In America, Blacks cannot walk (RIP Trayvon Martin,) run (RIP Arbery,) or sleep (RIP Breonna Taylor) without being shot and killed.Blackness is not the root of inequity—racism in the system is the primary problem. White Americans must acknowledge complicity in maintaining systemic racism and the epigenetic trauma it inflicts upon Black Americans. To be sure, Clifford Glover and Ahmaud Arbery have taught me the meaning of white privilege in a way I never understood before. Isn’t it past time to change the conversation about the responsibilities of holding privilege in America? My message boils down to this: we can be good, kind, loving people who have benefited from a system steeped in white supremacy and still have the humility to say—this must stop.
This past summer, I volunteered in Tijuana, Mexico at a clinic serving patients in the Migrant Protection Protocol program, or MPP. Also known as “Remain in Mexico,” MPP sends migrants who appear at official places of entry along the U.S. border seeking asylum, back to Mexico to await future immigration hearing dates.
Why did this picture seize our attention? Is it because Valeria’s’ tiny body is tucked inside her father’s shirt and we can vividly see her clinging to him as they drowned? Or is it because we know if they had made it across safely, the two would have been separated anyway? Or is it because every parent understands the desperation it took for a father to swim across a swirling river while carrying his 2-year-old daughter on his back?
Structural racism is the biased societal approach to housing, education, employment, healthcare, and criminal justice. As scientists study racial health disparities in depth, a picture begins to emerge that there are bigger, stronger, and more insidious forces at play than economics alone. The psychological stress generated by unfair treatment may trigger a biological series of events that lead to worsened health outcomes in the long term.