The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared racism a “serious public health threat” Thursday.
“The pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America a known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky wrote. She announced that the CDC would conduct new research on racism and public health, while also increasing diversity within the agency.
The #COVID19 pandemic has illuminated longstanding racial and ethnic health inequities that have persisted in this country for centuries. Learn more about how CDC is working to understand and measure the health impacts of racism. https://t.co/Gtpe22asT3
— CDC (@CDCgov) April 8, 2021
Walensky claimed that racism “is not just the discrimination against one group based on the color of their skin or their race or ethnicity, but the structural barriers that impact racial and ethnic groups differently to influence where a person lives, where they work, where their children play, and where they worship and gather in community.”
Public health officials have pointed to racism as a concern throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes justifying Black Lives Matter protests without social distancing, since “opposition to racism [is] vital to the public health.” Boston, Sacramento, and other cities have declared racism a public health crisis. (RELATED: Ohio Health Official Who Pushed To Declare Racism A Public Health Crisis Reportedly Wore Blackface At 1990 Halloween Party)
The CDC appeared to recommend in December that essential workers should be considered for the coronavirus vaccine based on the percentage of individuals in the category who are racial minorities. (RELATED: ‘Antiracist Agenda’: Boston Hospital Will Offer ‘Preferential Care Based On Race’)
The CDC also created a “Racism and Health” portal explaining the agency’s efforts. It defines racism as “a system—consisting of structures, policies, practices, and norms—that assigns value and determines opportunity based on the way people look or the color of their skin.” That definition, while popular in academic circles, is often debated.
President Joe Biden made racial equity a key part of his presidential campaign, endorsing a study of reparations and specifically targeting racial minorities in his policy proposals. His infrastructure plan includes $20 billion to “advance racial equity and environmental justice.”