Racism's hidden toll

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Does the stress of living in a white-dominated society make African Americans get sick and die younger than their white counterparts? Apparently, yes.[1]

Racists say Blacks living in societies that are not white-dominated live longer? Haiti? Zimbabwe? At least in Detroit Blacks must live longer and in better health than in Seattle. ((need health and life expectancy statistics to prove or disprove the racist position))[citation needed]

Racists say that Blacks create their own social environment, their own ghetto. Racists say that Black IQ and low Black deferred gratification lead to low income, poor neighborhoods, bad schools, and bad health decisions. [citation needed]

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Racism’s Hidden Toll[1]

While the inner-city ghetto is an extreme case, a broad national trend ranges across a variety of health problems, from prostate cancer to hypertension. Since World War II, Americans' health outcomes have generally improved. For minorities, though, progress has come slowly. Blacks now die at a rate comparable to the death rate for whites of 30 years ago. Every year, 100,000 more African Americans die than would be the case if black and white death rates were the same. For many diseases, the situation is worsening: In 1950, blacks had a slightly lower cancer death rate than whites. By 2000, the rate was 30 percent higher among blacks.

Experts have offered three approaches to closing the gap: behavioral (if we could only get them to eat better and exercise more), medical (if we could only give them better health care), and socioeconomic (if we could only get them better education and jobs). After a panoply of interventions, the numbers have barely budged. ...

The more results Geronimus produced, and the more she read, the more she began to agree with the radical notion that it wasn't anything inherent to their race that made black people sick — it was being black in a racist society. The phrase "racism kills" would be a vast oversimplification of Geronimus' ideas, but the way she describes it, racism is a fundamental cause of health disparities. The intolerance may be overt — several studies document high blood pressure and preterm labor among victims of discrimination. It might also be structural or societal, keeping even middle-class blacks in crime-ridden, environmentally poisonous neighborhoods.

Geronimus believes white Americans are too culturally removed from the minority experience to grasp the crisis. They take for granted that they'll be healthy through middle age and essentially ignore those who aren't so lucky. "We haven't lived it, haven't seen it close up. We have a different narrative ... and we all grew up knowing that narrative, seeing everything through that prism. In all these different ways, different life experiences get marginalized and ignored," she says. "That's not for individual, conscious racist reasons, but because we have a highly segregated society and such entrenched inequality that dates back to when racism was in neon lights." [1]