African American History
16 February 2021
I was startled and taken aback by the information I received in the Baked In event on February 16th. I am well aware of more of the broad issues of the various institutions discussed in the event, those mainly being mental health, environmental health, and hospitals and medical practices. I will summarize and explain the facts and statistics I learned in the event and then discuss my thoughts and reactions to the vast knowledge I gained from Jillian Tulis, Martha Fuller, Drew Talley, and Kristopher Hall.
The topic of mental health was orchestral to today’s discussion. Kristopher Hall is a counselor and through his lens as a black man, he dives into the pitfalls and quandaries of mental health and race. Towards the end of the event when the panel leader Jillian Tullis opens up the question of hope for the future, or things on the horizon that are turning the tides of the ongoing fight against institutional racism; Kristopher Hall says that he is a pessimist. He has little hope for significant improvement in attitudes toward race in America. He says he can trust individuals, but he cannot trust institutions. I trembled a little bit after those words transmitted over my computer speaker in a cyberesque echo. I can’t help but agree. Racism isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Naive professors and activists like to point to the younger generation and say, “you guys will be the change” but I simply don’t think this is true. The draw of online hate groups and forums like the less menacing: men going their own way, all the way to things like incels, proud boys, qanon, and straight up neo nazi groups are taking in numbers at frightening rates. On January 6th capitol terrorists wore shirts that bore the sentiment “6 million wasn’t enough” in reference to the amount of Jews killed in the holocaust. Racism is on the rise due in part to discontent, young, fringe white males who blame their problems on “society” and the political climate created by Donald Trump. Kyle Rittenhouse had the audacity to break the conditions of his erroneously granted bail. Mr. Hall’s main point was that the black community as a whole are constantly in fight or flight mode. That they anticipate both micro aggressions and macro racism on a daily basis. This constant worry and encountering of tension, especially in PWI’s (predominantly white institutions) creates an underlying stress and exhaustion. As we have discussed in class at length. Hall also speaks to the totem that is the body, mind and spirit, if one thing is off the others will suffer as the body is a system. In the immediate instance constant fight or flight creates high blood pressure, and if that high blood pressure is never settled it affects the kidneys, the liver, and so on and so forth. Subsequently these black folks are diagnosed with anxiety and depression when oftentimes it comes to socioeconomic, and environmental factors that are making them feel anxious and depressed. Frustrated and hopeless. Clinical psychologists don’t check for these factors because they have not been trained to! Kristopher spells out some questions that could prevent misdiagnosis. Questions like, what do you encounter at work, what kind of neighborhood do you live in, what do you experience on your commute, do you have mouths to feed, do you have debt, are you worried about crime, worried about overpolicing, do you have access to reliable public transportation. All of these are environmental factors that affect one’s psychology. And again, clinicians don’t check! On top of that the black community often stop seeking therapy if their therapist is white and/or if the therapist commits microaggressions. And because there is not enough POC in mental health, these disheartened individuals decline therapy outright. Another thing he outlines is the racial battle fatigue phenomena developed by Dr. William Smith, in which a study done at a PWI detailed the experiences of the black men working there. They not only experienced psychological racism, but physiological and behavioral racism. This torment is not exclusive to men and certainly not African Americans only, it affects all those viewed as “non-white.”
I would also like to address racism in the medical field. To speak on this issue was Dr. Martha Fuller, a former physician practitioner turned academic. She is particularly interested in the ways the black people are marginalized and mistreated by the healthcare system. Unfortunately we’ve all heard the disgusting statistics on black maternal health. Black women are more likely to die at childbirth than white women. We assume in America that pregnancy is safe due to modern medicine but we aren’t aware of how severely black women are affected by this disparity. We measure infant mortality rates out of 1000. For black babies 10.8/1000 die at birth. For white babies, that number is 4.6/1000. Less than half the rate for black babies. How can this be? Black women are not heard. They are often crying out and on the brink of death before attention is given to them and their bodies. A number of things can go wrong during a childbirth and doctors, nurses, etc. are less likely to believe black women when they tell them something is wrong, that they are in pain. More often than not, they are not heard until it’s too late. How can this happen? How can this system be so horrifically flawed? Are black individuals genuinely seen as inferior by the individuals in the hospital? Is it because the color of the skin of the person behind the whitecoat often matches the color of the coat? Can a disproportionate proportion of white healthcare providers be the cause? Kristopher Hall would blame the system. I would too. Doctors are too educated to be racist (hopefully), and implicit bias and tribalism is definitely at play here. But there is currently no solution. Ever wonder why the nicest, fanciest, newest hospitals here in San Diego are north of the 8 freeway? That’s by design. Hospitals are a business and it is more profitable to be in wealthier, predominantly white areas like La Jolla. Yet another folly of capitalism and the military industrial complex. Dr. Fuller also addressed the fact that environmental health issues can affect us on the genetic level! And diet and exercise only account for 30% of a person’s longevity, social environment and habitat accounts for 40%! Which transitions lastly to the final topic…
Lastly, no forum on racism would be complete without discussing environmental racism. As we all know companies place factories, toxic waste plants, loud businesses, airports, and the like in predominantly black neighborhoods because there is less likely to be resistance from the general public and the city councils in these areas. Barrio Logan is a major example of this here in San Diego, their neighborhood is directly under interstate 5, one of the busiest freeways in California. Beautifully, they have transformed the area underneath into a bustling art scene, with murals, parks, and skateparks. But do not let this deter you from the more frightening reality that black kids with asthma are 10x more likely to die than white kids. And that the black community are 75x more likely to live close to a factory, freeway, or toxic waste facility. This is the legacy of something called redlining. Most major cities all throughout the USA used this model when developing their city and planning neighborhoods. The “red zones” were ones where it was dangerous to buy a house if you were white. Real estate, both commercial and residential, was and is cheaper in these areas. And city planning documents from cities INCLUDING San Diego use racist language such as high chance of dangerous negro activity in these areas. In California and other very hot states, these urban heat islands resulted in a death from heat rate at 2x that of whites. In concrete jungles like these it is much easier to die of heat stroke. Dr. Drew Talley, also dropped a bomb when he mentioned national parks here in California used to have designated negro campgrounds that were smaller and less beautiful than the bigger campgrounds and that the blacks were designated to these zones. Today, only 2% of national park visitors are African American. Spending time in the outdoors has proven to lower blood, pressure, stress, and fatigue. It seems a lack of access to forests, hiking trails, and just general green scenery was a tactful play rather than coincidence, insinuating nefarious city planners knew whites did not want black individuals in the parks and forests. To no end do the trials and tribulations of being black interfere with the biological necessity to pursue healthy and purposeful lives. Reconstruction after the civil war is ongoing, and is the most erroneous disaster in American history, besides slavery itself.