Racism as a Public Health Crisis
At the close of 2019, Pittsburgh declared embedded racism “a public health crisis affecting our entire city.” This was an act of recognition by the city’s leaders of the profound impact of racial inequities on the health of its black and brown residents. It is easy to understand the threats to neighborhoods made proximate to landfills, industrial parks, chemical plants, and other sources of toxic air, water, and soil. Less obvious are the ongoing assaults from the cultural and social pollution of white supremacy.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscore the need to think more broadly about public health:
Our health is also determined in part by access to social and economic opportunities; the resources and supports available in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities; the quality of our schooling; the safety of our workplaces…and the nature of our social interactions and relationships. The conditions in which we live explain in part why some Americans are healthier than others and why Americans more generally are not as healthy as they could be.