06.30.2020

Black Americans experience deadly stress as a pandemic and violent racism collide, experts say

Black Americans experience deadly stress as a pandemic and violent racism collide, experts say Photo by Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc. file

Protests over the killing of George Floyd have pushed to the forefront a particular fact long known by medical professionals: Racism kills, and it may be the main cause of health disparities between whites and Blacks.

In a recent essay, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, California's first surgeon general, wrote: "As a doctor and a policymaker, I often hear the question 'what is it about black and brown people' that makes us more vulnerable to the virus? That question infuriates me. Science makes clear how powerfully our experiences and environments shape our biology."

In her essay, Burke Harris said the images of masked protesters carrying "Black Lives Matter" signs are starkly juxtapose "the heroic efforts we are all making to protect our communities from coronavirus against our feckless efforts to curb the sickness of racism that has infected America since its birth."

"In those images is also a reminder that the disproportionate death rate of black and brown people from Covid-19 is no coincidence. It is directly related to the history of racial oppression in our nation."

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