A public health view of global racism

November 18, 2016 at 9:39 am Leave a comment

Many of the CEMCH Scholars attended this year’s meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA), held in Denver, October 29 – November 2. We will be posting their reflections and highlights this month.

By Bejan Foretia, BA

Bejan Foretia at APHA

Bejan Foretia at APHA

APHA 2016 was inspiring and filled with so much potential. The conference hosted 11,000 people consisted of hundreds of sessions led by researchers, students, and medical and public health professionals. Though I am a student in the Maternal & Child Health and the Population, Sexual & Reproductive Health sections of APHA, I chose to visit multiple sessions on variety of topic areas. What I enjoyed the most was the innovation of the research studies and the potential to improve the public health of the nation through a variety of different methods.

A hot topic in our nation today is the on-going racist systems that plague people of color. Because of this, I most appreciated the session hosted by APHA president Dr. Camara Jones’, entitled Racism: A Global View. As an African-American with parents from Central-West Africa, I believe it’s imperative to understand the African diaspora, as well as the components of racism across that diaspora. Within the session, Dr. Jones had a variety of speakers on a panel that discussed racism in the US, South Africa, Brazil, and New Zealand. The most compelling concept was the notion of truth telling, as made popular by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, in considering the struggles of post-apartheid South Africa. This notion stated that the price of forgiveness was to tell the truth about known and unknown injustices towards Black South Africans. This would establish a sense of anti-racism for all races and ethnicities in South Africa. In this way, Mandela and Tutu established a sense of morality within their country and were able to create collaborative efforts to better their country in every way. Industries and organizations that were previously segregated and indifferent towards one another were now able to trust one another and address their country’s issues.

It made me think about the health issues in the black community in the US today. What would be the effect if systematic racism was dismantled, effectively establishing trust among races and ethnicities? In an election year where racism has been more blatant than ever before, I truly appreciated these perspectives because they reminded me that the problem extends beyond this country. However, there are ways to tackle and dismantle oppression, and it begins with truth and forgiveness. Hopefully as the 2016 campaign comes to a close, we move closer to a stronger nation.

Bejanchong Foretia is a first-year MPH student, concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. She graduated with a degree in psychology from Spelman College. She plans to graduate in May 2018. Her interests include infant and reproductive health, as well as global health.  She also loves reading, dancing, and traveling.

 

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