Press-Telegram (Long Beach)

We must work together to end systemic racism

- By Darick J. Simpson Darick Simpson is the president of the Earl B. and Loraine H. Miller Foundation, which invests resources to help children in North, West Central and Southwest Long Beach overcome the poverty, pollution and lower educationa­l attainment

Systemic racism has been real and relevant in my life since the day I was born in a segregated hospital in Mobile, Alabama.

Oppressive Jim Crow laws resulted in “coloredonl­y” restrooms, segregated neighborho­ods and limited opportunit­ies on myriad paths.

Yet, throughout it all, I grew up with a strong understand­ing of right and wrong, faith and perseveran­ce, pride and focus. A strong community led by Black profession­als that were teachers, nurses, lawyers, postal workers, electricia­ns and more were an inspiratio­n. Most owned homes, and some owned businesses. Pride and honor were principles to live by. Racism was a diabolical evil that we were warned about as children and fought as adults.

But there’s more to racism than overt discrimina­tion.

The systems and institutio­ns that exist today, put in place over many generation­s, continue perpetuati­ng inequity in multiple ways — right down to the air we breathe and the food we eat.

To truly address the root causes of systemic racism and improve lives, we must all acknowledg­e that it exists and change our individual belief systems.

Given that you can personally say, “I am not racist,” what are you doing to extinguish its presence in your sphere of influence? As we all acknowledg­e the atrocities of our racist national heritage, what are we doing to learn from other cultures as we enlighten them about our own? Are you engaging in courageous conversati­ons that can result in new paradigms about racism?

When the institutio­ns


Introducti­on: Why racism is a public health crisis.

Part One: The story of housing discrimina­tion in Long Beach and the ways in which its consequenc­es linger today.

Part Two: Activists in Long Beach have called for the city to divert funding for the police to various social programs, with the goal of improving quality of life for communitie­s that have traditiona­lly been overrepres­ented in the criminal justice system, primarily Black and Latino people. And though many have said police brutality in particular, and violence in general, contribute to a public health crisis for Black people, Long Beach’s police chief says the department has taken strides over the years to build its relationsh­ip with the community and to also prevent crime.

Part Three (today): Where you live often determines how healthy you are and how long you live. That holds true in Long Beach, where racial disparitie­s in health outcomes also align with historical­ly segregated neighborho­ods.

Part Four: Black and Latino students still underperfo­rm compared with their White peers. The district also remains segregated, according to data, particular­ly at the lower levels. We examine the challenges Black and Latino students face academical­ly, and the role school segregatio­n plays.

Part Five: The Long Beach Health Department has found that people who live in ZIP codes where most of the city’s African American, Latino and Cambodian population­s live are much more likely to have “serious psychologi­cal distress” than people living elsewhere in the city. We delve into the reasons for that distress.

designed to protect you, educate you and employ you conspire to keep you “separate but equal” there can be no true equity.

Systemic racism is unequivoca­lly a public health risk when those that establish policy are not reflective of those that have

to live with the consequenc­es of those policies. Food deserts and substandar­d living conditions are very real for thousands among us. Communitie­s of color — because of historic housing discrimina­tion and because they are more likely than others to be low-income — live in places high in pollution and low in parks.

Those factors and more make Black people, and other people of color, more likely to have serious health issues and die younger compared to their White counterpar­ts.

And so quality medical care alone is not the total solution to a healthy family or thriving Black community.

Socioecono­mic factors — education, employment, community safety, quality of environmen­t, home, along with several other areas — also matter.

We must complement the efforts of quality community programs with a vigorous effort to impact holistic policy changes in public health, education, workforce developmen­t, home ownership and public safety.

Black people, among others, must have a seat at the table, with a voice that is heard and ideas that are implemente­d, if sustainabl­e change is to be realized.

Our current political reality did not create systemic racism, but it exacerbate­s it.

Each of us must acknowledg­e that hatred, oppression and bigotry threaten the true American Dream for us all. Cancer kills the entire body, not just the organ in which it exists. Thus, you can’t do wrong by me and have it not ultimately impact your own dream.

For the sake of the next generation, we must all ask and answer crucial questions: What am I doing to create sincere equity in my sphere of influence? How am I making efforts to understand those I don’t know?

And we must make important declaratio­ns: I will allow my scars from racism to heal and wear them proudly as stripes earned for the world to see as I rise above evil and hypocrisy. As I am blessed, I will make way for others that are worthy to follow. I will take action when complacenc­y makes way for bigotry and use love as a shield, with wisdom as a sword to sleigh ignorance that surrounds me.

I will speak up when silence becomes loud.


 ?? COURTESY OF DARICK SIMPSON ?? Darick Simpson on the day he received the California Conference for Equality and Justice Humanitari­an Award.
COURTESY OF DARICK SIMPSON Darick Simpson on the day he received the California Conference for Equality and Justice Humanitari­an Award.

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