Race is the idea that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioral differences. Despite genetic studies refuting this idea, it has continued to be widely held and used as a convenient means of justifying discrimination against groups that are deemed to be less deserving of equal rights, autonomy, and respect.
Race has been a critical issue throughout history and is still relevant today. This is a social problem that requires bold action. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is so concerned about the way racism affects children that it released a policy statement in 2019.
Health Disparities Due to Racism
People who are members of racial/ethnic minorities are at greater risk for poor health outcomes, including higher rates of obesity and diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. In addition, racism can cause psychological harm, such as PTSD and increased fear of the future.
A 2018 paper found that a person’s race or ethnicity is associated with worse mental health, and that the effects of racism are more widespread than we might think. This is because racism can undermine positive characteristics like resilience and hope, and it can also encourage verbal and physical violence against others.
In the past, a person’s race was often assigned on arbitrary or illogical grounds. For example, Irish and Italian immigrants a century ago were regarded as members of a different, inferior race than whites. This belief in their inferiority helped to justify the harsh treatment they received in the United States.
The concept of race has changed significantly over the years, and some scholars now believe that race is a cultural intervention reflecting specific attitudes and beliefs that were imposed on populations in the wake of western European conquests beginning in the 15th century.
This culturally determined understanding of race is now more common among scholars and scientists, and the scientific community is moving away from a belief that “race” can be biologically defined and attributed to physical and anthropological traits.
Moreover, the genetic science of the late 20th century has shown that people are far more similar than they are different. And, in many ways, that’s a good thing.
But the fact remains that most people still rely on superficial traits, such as skin color and facial features, when talking about their own identity. And that can lead to a sense of self-identification that may not be fair or accurate.
The Census Bureau collects data on race and ancestry because they want to know how well their policies serve all racial groups. This is because people from all races are affected by a range of issues, from poverty to discrimination and economic opportunity.
In a recent study, researchers found that racial/ethnic minority status is linked to higher levels of depression and anxiety in young adults. Those who are more likely to feel oppressed or marginalized also have lower educational attainment and poorer health outcomes than other racial/ethnic groups.