Right now, in the United States and around the world, the pervasive cancer of racism is spreading. It reaches us through traditional media, social media feeds, candidates vying for high offices, and in our very neighborhoods. It touches every single one of us in some way, but have you ever thought about what it does to the people who experience it? The answer: it does a lot, and none of it is good.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health cites the results of repeated exposure to racism on those oppressed from England’s University of Manchester, stating that populations experiencing continued racial epithets, violence and discrimination report higher incidences of mental health-related issues than those who don’t. Here in the United States, the vocalization of this issue continues to rise. From the American Psychological Association to The New York Times, the results are loud and clear: the consistent tearing down of a people can slowly erode the mental health of those oppressed. It’s not a proud victory; it’s a crisis of both character and the human condition for those who practice it.
In respect to what we can do to help, each one of us can do quite a bit. We can check our own behavior, and think before we speak or act in prejudice or hatred, not out of “political correctness” but out of genuine compassion. We can call each other out on behavior that degrades another person or an entire class of people. We can stop spreading verbal violence and hate-filled rhetoric on the Internet and social media. We can reach out to hear the other side of the story. We can lend a hand to the oppressed. If we find ourselves in harm’s way, we can do what we can to remove ourselves quickly or we can reject such hatred. If we are mentally sick from all the noise, we can seek help. But there is always something we can do, and in this day and age we must do all we can.
In a world that seems to embrace Twitter battles and a disintegration and outright rejection of a more global, inclusive world, it’s good to remember that words have consequences. We should all think before we speak, lest someday we be in a different position. The tearing down of other races serves no purpose but to raise yourself up on the back of another human being. Eventually, these efforts fail. They always do. Let’s work for a day where we realize that we’re all in this together. It’s a day we work for tirelessly, a day we hope for, a day of grace we hope is coming soon.