Bluford Healthcare Leadership Institute › Forums › 2020 BHLI Cohort Engagement › From Separate to Equal and The 1619 Project › Reply To: From Separate to Equal and The 1619 Project
E) The founding ideologies of America including freedom and individuality are the frameworks of our government along with our economic system. However, it must not be forgotten that these original ideologies were constructed with hopes to benefit only white men. Even with amendments that encourage inclusivity and condemn inequality across race and gender, the founding ideologies of the nation are persistent in advocating these goals for white men first and foremost. Throughout the 1619 Project, the most prominent stories and research that tie back to health-related issues can be connected through the national economy. I believe that factors that influence economic status can play a large role in a community’s health.
In the 1619 Project America’s capitalistic economy was stated to practice “low-road capitalism” where “inequality reigns and poverty spreads.” Even though time has passed, as stated previously the founding ideologies of the government and economy have been able to become more overtly integrated into these systems. This American economy owes its economic rise to the cruel practices of slavery and the denial of slavery’s impact on black people.
The American economy embedded the importance of materialism in society by using it to assert one’s status. American history shows that for many years land ownership was associated with political power and social status. As the economy developed other means of ownership, aside from land, became symbols of wealth and political power. Ownership of material goods are most often the other forms of displaying social status. The concept of materialism is amplified in the black community as black people were considered property for so long. Repercussions from this mindset have caused many within the black community to feel a need to prove themselves socially. In order to fulfill this, a culture of conspicuous consumption has been widely practiced in the African American community in order to prove oneself as equals in social status to their white counterparts. Despite having lower overall median incomes black people and Hispanics tend to spend 30% more than white people of comparable incomes on goods that are seen by the public, causing minority families to save less and spend less on all other areas except housing (“Conspicuous Consumption and Race”).
By focusing on the purchase of material goods, it takes away from prioritizing what can be invested in oneself, from a perspective of wealth accumulation or in one’s health. Investing in materialism allows African Americans to avoid placing trust or seeking help in systems that have historically mistreated black people. The distrust has been gained through the countless unethical experiments conducted such as the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and even in modern day practices of racial bias in the perception of pain-tolerance causing the black maternal death rate to be three times higher than white women experiencing similar conditions (“Black & African American Communities and Mental Health”). Distrust is most prominently found in the stigmas around mental health treatment within the African American community. A combination of stigmas and access to proper health care cause only one out of three African Americans who need mental health care services to receive them (Mental Health Disparities African Americans). The impacts of America’s capitalistic culture that was based on slavery has an effect on the financial decisions that African American communities tend to make. Historical systemic maltreatment of black patients and barriers from healthcare such as exclusionary practices of denying employer-based insurance and misallocation of funds have further discouraged being advised and aided by the American healthcare system, especially in low-income minority neighborhoods. The culture of conspicuous consumption is not the fault of African Americans but is instead a habit that has been ingrained into this community by derivatives of a slave economy. In return, this impacts the finances of many African American communities.
Along with the stressors of not being able to obtain adequate health care, due to financial reasons, payday cash stores disproportionately have negative impacts on lower-income African American populations. As they provide a way to have quick access to money their costs can outweigh the benefits. These negative impacts are prevalent in restricting financial freedom along with contributing to financial stressors. Six out of seven payday lenders cannot pay their principle on time causing them to pay high-interest rates on it for weeks or even months (Sweet et al.). One third to one-fourth of Americans who do not have credit scores use payday loans, both the population who is impacted by poor credit scores and those who use payday loans are more likely to be low-income people of color in urban areas (Sweet et al.). The concentration of payday lenders is consistently found to be in minority neighborhoods and in those that are considered financially vulnerable, making it easier to exploit these populations (Ilan Guedj). Furthermore, biomarkers of risk factors and poor-self reported health are more likely to be found in payday loan users in a comparative study (Sweet et al.). Even though the correlation between health and use of payday loans could be linked to other covariates the relationship between financial security and health is still prevalent and should not be ignored.
Overall, the construction of the American economy was not meant for providing financial security for black people. After the economy was built off of commoditizing black people, racial tensions post-slavery attempted to restrict African Americans from gaining any sort of political power. To do so this meant enacting policies along with regulation at all levels of government that jeopardized the financial success and general health and well-being of African Americans. It has been recognized that people with lower incomes have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic disorders when compared to wealthier Americans (Woolf). Financial matters of wealth, income, land ownership and access to credit play a role in the health of a community. America’s attempts to discourage the upward mobility of black people have been controlled by history. The ties between race, finances, and health play in society have not been adequately addressed in order to build a stronger relationship of trust between the black community and the healthcare system.