I read some posts from my friend Chantilly over at BiculturalMom.com about the Un-Fair Campaign that explain the difference between prejudice, discrimination and racism:
Chantilly also pointed out this post from Spillerena that begins to explain white privilege:
- How many people know that there is racism in the food system--in New Orleans, or anywhere for that matter?
- Reading about racism in the food system on a blog featuring agriculture reminded me of an interview from The Sun magazine with Dr. Robert Bullard, who according to Michelle McCrary of Is That Your Child? is known to many as the "founder of environmental justice."
That's right. According to this definition, the consequences of true racism are premature death. Calling someone a name is mean, but does it cause premature death? Not hiring someone based on their skin color--could that lead to premature death? That definition from Ruthie Gilmore really puts things in perspective. Cries of "reverse racism" don't quite have as much weight when you use premature death as the definitive measure of true racism. Much of what we traditionally see as racism is blatant. But true racism isn't always as blatant as a KKK member burning a cross or a young white teen murdering an innocent black man by driving over him in a truck. Premature death can be caused by a society's production of goods or exploitation of people just because they are different from the majority.
There's a Harvard study that spells out what we all need to do to lengthen our lives (in other words--to prevent premature death.) It includes things like eating right, exercising both your mind and your body, and getting fresh air. If you choose not to do these things you are putting yourself at risk. But what if society makes it very difficult for you to choose otherwise?
ON EATING RIGHT
- From the U.S. Census Bureau report on poverty: For children identified as Black the poverty rate was 38.2 percent (4.0 million), twice as high as the rate for White children and the highest poverty rate among the race and ethnic groups presented in this report (Figure 3). It is hard to eat right when you can’t afford to buy food.
- Despite a higher poverty rate, marketing campaigns for fast food focus primarily on people of color. That's right: people of color have less money, but fast food and junk food retailers want them to spend what little they have on their products. This is a long tradition--check out this 1976 McDonald's ad via The Grio:
It's hard to eat right when you don't have much money and society bombards you with ads encouraging you to spend what you do have "Lovin' It"or "Havin' it Your Way."
According to the Rudd Center study, African-American children and teens see at least 50 percent more fast food ads than their white peers. That is, African-American children see nearly twice as many calories as white children see in fast food TV advertisements each day. Read more here on The Grio.
ON EXERCISING YOUR MIND AND BODY
According to The President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition:
- Nearly 40% of African American and Hispanic youth are overweight or obese, compared with 29% of white youth
- If current trends continue, by 2030, 86.3% of adults will be overweight or obese. African American women (96.9%) and Mexican American men (91.1%) would be most affected. Read more here.
According to government reports about education it's harder for people of color to exercise their minds, too. More white students are proficient on assessment tests than students of color. More students of color are kicked out of school for disciplinary reasons than white students (and it's hard to exercise your mind if you're regularly suspended from school.)
ON GETTING FRESH AIR
Check out this excerpt from the interview with Robert Bullard in The Sun:
Cowell: What types of environmental hazards do you see most often in low-income and African American communities? Bullard: It’s mostly waste. Everybody produces waste regardless of class or race, but not everybody has to live near where the waste is dumped. We did a study of commercial hazardous-waste facilities and found that more than half of the residents living within a two-mile radius of these facilities were people of color. When you look at two or more of these facilities in close proximity, that number jumps to 69 percent, and it’s likely that there aren’t just two or three but four or five in a single area. When smelters, refineries, and chemical plants are located near schools, the students attending those schools are predominantly low income and minority. And if you live in a community of color, you are two and a half times more likely to live near a polluting facility. That’s part of the reason why zip codes and neighborhoods are consistent, powerful predictors of people’s health.
Your zip code determines your access to clean air, and that zip code is largely determined by your income. Income level directly correlates to skin color. More people of color are in poverty than are white people (see US Census on poverty link above.)
OKAY, so to be healthy and live longer lives we human beings need to eat right, to exercise our bodies and minds, and to get fresh air. Our society makes each of these things more difficult for people of color than it does for white people. That means that people of color are at risk of premature death due to a system of injustice. THAT is RACISM.