Magazine article The Nation's Health

The Urgency of Naming Racism: Adding Clarity in Time of Conflict

Magazine article The Nation's Health

The Urgency of Naming Racism: Adding Clarity in Time of Conflict

Article excerpt

WITH THE July killings of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, the nation awoke again to a recurring nightmare. The senseless killings of these two black men at the hands of police shocked the nation, as did the senseless killings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge that followed. None of these murders were justified, and we mourn the victims.

The blindness of those who deemed racism to be an unfortunate chapter in our nation's history has been breached. Our cellphones and police cameras capture what our physical and social separation has allowed too many to deny for too long: Racism is alive and well in this nation.

"But wait," some might protest. "I am not a racist! Do not color me with that horrid brush." We as a nation must be clear about what racism is, and what it is not. Here is a definition of racism that can add clarity through the smoke of these fiery, scary times.

Racism is a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks, which is what we call "race." Racism unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities, unfairly advantages other individuals and communities and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources.

It is crucial to understand that racism is a system, not an individual character flaw or a personal moral failing. Racism is a system of power whose mechanisms are in the structures, policies, practices, norms and values of our decision-making.

The impacts of racism are three-fold. …

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