I’m an early riser. So, this morning when I read an NPR article title National Geographic’ Reckons With Its Past: ‘For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist, I was floored. The mere fact that a 130 year magazine such as National Geographic can accept the very premise that racism exists within our institutions and then venture to uncover it is awe-inspiring.

National Geographic April 2018

“The photography, like the articles, didn’t simply emphasize difference, but made difference … very exotic, very strange, and put difference into a hierarchy,” Mason tells NPR. “And that hierarchy was very clear: that the West, and especially the English-speaking world, was at the top of the hierarchy. And black and brown people were somewhere underneath.” Laurel Wamsley, NPR, The Two-Way Radio, Breaking News


Two weeks ago Dr. Camara Jones (Senior Fellow, Morehouse School of Medicine) visited CSUMB. In front of a packed audience of students, faculty, and staff, she used allegories to enhance our understanding of institutionalized racism and the negative effect on health. Then, she posed the question: How is racism operating here? This simple question has an underlying premise that is more powerful than the question itself. In order to ask how is racism operating here is to accept the basic supposition that racism exists. But Dr. Jones’ discussion of race focuses on health and the health disadvantages experienced by some groups, in direct comparison to others. She talks about the health care system using an allegory of a cliff. This approach allows those with little awareness of institutionalized racism to embrace the very premise that there is something about the system that structures access and opportunities in a way that some are unfairly disadvantaged while others are unfairly advantaged.

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Dr. Camara Jones (l) Dr. Vanessa Littleton 2015 (r) City as Health Policy Conference, Newark, NJ

According to Dr. Jones, in order to confront institutionalized racism, we must do these three things:

1. Name racism

2. Dismantle racism

3. Organize and strategize to act

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.


Photo Credit: 1. National Geographic. 2. Vanessa Littleton (Dr. Camara Jones & Dr. Vanessa Littleton in 3.5 inch heels) 2015 City as Health Policy Conference