July 17, 2007

Racism hurts...literally

How Racism Hurts the BodyResearch into the physical effects of racism on its victims could help explain a disparity in health across races and reframe racism as a health issue. Health experts have long blamed racial disparities on social forces, linking higher rates of disease and death among African-Americans to joblessness, unsafe housing, and other inequities. This round of research, which scientists stress is preliminary, seeks to establish if racism itself plays a role in the disparity. In more than 100 studies on the subject, most of them published since 2000, some patterns have been established, reports Madeline Drexler for the Boston Globe.

Discrimination seems to act as a source of chronic stress the same way that marital conflict or strains at work do, increasing the stress hormone cortisol, raising blood pressure, and suppressing the immune system. High stress also has been linked to unhealthy behaviors such as overeating or smoking. When African-Americans are shown a racially provocative scene on television—a white store clerk racially insulting a black customer, for example—their blood pressure and heart rates rise. It also takes a longer time for those indicators to return to normal than usual. A yet-to-be-published study by Elizabeth Brondolo, a psychologist at St. John’s University in New York found that racism experienced in the day led to elevated blood pressure at night, suggesting the body can’t turn off its stress response.

1 comment:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Preliminary or no, if conditioned responses even to imaginary or fictional racism occur among those who have been subjected to such racism, an opposite quantity also is being indicated. And that would be that racism itself also is a conditioned response, which writerfella maintains is fostered and perpetuated by families, peers, schools, churches, communities, -AND- the media.
Has anyone thought to measure the physiological and psychological effects of racism on those who practice racism? In like manner, those effects may not go away very soon, either.
In THE NOTEBOOKS OF LAZARUS LONG, Robert A. Heinlein had his millennia-old sage discourse on religion and children: "If I chose between giving a child cookies and teaching him religion, I believe I would give him cookies. The results would be very pleasant and nowhere near as long-lasting..."
All Best
Russ Bates