The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the depths and reach of racism on the health of children, families, and individuals, with communities of color in California experiencing higher rates of illness, death, and overall hardship due to the virus. This devastation must be the catalyst for California policymakers to acknowledge that racism has caused lasting and negative impacts on communities of color. While some local policymakers in California have declared racism as a public health crisis, there has not been a declaration at the state level. This Report provides a high level overview on how health inequities are a direct consequence of historic and ongoing racism. The integration of racist policies and practices in various systems — specifically housing, environment, employment, health care, justice system, and education — prevents many communities the opportunity to be healthy and thrive. Only by first declaring racism a public health crisis can we then begin to minimize, neutralize, and dismantle the systems of racism that create inequalities in health for Californians.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted Black and
brown communities, exposing the damaging effects of racism in
California. This was not by accident, but by design.
In this report, you’ll find:
- California & COVID-19: Why Policymakers Must Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis
- Communities of Color Are Hardest Hit by COVID-19 Pandemic
- Health Inequities Are Tied to Structural Racism
- How Does Everyday Racial Discrimination Harm the Health of People of Color?
- Federal, State, and Local Policies and Practices Rooted in Racism Have Produced an Inequitable California
- Racism Has Produced an Inequitable California
Antiracist policies are policies that aim to dismantle the racism in social, political, and economic systems and structures that lead to racial inequities. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have underscored racism embedded in these systems and structures, and policymakers should follow an antiracist framework in responding to and recovering from the pandemic.
Health equity is when everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible and no one is disadvantaged from achieving this because of their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, the neighborhood they live in, or any other “socially defined circumstance.” While COVID-19 has set California back from advancing health equity, policymakers must prevent health disparities from widening and address a fundamental root cause of health inequities: racism.
Health disparities are differences in health status among populations — segmented by geographic localities, gender, race or ethnicity, education, income, or disability. For instance, Black Californians have the highest incidence and mortality rates for all types of cancer compared to other racial groups. Given that cancer is one of the conditions that put people at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, this is one example of a racial health disparity that is directly tied to COVID-19 outcomes.
Health inequities are avoidable differences in health that are rooted in social injustices that make some groups more vulnerable to poor health outcomes than others. For example, a health inequity is the increased rate of hospitalization for asthma in children living near busy roads; in California, children of color are far more likely to live near busy roads. Asthma may increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Institutional racism refers to racially discriminatory policies and practices carried out within or between individual institutions. Such policies may not explicitly name and target any group based on race or ethnicity, but their effect is to create advantages for white people and to oppress people of color.
Interpersonal racism refers to discrimination on the basis of race that occurs between individuals, such as verbal or physical aggression. For instance, many Asian Americans have experienced incidents of interpersonal racism since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with about 3 in 10 Asian adults reporting that they have been subject to slurs or jokes. In this Report, interpersonal racism and racial discrimination are used interchangeably
Racial equity is the notion that race should not predict life outcomes and opportunities available to all people. The goal of racial equity is to ensure fairness and justice in a society, where everyone can prosper regardless of race or ethnicity.
Social Determinants of Health
Social determinants of health are the conditions in which people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health outcomes. Inequities in the social determinants of health, such as living in a crowded home or working in an essential service, put people of color at increased risk of getting sick or even dying from COVID-19.
Structural racism refers to the cultural, institutional, and interpersonal policies or practices that produce adverse outcomes and conditions for people of color compared to white people.