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Can Racism Affect Your Health?

By HERWriter Blogger
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It has been forty-nine years since Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I have a dream" speech at the March on Washington. He hoped for a day when his Black children could play with White children and when anyone could grow up to be anything he or she wanted.

No doubt that he would be thrilled that an African American is president of the United States.  But, has his "dream" been achieved? Does racism still exist? And if it does, what effects does it have on an individual?

Fran, who blogs at www.bossygirl1980.com, recently wrote about having her child called the "n" word in a Florida mass market store.  She writes "in my 31 years of living, I have never experienced ANYONE calling me a [N word].   I’ve lived in Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia and I have never seen such outward RACISM but I guess this is a lesson I needed to learn. Today was an important lesson for me to learn, racism is still alive and well."

While it could be seen as a good sign that it took this woman 31 years to hear the "n" word, her outrage at hearing it shows that it still carries a heavy weight with many African Americans. And it is not just a matter of right and wrong. Studies show racism can actually cause illnesses. 

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) reported in 2003 that studies in the United States found correlations between perceived racial discrimination and hypertension, birth weight, self-related health, and sick days.  The BMJ also referenced a British study that found that victims of discrimination were "more likely to have respiratory illness, hypertension, a long term limiting illness, anxiety, depression, and psychosis."  

Kat Roberson, a Caucasian woman married to an African American man with five biracial children, has seen racism in many forms and that has moved her to launch the website, http://raciallycharged.com.

The tag line for the site, "One world. One skin. One love." shows that while she believes racism does exist, there are ways to move past it.  By talking about it and standing up against it, Kat hopes to lessen its impact.  And by moving beyond racism and discrimination, people may actually stay healthier.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.