Achieving Health Equity by Addressing Legacies of Racial Violence in Public Health Practice

AuthorDarrell Hudson
Published date01 March 2021
Date01 March 2021
Subject MatterSetting the Agenda
ANNALS, AAPSS, 694, March 2021 59
DOI: 10.1177/00027162211015932
Health Equity
by Addressing
Legacies of
Racial Violence
in Public
Health Practice
1015932ANN The Annals Of The American AcademyHealth Equity And Legacies Of Racial Violence
Health equity means that everyone, regardless of their
abilities, economic status, or race/ethnicity, has the
opportunity to reach their optimal level of health.
However, the inequitable distribution of resources,
power, and privilege in the United States means that
historically marginalized communities bear a dispro-
portionate burden of poor health and disease. The
COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the problem
for Black Americans: already bearing an unequal bur-
den of social, economic, and health inequities and
experiencing systemic racism in various sectors of
American life, Black Americans have been at even
greater risk of COVID-19 transmission and severity of
the disease. I use critical race theory (CRT) to show
how key social and historical factors fuel racial health
inequities. Further, I use key tenets of CRT to argue
that redressing historical legacies of racism cannot be
done without using a critical, race conscious lens and
lifting up the voices of Black people.
Keywords: critical race theory; Black Americans; health
inequities; community engagement; policy
The United States has been simultaneously
battling two epidemics, one novel and the
other familiar. The COVID-19 pandemic has
not only claimed the lives of more than five
hundred thousand Americans and counting, but
it has also disproportionately affected Black
people, both in terms of infection risk and bur-
den of disease (Diez Roux 2020; Gabriel etal.,
this volume). Concurrently, the tragic deaths of
unarmed Black people at the hands of police
and vigilantes across the country ignited a wave
of demonstrations in summer 2020, in what some
have called the summer of racial reckoning.
Darrell Hudson is an associate professor at the Brown
School at Washington University in St. Louis and holds
courtesy appointments with the Departments of
Psychiatry and Sociology. His career is dedicated to
the elimination of racial/ethnic health inequities. His
research agenda centers on social determinants of
health, particularly racism.

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