Tony N. Brown
Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Sociology
Associate Director, Center for Research on Health Disparities
Health Policy Associate, Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College
What is racism’s impact on black people?
Today social scientists struggle to specify the meaning and significance of racism for U.S. blacks and blacks of the global south. The struggle continues because we do not think seriously enough about race, racism is poorly measured, we are more comfortable talking about socioeconomic status, and there is a shortage of high-quality data centralizing blacks’ experiences. I am interested in how racism works, from the womb to the tomb, to disadvantage blacks and privilege whites. Its workings include interactions across individual, institutional, and cultural levels, implicating the mundane and extraordinary in the maintenance of white supremacy.
In my work, I avoid the tendency of attempting to explain away the race coefficient. Instead, I choose to focus on heterogeneity within black populations with the understanding that race is socially constructed and involves complex measures. For example, we found that black parents before, during, and after Brown v Board protests consistently taught their children that whites were prejudiced, despite the fact that many suggested the civil rights movement eliminated racism and that we live currently in a color-blind society. In another manuscript, I argue that racism is a pathogen that alters how researchers measure psychiatric disorders. I outline five novel psychiatric disorders that are prevalent because of racism, challenging those who think racial inequality is reducible to socioeconomic status or that mainstream paradigms like the stress process model fully explain the burden of blackness.