Racism is not good for your health

I was over at Clutch, one of the online magazines I read frequently and read the article “What To Do When The World Feels Too Racist”.

In short the article is a reflection about recent racism against African Americans in the blogosphere of some rightwing nutters (stole this phrase from the Brits) and it offered advice on how to cope when dealing with hatred.

Dealing with racism is like having a full time stressful job and it can take a very heavy emotional toll on the individual that experiences racism. Now I know the world is how we react to it and certainly we will all face challenges in one form or another regardless of our race; however I do not think it’s that simple. Some people just want to ignore it or downplay the significance of racism and that is simply wrong.

I was once asked, when it comes to the sort of reactions I get what was more negative or difficult: being black or being Muslim? I couldn’t really answer that question, because our “labels” change depending on where we are or who we are with. For example in the larger context of our society I am seen as a Muslim woman and not as a black woman. I know this, because I am often asked where I am from to indicate I must be foreign, an African American woman would not be asked such a question unless she is a Muslim and wearing a hijab. Therefore the label Muslim takes more precedence for me at least in this society. I also know this, because when I have been attacked by bigots I was never called a racial slur that is used against black people, but slurs used against Muslim people. “Go back to your country towel head!” Ha! So in American society I am mostly identified as Muslim, however if I was among Muslims or in a country with a majority Muslim population, I am identified as black or African.

So our identifying labels change depending on the situation and where we are. Thus I can’t really answer that question of what is “more difficult” to be-a black person or a Muslim person. It’s a subjective answer, which really doesn’t add much to the discourse. It’s sort of like saying, you got hit in the leg huh, well how about that I got hit in the stomach. It serves no purpose to compare insults and wounds. What we do know is that Muslims in the US have not faced similar systematic oppression that African Americans have faced and continue to face as a group. I always make that distinction and so do the facts of history.

Racism is a daily battle and we know what battles require from a person. It’s a constant state of being in a war zone, of having to defend, and being alert. Being in this sort of state will not only take a toll on emotional wellbeing, but it can also be of danger to one’s health.

Just evaluate how you feel when you are insulted or when you constantly feel under threat, because of a personal identifier such as skin color, religious affiliation or gender? How about being treated like a second class person by other members of your society-how would that make you feel? Your body will undergo a lot of stress and strain, which is detrimental to your overall health. Having a positive attitude about the world may surely help in your wellbeing, but if this battle is constant in your daily life then there will be negative consequences to your health.

This whole conversation reminded me of a documentary called: When the Bough Breaks,” Episode 2 of “UNNATURAL CAUSES: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?”

Alarmed at the differences in pregnancy outcomes between African American women and white women, Dr. Richard David one of the researchers says: “There is something about growing up as a black female in the United States that is not good for your child bearing health.”

Here’s what the researchers found:

• Infant mortality rates for college graduate white woman was 3.7/1,000 births, but for college graduate black women it was much higher at 10.2/1,000.

• Here was the shocker, since higher education means higher income, which correlates with better health outcomes, however in this case black college graduate women (10.2/1,000) had worse infant mortality rates than white women without a high school education (9.9/100)

Clearly socioeconomics in this regard is not a factor, since highly educated African American women have worse infant mortality rates than white women who are high school dropouts, thus so the researchers thought it maybe genetics. Something to do with African genes could explain this difference infant mortality rates.

To test this theory they did an interesting study comparing African American women, white women, and African immigrant women. The genetic factor is dismissed, because African women had similar birth outcomes to white women, but it only took one generation for those African women to have much poorer pregnancy outcomes than white woman.

What could explain this alarming difference? It’s not socioecnomics and it’s not genetics. What do black women face daily that white women don’t have to worry about? Well the researchers pointed to racism as a big risk factor.

“Racism is taking a heavy toll on African American children even before they leave their mother’s wombs”

Quite a powerful statement that caught my attention in the video and is similar to the sentiments I read over at Clutch and hear from African Americans I know personally that made me think of this documentary I watched long ago. Racism is not good for our health, but it’s not something to so easily dismiss either.

Here are parts to the video. I also recommend checking out more of their videos. Educational information.


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