By Ryan Velez
When we talk about health issues in the Black community, it is generally tied to economic issues. Black people don’t have the money to afford healthcare and health resources, so their health is worse. This seems pretty binary, and logical, knowing what we know about Black wealth. However, a recent article by Pacific Standard shows that things may not be as simple as we thought. Even being wealthy when Black doesn’t get rid of all health issues.
This comes from data from a study performed by Ohio State University. The study covers racial disparities in non-poor African Americans and Hispanics and analyzed the effects that chronic and widespread discrimination and misinformation has on health outcomes.
“I’ve had this long-standing theory that members of underrepresented racial minorities would have fewer health returns from upward mobility,” says study co-author Cynthia Colen, an associate professor at Ohio State University. “Upward mobility is certainly better than the alternative,” she says, “but it doesn’t make everything better—particularly health outcomes.”
One such story comes from a study participant, Kenesha (not her real name), who experienced this first-hand when moving to a white, prosperous Atlanta suburb. “At work, as one of three black women in the finance department, I was subject to my own micro-aggressions, like being called the name of the other black woman who worked in HR because our names ‘sounded alike.’ Yet, we looked nothing alike, nor did we work in the same department,” she says. This included more extreme examples, like being targeted at a red light with a man with a Confederate flag.
In time, this seeped into her children’s social development. “The thing that hurt the most was that those that were in our same socioeconomic class would be ‘nice’ on the outside, but we were still not accepted into their social group. Birthday party invites for our children weren’t reciprocated, and no one but parents of other minority children would extend playdate invites,” she says. “This was a big problem because our children were often the only black children in their class, [and] they weren’t getting the same childhood experience as their white peers.”
“Too often what happens when we are designing these prevention programs and policies is we completely ignore the needs of non-poor racial and ethnic minorities,” Colen says. “[These disparities] are not going to go away simply by anti-poverty campaigns.”