Racism as a Public Health Crisis

In honor of National Public Health Week (April 5-11, 2021), a member of our staff reflects on racism as a public health crisis. 

I was asked to write about racism as a public health crisis. Such a monumental topic to dissect, analyze and put into coherent thought. I’ll admit that I didn’t even know where to begin before typing this. Systemic, structural and institutional racism affects arguably almost every aspect of life for me. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly about racism makes it a public health crisis. When the pandemic hit last year, it was hard to ignore the spotlight shown on health disparities in Black communities. As the year progressed, even harder to ignore the disparities in childcare, access to nutritious food and quality education among Black and Brown communities when we had to learn what “remote learning” was. 

Declaring racism as a public health crisis to me is a step towards addressing racism at the systemic level in our community and actually doing something about it. For me, in its simplest form, declaring racism as a public health crisis is essential for my kid’s future. There’s only so much we can do as parents to raise them, teach them and protect them before they’re turned loose into a world where they will undoubtedly be met with racism. There’s only so much my husband and I can do to equip them in navigating racism. Change has to come with complete paradigm shifts, cultural changes, unlearning of racist ideologies, changes in state and local laws etc. Looking at racism as a public health crisis is a start.