It Is More Than Racism That’s Making Us Sick

The National Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement last month that acknowledged the impact of racism on children and adolescents. The statement acknowledges the large and growing body of literature which reflects the experiences many of us have as recipients of racism and promptly comes down on one side or another of the proposed issue, including offerings of approaches and methods to mediate the proposed problem. These sorts of releases tend to pull a “finally!” from the deepest part of my belly—mostly because it takes the first step in acknowledging the lived experiences so many of us have. It acknowledges the fear, anger, hurt and resilience we carry on a daily basis. But I have to make a point that, in reading this, even this mighty step is so far behind that it leaves me a bit shaken.

Beyond the lack of definitive action in the policy’s recommendations, the policy also fails to get to the root of the problem. For example, the policy calls for self-reflection on the part of pediatricians but doesn’t acknowledge severe shortcomings with asking someone who may be unaware of how to identify bias to identify their own personal bias. Not only is identifying one’s own biases difficult to do (on a very personal level), but it assumes that one has the tools available to understand what bias looks like. There are levels to that. Further, the policy does nothing to call for the end of the central issue.

Is implicit or explicit bias between socially-created and commonly understood categories (races) really the problem, or is the fact that these racial categories exist at all? By de-socializing the use of these categories, the National Academy of Pediatrics begins to dismantle the structures upon which racism are built from the very core.

This is true for any and all spaces of categorical belonging (and othering). While cultures may be different between populations, at their core, we really are just people with limited biological differentiation. Instead of these socially imposed categories, can we begin to think of ourselves outside of these social terms, and better identify by common experience (an event, a religious experience, etc.)?  


What do you think? Do you think these national bodies could’ve done more? Do you think we need to continue to identify people by these social categories, or can we abandon them?

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Thicker Grits