Racism Is Suffocating All of Us
The Covid-19 virus lodges in the lungs, fills air sacs with fluid, and ultimately makes it impossible for victims to breathe. And we all know that without air, we die.
George Floyd knew this truth as he pleaded “I can’t breathe” to the police officer digging a knee into the back of his neck in Minneapolis last week. Is it a coincidence that in the midst of a global pandemic that is slowly and disproportionately suffocating thousands of Black lives, the callous suffocation of yet another Black human has propelled people around the world to rise up against the racist systems that have nurtured these very results?
Racism is built into the very fiber of the United States.
It started when the first Europeans landed on our shores and felt they had an essential right to plunder the resources they found without regard for the people already living here or the land itself. It continued as their descendants killed and exploited people who were different from them to gain land, labor, and power.
These colonists institutionalized slavery and patriarchy with legal systems written by and for themselves. They denied people of color and women opportunities to learn, earn a living, and make their own life choices.
Even as brave women and men of all colors fought for and won emancipation, suffrage, and other rights, racism became more devious but no less powerful. Racism is core to redlining, voter suppression, medical disparities, school funding formulas, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the criminal justice system. Institutionalized racism infiltrates every aspect of our society—our neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, prisons, government, and workplaces.
Racism poisons the air we breathe. Sometimes it seems invisible, and other times, like now, its putrid stench is too much to bear and we must take action to eliminate it so we—all of us—can breathe freely.
- Talk to your colleagues about racism.
- Talk to your family about racism.
- Talk to your children about racism.
- Talk to your neighbors about racism.
- Talk to your friends about racism.
- Talk to your community leaders about racism.
- Talk to your elected officials about racism.
Don’t let another life be unnecessarily smothered. Listen, learn, act, breathe, repeat.
Afraid of starting a conversation? Read this first: Conversation Roadblocks and How to Surmount Them.
Vice President, Science Writer and Advisor
Joy Ohm collaborates with colleagues in the Research department to conceptualize, write, and manage Catalyst’s cutting-edge knowledge products. She works with Catalyst experts and thought leaders to tell engaging stories with our data and create reports and tools that Catalyst Supporters can use as a roadmap for change. She is…