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TO DENIGRATE, IGNORE, OR DISRUPT: Racial Inequality in Health and the Impact of a Policy-induced Breakdown of African American Communities

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2004

Arline T. Geronimus
Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan
J. Phillip Thompson
Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


In this article we seek to show that prevailing ideological viewpoints on Black health misinterpret Black behavior, and that dominant racial ideologies themselves have negative health effects on African American communities. Second, we show that public policies and practices reflecting prevailing ideological viewpoints harm African American communities. Together, these ideologies and policies undermine Black health by adversely impacting the immune, metabolic, and cardiovascular systems, fueling the development or progression of infectious and chronic disease. Third, we argue that health reform pursued within the same prevailing ideological viewpoints that misinterpret Black health problems have limited effectiveness. We argue for culturally appropriate public policies that value African American social perspectives and coping mechanisms. We suggest that substantive health reform is best pursued through a democratic movement that challenges dominant ideological commitments.

© 2004 W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research

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