Did You Know?

Did You Know? - Structural Racism

Did you know...the Minnesota legislature formally recognized racism as a public health crisis in June? The resolution recognizes several components to support the resolution, including that race is a social construct with no biological basis and that racism is embedded in the foundation of America, beginning with slavery in 1619. They go on further to note that several medical societies, including the American Public Health Association recognize how racism is an urgent public health issue that will exacerbate health disparities.

2020 has been a year of massive change and upheaval. The recent killings of unarmed Black Americans (George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others) and the overwhelmingly devastating effects of COVID-19 on Black, Hispanic and Native American people have revealed discriminatory structures in our American social systems that are set up to advantage white people and to disadvantage people who are not white. The structures in our society guide what access we have to education, jobs, housing, personal safety, and family/social support (the Social Determinants of Health).

As this video shows, housing can effect so many of these health determinants. The type of home you live in depends primarily on how much money you can afford to put towards housing expenses. If you can’t afford a large house payment, you may end up living in a poorer neighborhood. The people in this poorer neighborhood can’t pay as many dollars to taxes so the publicly funded schools in that neighborhood don’t get as much money. In turn that means the schools can’t provide as many educational opportunities to their students. This can mean that the children from that school don’t get as good of an education, and therefore aren’t as qualified to find a good paying job upon graduation, which can mean they can’t afford much for housing costs, and the whole cycle starts over again for the next generation.

But what if that system was set up to discriminate? In the 1940s and ‘50s, as America was recovering from the economic downturn from World War II, the push was to create economic development partly through new home construction and suburb development. The Federal Housing Administration created policies and practices to promote that growth, but specifically to support white people. The FHA would only give the construction company a loan to build the home if they promised to not sell it to anyone that was Black.

We cannot achieve health equity without acknowledging and breaking down racist structures. What do you think are some ways we can remove these structures? We'd love to know your thoughts — visit our Facebook post and submit a comment.

Our "Did You Know?" features are to help members of our communities better understand what supports health, how health is created in the community and how structures inside the community have an influence on health.