‘To think about race outside of health now seems almost ridiculous’

May 21, 2020
Howard Stevenson

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfold this spring—and communities of color in the United States have been disproportionately harmed—Howard Stevenson has been struck by all the pretending our leaders are doing.

In a wide-ranging conversation on the Third Space podcast, Stevenson, a clinical psychologist and Penn GSE expert on mental health and racial literacy, discussed the death of Ahmaud Abery, the importance of talking to kids about race, and improving conversations with children in schools. But Stevenson and host Jen Cort started by talking about the proven link between race and health.

“One of the strange experiences is watching professionals or politicians talking about the racial disparities like it’s a new phenomenon,” Stevenson said. “We’ve known for a century how systemic racism affects not only employment outcomes and educational outcomes, but health outcomes.

“What’s illuminated is not so much the disparities, but the ignorance and the incompetence about how these disparities would have affected us at this time.”

In his work, Stevenson has explored how racial stress and trauma affect physical and mental health. After the pandemic, those connections should be at the forefront of how we all think about public health policy, Stevenson said.

“To think about race outside of health now seems almost ridiculous,” Stevenson said. “That’s the way we’re approaching it.” 

Listen to the full episode here.