Blom also talked about what councilors learned from Dr. Alan Melnick, the county’s public health officer, following a request from the local League of United Latin American Citizens to declare systemic racism a public health threat.
“We asked Dr. Melnick to bring us the data on that, and it was three pages looking at things like life expectancy if you are born in Clark County and you are Black, if you are born in Clark County and you are Latinx, if you are born in Clark County and you are white. You are more likely to live longer if you are white. … That has to do with access to health care, access to healthy foods. We need to address those things on public health.”
Much of the discussion about systemic racism has focused on criminal justice and police brutality. That certainly is a piece of the issue — an important one, but only a piece. Because racism is not only about the actions of rogue officers who get captured on camera, and it is not only about virulent racists who wave their bigotry in the air. It often is about the things we don’t see or the things that white America take for granted — like a fully stocked grocery store nearby.
Those grocery stores are most likely to be in fairly affluent areas inhabited largely by white people. That has to do with poverty as much as race, but when multiple studies find, as Harvard University wrote, “African American and Asian job applicants who mask their race on resumes seem to have better success getting job interviews,” the issue becomes self-perpetuating.
Now, all of this is likely generating a few eye-rolls. You, after all, are not racist. Your family is not racist and your ancestors never owned slaves and no living Blacks in America were ever slaves and we all should just pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. That position is understandable, and it can be difficult for those of us born into privilege to empathize with others’ experiences. We’re only human, after all.
But as self-described “non-liberal” columnist Megan McArdle wrote for The Washington Post: “This could happen even if the people making discriminatory decisions have no particular animus toward black people. All it takes is a slight preference for people whom they perceive to be ‘like me.’ ”
Which, I suppose, is the point of the whole discussion. Even as we struggle to grasp it.