From food deserts to a lack of healthcare facilities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged that racism is a serious threat to the public’s health. Fox8 report

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in communities of color that have experienced disproportionate case counts and deaths by saying:

“Racism is not just the discrimination against one group based on the color of their skin or their race or ethnicity, but the structural barriers that impact racial and ethnic groups differently to influence where a person lives, where they work, where their children play, and where they gather in community.”

“We can’t go back and change the past, but what we can do is we can invest in those communities now,” Dr. Thomas LaVeist, Dean of Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

“People who are subject to racism themselves begin to incorporate and believe these negative values about themselves which is, of course, a devastating form of racism,” he said, adding it can negatively affect the mental and physical health of millions of people– even perhaps leading them to unhealthy behaviors.

Dr. LaVeist said those affected by racism typically live in communities that have been struggling from a lack of investment for decades.

“If you’ve got a vaccine that needs to be kept at -70 degrees and there is no facility with a freezer that can do that within miles of that community, how do you administer a vaccine that community?” he said

At Xavier University, a COVID-19 vaccine event brought 3,000 doses to anyone in need. President Reynold Verret said when it comes to the overall health of oppressed communities, representation matters.

“You want representation in medicine, representation in courts, representation in Congress, representation in classrooms. It’s important that we are one people,” he said. “Denialism keeps us from confronting our realities and the only way we can move forward is by acknowledging our realities.”

A reality where people are living in communities with differential access to resources that are necessary to live a healthy lifestyle.

“I think the CDC taking on racism as a health risk factor is extremely important as long as it comes with the change in the allocation of resources and emphasis on programming to address racism and health,” said LaVeist.