The New Virus Killing People in the U.S: Systemic Racism

This past week we have witnessed several incidents of Racism towards Blacks. The most impacting incident includes the death of George Floyd, a unarmed Black American who was being arrested on alleged forgery. A video soon circulated showing Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, putting his knee on Floyd’s neck, with 3 other officers on the side who just stared. In the video we can hear Floyd saying “I can’t breathe.” Despite this, the officer continues to rest his knee on Floyd’s neck till eventually Floyd stopped breathing and dies on scene. Another racism incident that same week included another Black man, Christian C. Christian C., an avid bird watcher, had asked a woman, Amy Cooper, in Central Park to please leash her dog, as that is the rule. When she started to refuse, he took a video of the dog off the leash and soon she is seen in the video calling the police saying an African American was threatening her life. As she made the call she put her dog on a leash and Christian C. stopped recording and left. These are two incidents in one week, with many more that occurred.

Racism against blacks and other minorities has been present for centuries and has caused the deaths of many. While this may sound jarring, as racism is not a physical tool one can kill with, racism is a driving motivation. In 2013 a movement known as Black Lives Matter Movement was initiated to denote police brutality after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a civilian who shot and killed unarmed Trayvon Martin, after suspicion that he was a danger to the community. After trial, the court decided that is was not racially motivated and that Zimmerman go could free. Later in 2015 the number of fatal shooting from police doubled, and in 2016 more than 250 people had been shot fatally by police with majority being Black, unarmed. In 2018, from Jan to March, 212 unarmed Black Americans were shot and killed. That is only 3 months of the year. When looking at White Americans who are heavily armed and have committed mass shootings, like Nikolas Cruz who killed 17 and Patrick Crusius who killed 22 in Texas, both were arrested with no injuries.

This systemic racism has not only caused deaths but has created barriers towards a better quality of life. It has impeded POC towards getting a better and higher education. According to the AAMC, only 5% of doctors in the U.S are black, and only 5.8% are Hispanic. Racism, both implicit and explicit, has contributed to these lower percentages. Many people disagree and blame personal characteristics like lack of dedication, lack of time management, lack of desire and so on to these low percentages but we must first take a step back.

Let’s say you need to make a doctors appointment, and you look for one online. You find a doctor but it has no picture. You see that the doctor got their medical degree at a well known medical school, and they did their residency at a high ranked hospital. They have extensive research noted on their profile, and are named top doctor in the hospital they work at. Who do you see?

If you saw a white male that is an example of the implicit racism that is creating barriers for POC to get access to higher education. This implicit racism then leads to explicit racism. It leads to people generalizing that POC cannot be doctors, or professors or advisors at school saying blacks or Hispanics are not really meant for being doctors, or lawyers, or CEOs. This then leads to POC having difficulty in advancing in their careers and getting a better quality of life for them and their family. This implicit racism ends up being a domino effect and becoming systemic racism. Racism is a public health issue that the U.S has yet to address.

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