The Perils of Declaring Racism a ‘Public Health Emergency’

June 24, 2021 Updated: June 28, 2021


With COVID-19 apparently on the decline, the technocrats who eagerly seized upon the pandemic to justify hobbling American liberty are now advocating for the declaration of racism as a “public health emergency.”

Such a policy would enable the governing class and our corporate overseers to deploy the same power tools in the fight against racism that were recently utilized to combat the virus, such as regulatory fiat, massive resource redirection, Big Tech censoring heterodox opinions—you get the drill.

The idea is quickly gaining ground. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently declared racism to be a “public health threat” because of the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on minority communities. That’s an issue certainly worthy of study and remediation. But many advocates want to go further.

An article recently published in The Hill exemplifies that advocacy. Action for Racial Equity CEO Tanisha M. Sullivan—make special note of that E-word—wrote, “Declaring racism a public health crisis positions us to confront racism as we would any other crisis for which we are seeking a solution: by studying its roots, tracking the data and developing science-based interventions that will result in its eradication.”

Well, no. Declaring a national health emergency wouldn’t root out racism, as that term has traditionally been understood as referring to equality. Rather, the point would be to make race-obsession an official governing norm, that is, to pursue “equity”—equality of group outcomes, a utopian quest that, in the real world, can never be achieved. And therein lies the peril.

Don’t take my word for it. A recent advocacy column published in The Lancet—the world’s oldest medical journal that, in recent years, has gone full-bore woke—advocated that public health policy “move beyond a color-blind gender lens” and make “racial consciousness” an “omnipresent factor influencing global health practice, research and outcomes.”

Similarly, last June, the American Academy of Family Physicians declared, “It is time for the United States to officially recognize racism as a public health issue and declare a public health emergency to address the negative impacts racism is having on the physical and mental wellbeing of millions of people.” One of the curatives the group advocates is “striving for health equity.”

Look, every decent person opposes racism. Indeed, treating people in a discriminatory manner because of the color of their skin is profoundly wrong, because it denies them the equal dignity and respect they’re owed simply and merely because they’re human.

But that’s not what our would-be overlords are talking about. Rather, they want to pursue “anti-racism,” as defined by author Ibram X. Kendi. Under Kendi’s definition, racism is found in just about everything. For example, in his book “How to Be an Anti-Racist”—which is all the rage among the ruling elite—Kendi defines racism circularly as “a collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity that are substantiated by racist ideas.”

Note the emphasis on “equity.” How does Kendi suggest remedying such an open-ended definition? Why, through invidious means: “The only remedy to racial discrimination is antiracist discrimination”—in other words, policies that treat us differently depending upon our ancestry.

It’s not just Kendi. The New England Journal of Medicine—which is as woke as The Lancet—published an advocacy piece in April specifically calling for racial discrimination in medicine.

“To promote equity”—there’s that word again—author Neil K. Aggarwal, M.D. writes, “The Biden administration should distribute [medical] resources differentially in order to benefit groups that are persistently disadvantaged.”

Not only that, but the concept of “health” would be expanded to include “disparities of mutually reinforcing systems in the housing, education, employment, economic, health care, and criminal justice sectors.” In other words, the declared emergency would both discriminate against those considered privileged and expand the reach of “health policy” into just about everything.

Declaring racism to be a public health emergency would also inflate the concept’s meaning well beyond issues involving actual medical wellbeing. Under the law, a public health emergency exists when, “a disease or disorder presents a public health emergency … including significant outbreaks of infectious diseases or bioterrorist attacks.”

Racism is evil, but it’s not “infectious,” nor is it a medically identifiable “disease” or “disorder.” It’s a cultural affliction. Moreover, if racism can be declared a public health emergency, so can just about any issue about which the technocratic class would rather rule than govern—think global warming. But then, that may be part of the point.

Ironically, the equity agenda often leads to ludicrous policies. Take legislation just passed in Oregon suspending tests of high school students to ensure that graduates learned the “essential skills” required to function in society, defined by the Oregon Department of Education, as the ability to “read and comprehend a variety of texts, write clearly and accurately, and apply mathematics in a variety of settings.”

Why adopt such a ridiculously harmful law? According to the statute, in order to study “whether the requirements for high school diplomas in this state have been applied inequitably to different student populations.” This means that, in the name of equity, some Oregon students may graduate high school without knowing how to read or balance a checkbook. Now, imagine such idiotic policies implemented on a national scale, and the risk of declaring racism a national health emergency becomes all too clear!

How surrealistic could this get? African Americans’ successes could even be twisted into evidence of racism. That includes the election of Barack Obama as president, which Kendi just opined in The Atlantic, wasn’t anti-racist because “this was the moment when the American people created the original postracial project that is bearing down on Americans yet again, like a knife over a nation’s heart.” Good grief!

Look, it wasn’t “equity” that crushed the systemically racist policies known as Jim Crow and broke the terrorist grip of the Ku Klux Klan. It was the Civil Rights Movement’s righteous invocation of equality.

That’s the American creed! That’s the way of unity. That’s the road that will finally lead us to Martin Luther King’s “promised land.”

Wesley J. Smith is the chairman of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Wesley J. Smith
Wesley J. Smith
Award-winning author Wesley J. Smith is chairman of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism and a consultant to the Patients Rights Council. His latest book is “Culture of Death: The Age of ‘Do Harm’ Medicine.”