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Is Racial Profiling Hazardous to Your Health? One Study Says, "YES!"

In the United States (U.S.) there are so many things that are detrimental to our health. Artificial sweeteners, char-grilled meat, smog and more are all bad for our health. The New York City government just implemented a ban on all sodas over 16 oz. The logic is since soda contains a high amount of sugar and other additives that are bad for one’s health, limiting the size of the drink will help keep New York City citizens healthy.

However, it’s not just tangible things that are bad for us. Intangible things, like the way we’re treated for instance, can have profound adverse effects on us. According to The DRUID study: racism and self-assessed health status in an indigenous population, an article found on BioMed Central (BMC) Public Health website, the link between racism and physical and mental illness is evident. However, the mitigating factors that contribute to detrimental health effects among racism sufferers are less evident. In the study, scholars Joan Cunningham and Yin C Paradies sought to establish a connection between experienced racism and a decreased sense of well-being from participants. Instead of focusing their work on African Americans in the United States, the researchers chose to study Australia’s indigenous community, otherwise known as Aboriginals.

Even with the different settings, the fact remained that racism and discrimination negatively affected the health of participants surveyed. In the study, it was established that experiencing racism and stereotyping led to, “negative emotional states, reduced self-esteem, low self-efficacy and reduced self-control as well as pessimism, aggression, hyper-vigilance, and rumination.”

Because the study focused on interpersonal racism rather than institutional racism, the variable of ‘perception’ where racism was concerned was a factor. In other words, while the researchers did put forth a questionnaire that asked respondents to recall instances where they were unfairly treated, one person’s perception of fairness and racism might (and likely does) differ from that of another. Since the study question wasn’t “what is racism” however, the information recorded about the participants (regardless of what they perceived as racism) and their health was very relevant to the theory that racism is bad for one’s health.

There’s something to the notion that discrimination can cause havoc to one’s health. Certainly, no one should have to experience it. However, we all know stereotyping and judgement happens nonetheless. Most recently, laws targeting illegal immigrants began surfacing throughout the United States. In Arizona, SB 1070 gives law enforcement officers permission to stop anyone who looks “illegal” (read, Mexican or Hispanic) and ask them to prove their citizenship. If they cannot produce a valid driver’s license, birth certificate, or alien card, they are subject to be taken to immigration for further review and possible deportation.

During summer of 2012, The Supreme Court found that it was not clear whether Arizona law was intended to replace or support federal policy by requiring law enforcement to demand proof of citizenship from anyone stopped, detained or arrested in the state. The law states that officers have to “reasonably suspect” a person is in the country without authorization before using that course of action. However, other than the ‘look’ of a person, how would anyone suspect that one is in the country illegally? Regardless of how much this law resembles legalized racial profiling, it was upheld and the dutiful Arizona law enforcement officers have been enforcing it ever since.

Could you imagine the stress of being scrutinized, stopped, questioned and detained all because you look a certain way? Have you experienced racial profiling and if so, how do you think it affected your health, if at all? Certainly, if this happened enough times it could present a legitimate problem to your health. Like a tyrant boss or toxic work environment, the threat of constant racial profiling can be hazardous to your health.

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