Racism and its cousin prejudice are probably the number one problem affecting Americans today. Studies done since the country’s founding have illustrated the tremendous toll that levied by these twin poisons on the American people. In the later part of the last decade a study was done to determine the affect of racism and prejudice on Black women in America. The results started many but surprised few Blacks.
Researchers determined that Black women pay a big price simply for being Black. The study looked at 400 women in the middle part of their life to see what kinds of stress and risk factors they might have accumulated over the course of their life. The women studied overwhelmingly named racism as the primary cause of stress in their lives. These women were looked at by doctors and it was revealed that those who made this claim had more plaque in their carotid or heart arteries. This plaque in these locations are an early sign of heart disease leading to stroke and heart attacks. To be sure, there were some women who did not show this result. However the numbers of the women in the group were very small. This study was the first to link hardening of the arteries to racial discrimination.
This particular study is just one a very fast growing field of research that attempts to document the physical effects of racism and prejudice on the body. 100 studies have been completed since the year 2000. Some have been able to successfully link blood pressure to repeated encounters with bigotry or racial bias. Other studies have recorded the changes in the cardiovascular systems of Blacks while subjected to racist imagery in a laboratory setting. Another study is going on now and attempting to target how prejudice and racism affect the workings of the brain during exposure to the provocative events.
Some of the studies and their findings are considered controversial and much of the research is said to be preliminary in nature. However, experts admit that the findings once proven can and probably will change the way people look at racism and health. Documenting racism and prejudice as a public health problem could have wide ranging implications for the country. For example, look at the way re-framing child abuse or domestic violence as a public health concern changed the laws and the way people viewed this kind of abuse. The same thing could happen with racism and prejudice, opening up doors to better understanding.
Changing the way to look at how racism affects health would allow researchers to figure out why certain chronic illnesses only crop in certain ethnicities. For example, why pregnant women in California, with Arabic surnames are more likely to deliver low birth weight babies. This began occurring after the 9/11 attacks. Fear or doctors and fear of prejudice against Muslims are two of the causes under study. Many of the results seen in the previous studies are consistent and constant. The goal of experts is to determine the actual underlying cause of the problems
Critics of the research alleging ties between racism and disease cry foul because they say there is no objective way to measure or quantify racism and prejudice. This is despite more advanced study methods and technology being developed daily. Most of the work in this area is being done in America, because of it blatant and dubious past and present history of friction among the races. Other studies have been done in other countries around the world and Black women has shown similar results globally.