Ever find yourself sick, but a trip to the doctor doesn’t help? If you’re the member of a minority race, then racism may be the reason you’re ill.
At least, that seems to be the message NYC commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene Mary T. Bassett is trying to send. Bassett, while accepting an award at Columbia University last week, appealed to her colleagues to treat racism as a “cause of poor health.” The award she received was in recognition of her work to provide “knowledge and solutions to achieve social justice through health.”
Although you may not have heard of Bassett, she published a piece in 2015 calling for members of the health field to join the Black Lives Matter movement. “As a mother of black children, I feel a personal urgency for society to acknowledge racism’s impact on the everyday lives of millions of people in the United States and elsewhere and to act to end discrimination,” she wrote. “As a doctor and New York City’s health commissioner, I believe that health professionals have much to contribute to that debate and process. Let’s not sit on the sidelines.’
Her theory is not that racism makes people sick, but that a systemically racist society is to blame for poor health, specifically in black communities, and that there are not enough black people in medicine. (Perhaps underfunding in the public health sector might be playing a role? Just a thought.)
Bassett believes that the Black Lives Matter movement will fix that, although there is no evidence that BLM shares her passion for helping improve public health.