Discrimination Makes Me Sick — Literally
Anticipated stress is bad for health
This piece was originally published in Above the Noise, Burness’ Medium publication. Check it out here.
I have a list of “make sures,” quick mental reminders to keep me from getting into unpleasant situations.
- “Make sure you keep an extra 20-dollar bill in your wallet just in case you’re somewhere that doesn’t accept credit.”
- “Make sure you carry an umbrella because you never know when it’s going to rain.”
- “Make sure you stop for gas when you reach a quarter of tank so that you don’t run out on the highway.”
Most of them are light-hearted and have minor significance. Then there are others that, for me, as a black man, feel like the difference between life and death.
- “Make sure you don’t wear a hooded sweatshirt at night so that you don’t give someone reason to follow or harass you out of fear.”
- “Make sure you don’t reach for anything too quickly so that someone doesn’t mistake your wallet for a gun.”
- “Make sure you double check your tail lights before you drive anywhere so that you won’t be stopped, arrested or shot.”
Although these are now well publicized life-or-death situations for black men, when I think about preempting them, I sometimes feel like I’m being too dramatic. After all, I’ve never experienced overt discrimination.
But lately my concerns have been validated. In working with Harvard professor David Williams to explore the connections between racism and health, I’m learning that it’s quite common for people of color to keep mental “make sure” lists — and that it’s bad for our health.
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