Two new studies highlight damaging impact of racism on cells and the body
Racism not only increases stress levels in the body, but also causes the body to age faster according to the results of two alarming new studies. In the first, conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Texas at Austin, researchers found that while experiencing racism can cause a spike in stress levels (as you might expect), so can simply thinking about racist occurrences. A group of 100 racially diverse students were given a watch to wear that tracked levels of stress hormones in their skin. They were then sent a variety of different text messages throughout the course of the study, some of which contained racial microaggressions.
“When people experience an incident of racism, their bodies respond to that as a stressor,” said Bridget Goosby, the study’s co-author told science and research news site Phys.org. “This is the initial physiological response that is the beginning of a cascade of symptoms in the body. That continual cascade can lead to wear and tear on the body and to health conditions we see prominently in the African-American community and in some cases the Latinx community.”
In the second and even more impactful study, reported on by the World Economic Forum, researchers at Georgia State University found that people who reported experiencing high levels of racial discrimination were also significantly more likely to develop depression. This depression, they warned, also appeared to greatly increase the speed at which cells age within the body.
To conduct the trial, researchers tracked the health and levels of racism experienced by more than 800 Black families in the span of nearly 25 years. Test subjects were regularly asked to report on incidents of racism they experienced. Researchers also drew their blood regularly, examining it for signs of potential health problems.
“We utilized a technique that examines how old a person is at a cellular level compared with their chronological age,” the study’s co-author Sierra Carter explained. “We found that some young people were older at a cellular level than would have been expected based on their chronological age. Racial discrimination accounted for much of this variation, suggesting that such experiences were accelerating aging.”
According to Carter, these types of findings aren’t necessarily new — previous studies have also linked racism to mental and physical health problems. But, she added, this type of research should further our push to fight racism on every level, not just because of the social and financial impact it can have on people’s lives but also because of the horrible impact it can have on individual’s health as well.
Trump administration loses battle with women detained for speaking Spanish in small Montana town.
Ana Suda and Martha “Mimi” Hernandez simply ran out to buy some eggs and milk on May 16, 2018 — the night they were detained by a U.S. Border patrol agent. The women, who are both U.S. citizens, were in line waiting to pay for their purchase at a convenience store in Havre, Montana, and were chatting in Spanish. Agent Paul O’Neal heard their conversation and approached them, asking where they were born and demanding to see their IDs and paperwork. The women were forced out of the store and into the parking lot to fulfill his order. There, they pulled out a cellphone and began to record the incident. When asked why he detained them, O’Neal can be heard saying “Ma’am, the reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here, and I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here.”
Two years later, in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Suda and Hernandez by the ACLU, NBC News reports that the Trump administration has been forced to settle with the wrongfully detained defendants, with a judge awarding them an undisclosed amount for the harassment they had endured.
The lawsuit cited violation of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures,” arguing that O’Neal had “no reasonable suspicion or probable cause justifying seizure and detention” other than “relying on their use of Spanish as a justification and proxy for race.”
In a statement released after the verdict was announced, Caitlin Borgmann, executive director of the ACLU of Montana, said “As if the racism they experienced at the hands of CBP agents were not enough, our clients also bore the brunt of local backlash as a result of coming forward. They both ultimately left Havre for fear of their families’ safety.” Additional details of the settlement were not released.
2020 was so crazy and unprecedented, it needs numerous words to describe it according to linguistic experts.
Every year, the folks behind the Oxford English Dictionary choose a word or phrase of the year to represent the year that had just passed. In 2018, the word was “toxic.” In 2019, they selected the phrase “climate emergency.” But as everyone knows, 2020 has been a year like no other. Rather than selecting a single word, NPR has reported that this year, Oxford decided to highlight dozens of different words and phrases that came to the forefront of culture and what we’ve all experienced in 2020. Not surprisingly, the group found that use of the word “pandemic” increased by over 57,000% since 2019 and “coronavirus” ranked as one of the most commonly used nouns.
“The English language, like all of us, has had to adapt rapidly and repeatedly this year,” the organization said in a statement following the annoucement. “Given the phenomenal breadth of language change and development during 2020, Oxford Languages concluded that this is a year which cannot be neatly accommodated in one single word.”
“I’ve never witnessed a year in language like the one we’ve just had,” added Oxford Languages President Casper Grathwohl. “It’s both unprecedented and a little ironic — in a year that left us speechless, 2020 has been filled with new words unlike any other.”
The words and phrases the group selected to capture the mood and feeling of 2020 include:
- Social distancing
- R number
- Flattening the curve
- Community transmission
- Black Lives Matter
- Systemic racism
D.I. Fast Facts
Number of cities and counties located in 27 different states where racism has been declared a public health issue.
— USA Today
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