foods, and environments free of contamination are just a few of the ways you advocate for individuals, families, and communities of color.
Did you know? During the 2015–2016 school year, Black students represented only 15% of total US student enrollment, but they made up 35% of students suspended once, 44% of students suspended more than once, and 36% of students expelled. The US Department of Education concluded that this disparity is “not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color.” This means Black and Latinx students face harsher discipline in school. They are taken out of the class and punished for subjective offenses at higher rates than their white peers, which disrupts their ability to access quality education. Additionally, the average non-white school district receives $2,226 less per student, and the persisting achievement gap means Black students are less likely to attend college, thus reducing their lifetime earnings by 65%.
Many thanks to the Troy YWCA for leading the charge. You can learn more and get involved with their fine work here.