• Gator Quad


Updated: Oct 22, 2020

New York police officers beating protesters with batons on May 30. Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Brian Resnick. Police Brutality is a Health Crisis. Vox, 01 June 2020.

This article resonates with me as a human being and historian. In the recent months, many Americans are learning two things central to the history of medicine--1) that epidemics are revelatory moments about societies; and 2) that health and disease are experienced differently by members of society according to their race, ethnicity, sexuality, economic status, and other facets of our identities.

The two are connected in the idea that police brutality and COVID-19 are both public health crises. Indeed, the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic are exposing forms of violence linked to systemic racism--the violence the global health scholar Paul Farmer calls “structural violence,” a concept used to explain and confront health and wealth disparities.

Health expert: Police violence against black people is a "pandemic" (CBS News, 11 June 2020)

Reading this article also got me thinking more about the politicization of the pandemic surrounding arguments about masks. We should be thinking more broadly: the idea of systemic racism as a pandemic asks us to recognize that health and disease are more than biological events. They are also the products of social determinants we have in our power to address in the search for a more just, equitable, and healthy society.

~~ Dr. Kenneth Pinnow (Professor, History Department at Allegheny College)

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