Markers of white supremacy: Follow the science

Trauma, reparations and God’s transforming love: Part II of a series

By Rev. Rick King

Since George Floyd’s killing nearly two years ago, the U.S. has given itself permission to talk more openly of racism, to tell and hear unheard stories of trauma that is generations old, and also to acknowledge that white supremacy has scientifically verifiable effects on human lives.

This item from the Yale School of the Environment:

“Indigenous nations across the U.S. have lost 98.9 percent of their land base since European settlers first laid claim to the continent. A team led by environment school professor Justin Farrell found that that dispossession has made Native communities especially vulnerable to climate change. Indigenous peoples, forced out of their historical lands and onto lands with fewer natural resources, are more exposed to climate hazards: extreme heat, greater wildfire risks, and more. Farrell hopes the information can be used to right inequities, mitigate risks, and improve Indigenous peoples’ lives.”

And this:

“Babies, especially Black babies, who were born to socioeconomically disadvantaged mothers and exposed in the womb to contaminants from the Flint [Michigan] River often have low birth rates. The School of Public Health researchers who found the pattern say it’s an effect of systemic racism, generated by public policies on housing, water sources, education, and more. Birth weights can predict life outcomes, such as school performance and salary level. The researchers will keep studying Flint-area birth weights to learn more about the long-term effect of water contamination and how to address the inequities.” (Both items from Yale Alumni Magazine, Jan./Feb. 2022 issue.)

So much of my focus as a pastor and activist is on the religious, social, and political realms that for a long time I didn’t pay as much attention to the sciences in understanding contemporary problems that our faith addresses. But I’m married to someone whose training is in public health, so I notice more research than I used to.

These days, seldom does a day go by when I fail to note findings like these, above, in which science is proving empirically what Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) have experienced for hundreds of years: that racism embedded in policies, practices, laws, treaties, and unspoken agreements has long-term effects on the bodies, living spaces, and survival of human beings who are not white, wealthy, and powerful.

The fact that research such as this is getting more coverage in the media is a hopeful sign.

What evidence have you noticed of racism’s effect on people’s ability to thrive? I’d appreciate hearing from you!