(Hi)stories our bodies tell: experiencing racism

Sharecropper, by Elizabeth Catlett.
Sharecropper, by Elizabeth Catlett.

My latest for Scientific American blogs:

I am currently still reveling in Black History Month. Yes, it is no longer February. But I hope to retain that mindfulness, grasping onto this moment each year that forces us to pay attention to the stories of black peoples across America and draws into stark relief how histories have been written to erase the contributions of people of color. It is a month where we highlight the achievements of the African Diaspora and pay attention to how our present situation has come to be.

As I write this, I am sick. It’s just your run of the mill, achy-runny-stuffy cold, nothing serious. But it comes on the heels of two weeks of frantic activity, high stress, and seemingly endless midterms. Many of us experience this: just as we come out of a stressful period, our bodies break down, we get sick, and we are forced to rest.

But stress is broader and more serious than the worry of turning papers in on time, and the consequences can be much more detrimental than the occasional cold. While momentary stress can help us deal with an impending crisis – the oft-mentioned fight-or-flight response – chronic stress is linked to increased risk of disease. Stress has been linked to everything from heart disease to the ability to cope with cancer. There is also evidence to suggest that long-term social stressors are particularly challenging for us to deal with.

Read more… 

*The image of Sharecropper, 1952, printed 1970, color linoleum cut on cream Japanese paper by Elizabeth Catlett via Wikimedia Commons. Read more aboutthis work and Elizabeth Catlett.

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