How Racism Threatens Public Health

Racial profiling is a threat to public health because it exposes people to discrimination and the fear of discrimination. Race may be a social construct, but racism materializes in poor health.

What's the Latest Development?


This week, hearings will begin in New York City over whether its "stop and frisk" policy, which gives police the right to stop innocent individuals on the street, constitutes racial profiling. According to a report released by the Center for Constitutional Rights, in 2011, there were 685,724 stops. In 70 of 76 precincts, greater than 50 percent of stops targeted blacks and Latinos. In 33 precincts, that number skyrockets to over 90 percent. "Perhaps most shockingly, the number of stops of young black men (168,126) actually exceeded the number of young black men in New York City (158,406)."

What's the Big Idea?

Racism not only threatens the integrity of justice, it also threatens our very bodily integrity. Individuals who live in societies that subject them to racial discrimination experience higher rates of stress and, as a result, have higher mortality rates. Their children's mortality rates are also higher. Nancy Krieger, a leading sociologist, wrote in 2005: "At a time when the first generation of African Americans born in the post-Jim Crow Era is only 40 years old, it is probably not accidental that current life expectancy among African Americans resembles that of White Americans 40 years ago."

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