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How Racism Eats Away at the “Whole Health” of Humanity

As a health coach and as a woman of privilege, I must speak out about how racism eats away at the “whole health” of humanity, causing physical and emotional stress for both the victim and the perpetrator in more ways than one. I include the health of the perpetrator because there is no way to treat another human being in a disrespectful, or harmful way and not have it affect your own health as well.

Take officer Derek Chauvin whose unresolved racism finally resulted in the death of George Floyd. The officer must live with the guilt, shame and embarrassment, that he has brought on himself, his family, fellow police officers among others for killing another human being.

Our unresolved racism may not result in the death of another human being, but it can result in the unintentional harm to others. Because of institutional or systematic racism, we may find ourselves part of systems that are hurting others.

Racism is a tough issue for white people to discuss. Its uncomfortable. But this conversation is necessary. Because not doing so may be condoning the existence of bigotry. Discrimination is unfortunately embedded in our society. And for the past several months, I've been trying to figure out the right way to communicate my deep empathy for the black community.

The events and protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder point to the overwhelming existence of systemic oppression in our country. This is heart-wrenching. Systemic and structural racism has been a cancer on our society for centuries. If you look at the outcomes and health disparities alone for black men and women, the evidence is clear and far-reaching.

These issues will not disappear overnight, as they are embedded deep within our culture. But how can individuals of privilege help people of color achieve the basic human right of whole health while we are consumed by racism?

Q: Where do we start when we look to be better humans?

A: We can change our mindset moving forward by educating ourselves about the culture, history, and language of racism. And by talking about it instead of suppressing it.

I’ve started with my own family, in my own home. And now I’m sharing with you.

I’ve been working to heighten my awareness of my own possible blind spots and internal biases. I'm also finding ways to talk about this with my teenagers. So they can grow up not only to not be racist, but to be anti-racist.

My family has recently watched several enlightening movies, such as:

  • Just Mercy

  • Becoming

  • Selma

  • I Am Not Your Negro, and

  • Hidden Figures (for the 3rd time)

I have also read and discussed books with others such as Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult and White Fragility by Robin D'Angelo. And read articles, looking for better paths as we work to become anti-racist.

As a family we have had discussions and chosen charities that we support together, such as:

  • College Possible

  • College Track

  • Family Promise

  • Community Servings, and

  • Rosie’s Place

We have many open conversations about how becoming anti-racist is a process.

We are working to recognize our own biases, where we have fallen short. And how we can improve now and in the future. But I know we can do better. Which is why I'm sharing this with you. There is much more work to be done.

We have a long journey ahead to create true equality in our country. The first step is not only admitting there is a problem, but also doing all in our power to voice the issue, support those who need it, and use this power to make meaningful change in our world.

Just like being healthy, this requires a way of life that supports what we truly desire. For us that means the end of systemic oppression for people of color. And this takes work.

Again, this is a tough conversation. Nothing to be thought of lightly. And it's never too late to make positive change.

In good health!

Holli Bassin

Special thanks to Beth Knaus, Amy Friedman and Ed Gaskin for their support and edits. 

Thanks to Obi Onyeador, Aarón Blanco Tejedor, and Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona for sharing their work on Unsplash. And to Bruce Morrissey for our family photo.

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