(9th and 10th Grade Category)
3rd prize: Raaida Naser of Somerset, NJ
Topic: The impact of racism on the well-being of a community
Title: Why Our Communities Will Never Be Equal
Humans are all molded from the clay of the Earth and born from a single blood clot, but racism continues to ravage our communities like wildfire to dry brush. Racism is a problem humanity has had no resolution to despite its progression and many technological advancements, and it has snuck itself into a variety of problems that plague the nation. In communities all over the United States, racism impacts all aspects of living, including housing and healthcare, both necessities for individuals living in a well-developed community.
Mary K. Cummington, a writer for the Urban Institute, writes, “housing plays a critical role in providing stability to poor families,” a statement proven repeatedly but never acted upon. Housing correlates to stability, poor housing correlates with poverty, and poverty correlates with racism. Poverty disproportionately affects BIPOC in the United States, with 25% of Native Americans and 21% of Black Americans likely living below the poverty threshold. Research done by the Brookings Institutes in 2016 displayed that the median household income for Black families was a mere $17,600 compared to white families at a median household income of $171,000. This disparity is due to the cycle of poverty amongst black families dating back to slavery and discrimination in the work field. Without the proper income, house ownership becomes difficult, which is why communities that are inhabited primarily by people of color contain poorer housing than communities with a white majority. The Urban Institute reports that students from unstable and overcrowded households are less likely to graduate high school or do proficiently in school. This correlation between income, housing stability, and education creates a vicious cycle of poverty that is difficult to escape.
Healthcare is essential in a world filled with illness-causing agents, clearly demonstrated by the recent COVID-19 crisis. Although it has been long established that access to healthcare is crucial, how does racism play a role in medical treatment? A cruel but honest fact, it is true that there is racial injustice and inequality even in places where patients should be treated equally. Black patients receive second-rate treatment compared to their white counterparts. They are often more likely to be placed lower on organ donor lists and receive “less desirable” treatments such as amputation. They are also expected to be prescribed antipsychotics despite their proven adverse effects, according to the National Academy of Medicine. Racism has even snuck into medical textbooks, instructing doctors that specific races require different treatment due to “genetic differences,” a rhetoric that has long been disproven. Besides racial discrimination in the field, race also affects the general health status of a community. Studies by the Urban Institute show that lower-income neighborhoods (often primarily composed of POC) had increased emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and mental health-related visits. Overall, racism plays a hidden yet dangerous role in a person’s health and healthcare.
In conclusion, racism is tragically entrenched in the United States housing and healthcare systems. People of color don’t have the same opportunities as their white counterparts, which is determined from the moment they are born. For the rest of their lives, they struggle with hidden inequalities in systems that are supposed to be just. As a result, they live in broken communities, their potential and opportunities hindered by years of systematic injustice. It is the duty of every American to dismantle racism so that people of color can live freely without fear that they will be treated differently by those blinded by prejudice.