This time in American history, we saw yet another unjust murder: George Floyd, a black man whose name has been added to a devastatingly long list.
This event is not isolated. America has responded in outrage, protests, and cries for change.
I’m proud to be able to say that I work for a company that actively seeks to dismantle systems of oppression and end racism in America. Lessonbee joins the voices of those standing against prejudice, rising with pure intention for the betterment of society.
You may wonder what health education has to do with this topic. I assure you, it is of extreme relevance for this simple fact: Racism is detrimental to our health. In our formative years, we’re bombarded with peer pressure, expectations, and curricular memorization. What we really need is perspective.
In the United States, black students are not met with the same representation their white peers are privy to. And further, they don’t have access to the same medical treatment, the same resources, or the same mentors to turn to with questions and concerns.
“Racism is a toxic stress that contributes to chronically elevated stress hormone levels that can lead to changes in the brain, immune system and DNA of those targeted by racism.” Says Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P., associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.
This is no secret, and still it persists.
Health education is the backbone of success in all areas of life. It all stems from the level of value we feel for ourselves and others. If children are missing that sense of value, they grow to be narrow-minded, prejudiced, lost, displaced.
Health education should not be limited to a one-week event , presentation, or a few pamphlets. It's more than condom demonstrations and drug awareness. When students gain an understanding of their peers, in both directions, they are more likely to embrace empathy, compassion, and value for those who are different than themselves.
In a TED Talk on how racism makes us sick, Professor David R. Williams emphasizes how everyday discrimination builds up over the course of a lifetime using one of the scales he developed to measure racism. It captures subtler instances of discrimination, such as: Being treated with less courtesy than others, receiving poorer service then others at a restaurant or a store, and people behaving as if afraid of you.
“This scale captures ways in which the dignity and the respect of people who society does not value, is chipped away, on a daily basis.” Says Professor Williams.
Whether conscious of this truth or not, it remains true. That includes biases and prejudices.
Considering that truth makes the lack of representation—or the poor representation—of black people across all levels of standard education even more of a disgrace to this nation.
When we say that a substantial health education helps students make better decisions, we don’t point to the choice between a candy bar or an apple for a snack. We reference the decision between acceptance and rejection, empathy and apathy, understanding and ignorance.
We mean the decision to stand together and support one another instead of tearing one another down.
When we strike to the heart of this issue, we find deeply rooted inadequacies within the school system. What are we feeding the minds of our children?
There is not a valid excuse for ignorance or oppression in this age of information, this supposed age of liberty. We must all do our part in bridging the gap, lifting one another, and banishing the prevalence of systemic racism.
By supporting our children—the future—in understanding and care for their fellow members of the human race, we build onto the foundation and hope of a brighter destiny for us all.
There is rarely a better time to be emphatic than in the realm of inequality for black people who are dying needlessly at the hands of those who are meant to uphold the law for the good of the public.
I write this in the hope that America recognizes and acts on the importance of accurate representation in school material. Health education that addresses the entirety of the human experience leads to strong decisions, new perspectives, and opportunities.
There is no real rule of complexion that enables one to be in a higher position than the other. There is no concrete rank that is earned by one's skin pigment. It is in one's character that all is earned and should be measured.