Systemic Racism in the US is a Quantifiable Healthcare Crisis for BIPOC Communities

A young Black man with dreadlocks in a white button-up, short-sleeved shirt, olive green cargo shorts, and white & black nike low-tops, wearing a PPE mask, walking in front of a large "Black Lives Matter" sign draped over a black metal chain-link fence.

A Harsh Reality

It’s no secret that Systemic Racism in the US is a Quantifiable Healthcare Crisis for BIPOC Communities. But just how significant is this crisis?

We’ve discussed institutional racism on HealthGenYZ before, and will continue to make it a primary topic of discourse, as it’s directly related to every aspect of healthcare & healthcare delivery. Other studies have carefully documented & revealed the wide-reaching impacts of systemic racism, and how it impacts the overall health of BIPOC communities:

But even with all of that, there’s still the matter of prevalent, systemic racism within our criminal justice system. And if you’ve been following current events in the US, once again, we’re faced with the harsh reality of a biased, and very racist criminal justice system. I wish I could say that the tragic shooting of Jacob Blake wasn’t part of a systemic problem, but it is. I wish I could say that we’ll never experience such a tragedy again, but we will (and have already). I wish I could say that our elected leaders have learned from their negligence, are aware of the countless studies, and are actively pushing through legislation to mitigate the potential for such a violent act of assault from ever happening again at the hands of police, but they aren’t. 

Performative Activism

It seems as if there’s just no escaping the prevalent nature of systemic racism in the US. And to be honest, why would there be? Systemic racism in the United States is as American as apple pie. We talk about how far we’ve come, as a country, to move away from white supremacy, and systemic racism, but time and time again, the statistics, and ultimately, the real-time live-streamed footage reveals the ugly truth that that’s just not true. At best, as a society, we’ve gotten really good at performative activism, with little to no results to show for actually moving the needle forward for real, substantive change, other than the occasional shout out from some debutant celebrity in a Pepsi Commercial (thanks, Pepsi & Kendall. I don’t think either of you will be living that down anytime soon).

Changing a social media avatar black, or taking a knee at the Emancipation Hall in the US Capital is performative, at best, and ultimately empty in authenticity and action. And that kind of empty action is used repeatedly in a tired attempt to placate people who are mostly affected by the inaction of our elected leaders, who are solely responsible for allowing the abysmal trend of white supremacy & systemic racism to thrive in the US. 

So let’s talk about that for a moment. Because it’s obvious there are those who think changing an avatar black, or taking a photo of holding a fist in the air is participating, and helping. And you know what? Perhaps that kind of action is, in fact, helping to drive discourse within micro-communities of family, friends, colleagues, and other cohorts.

Restorative Justice

Hey, I’m not one to dismiss those who want to help. But if people REALLY want to make a difference, areas where we really need to focus action & substantive change is towards restorative justice. We need to prioritize the value of human life over inanimate objects. We need to eliminate our for-profit prison systems. We especially need to eliminate corporate lobbying groups, like A.L.E.C., who are solely responsible for drafting, and pushing through the Prison Industries Act in DC, which exploits the 13th amendment, allowing for private prisons to exploit incarcerated individuals to be used as a slave labor force for production, manufacturing, and customer service needs for multibillionaire corporate conglomerates. 

That, alone is just one major piece of the puzzle. We also have the issues of our law enforcement being systematically placed within our public school system, under the guise of deterring school shooters, and providing safety for faculty & students in public schools as SROs (School Resource Officers).

However, upon in depth research, there is literally no quantifiable data to support the claim that school resource officers actually help to deter school shooters. Other research reveals that, overall, SROs are, in fact, a problem for many Black, LGBTQ, and Special Needs youth. Unfortunately the Department of Education (headed by Betsy Devos), has deliberately withheld the latest analytics dataset of arrests, and other SRO interactions with students. Most likely because it would reveal a trend (like past research & analytic datasets have revealed) that SRO interactions with Black, LGBTQ, and Special Needs youth are volatile, to say the least.

As such, the ACLU has filed a FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) request with the DoE to fast-track the latest analytics dataset, so as soon as that information is available, we’ll know for certain just how effective SROs have actually been, as of late. Although if it’s following the trend, then chances are that it’s not going to look good for SROs.

Fortunately many public schools have enough internal data to know whether or not SROs have demonstrated to be a good ROI, whether or not they have been effective in providing safety for all of their students, and whether or not it’s a good use of school budgetary resources overall. Based on the wellspring of data available, many public school districts are not renewing their contracts with SROs:

SROs & School-To-Prison Pipeline

The expiration of SRO contracts, and the elimination of SRO presence in our public schools is a great, actionable maneuver, which helps to promote restorative justice, instead of profiteering off of the criminalization of our youth. Which brings me to another point; the real purpose SROs serve is to exploit the critical, emotional development stages of our youth, by creating a school-to-prison pipeline; a practice of vilifying students for their developmental hurdles, and exploiting those circumstances by creating hostile encounters, arresting those students based on their reaction to those hostile encounters, and then sending them to juvenile detention, or worse, adult prison, where then the cycle of violence & trauma is compounded & perpetuated.

On more occasions than I can count, instances of school resource officers have been recorded physically assaulting students in public schools, all of which have resulted in unquantifiable trauma to the youth, lawsuits against the school & school districts, and “disciplinary” action against the SRO responsible for the assault: (please be advised, the images in these videos are incredibly disturbing)

Now these videos are just a sample of the number of incidences where SROs have assaulted BIPOC students, on camera. A simple YouTube search will reveal many pages of recorded incidences of assaults on students by SROs. And in every single instance, school resource officers exacerbated the situations, instead of de-escalating the situation, causing irreparable harm, and unquantifiable trauma to those assaulted by them, as well as those who witnessed the assaults. All students. All youth.

Look, as a parent, seeing this type of violence occur against our youth; seeing these deliberate, unhinged adult authority figures assault students, assaulting our youth (regardless of why), I have to question, not only the qualifications of school leadership that would insist that SROs are necessary, but also the de-escalation qualifications of the SROs themselves. The evidence is irrefutable, and the actions are indefensible. And yet, there are those who still insist that a police presence is necessary in our school system. I just… I just don’t know what state this country is in, when irrefutable, indefensible, axiomatic evidence isn’t enough to sway opinion. That type of willful ignorance is dangerous.

At the end of the day, as a society, we cannot continue the practice of these failed, antiquated, and quite frankly, violent, racist policies that not only affect our youth, but also affect the most marginalized among us, and simply put, are completely ineffective, and also incredibly dangerous. Part of solving a problem is first admitting that there is one. Well, there is a problem in this country. A systemic problem. A problem of systemic racism. 

We need to solve this problem by addressing the root of this problem. And what’s the root of systemic racism? Equity. Jobs. Mental Health Resources. Affordable Healthcare. Housing. Education. As a society, if we’re not actively investing in these areas of critical need, (which impacts families and individuals alike), then what’re we doing? What’s the purpose of any of this, if not to create a prosperous, just society for all?

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