San Diego's Billboards are not the Right Way to Address Racism
There is no argument about the need to address racism in today’s America. Still, when San Diego’s officials littered the city with billboards warning black mothers of how racism can hurt their babies long before they are born, I am unsure what the intended message is. Are the officials discouraging black mothers from having babies, or are they genuinely informing black women of the risk racism poses to their unborn babies?
No one knows about racism and the effects of racism more than black mothers, for, after all, every black man or woman who is racially profiled by the police is the son or daughter of a black or brown mother. So, the question is, who do the San Diego officials think needs to be educated on racism and its long-term debilitating trauma? The victim or the perpetrator?
In the United States, black women are 2 to 6 times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women, hence why a good place for San Diego to start educating residents on racism is the hospitals where black people are more at risk of medical negligence. There are documented instances where black women, including black doctors, paid with their lives when their pleas were ignored by the white doctors treating them. Another good place for San Diego to spend the taxpayer’s money is the San Diego police and sheriff department, where recent data shows minorities are disproportionately targeted.
Policymakers in San Diego have been called to act and address the injustices faced by black and brown residents but to no avail. Christie Hill, a deputy advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties, spoke about the county’s policing disparities. Mr. Hill said,
“The Union-Tribune’s analysis affirms what community members have been saying for years about experiencing a different type of policing compared to White people in our region. There’s anger, justified anger, about the lack of action, not only from law enforcement but our elected leaders because there were studies done in the early 2000s that found disparities in how the police were conducting traffic stops.”
Instead of consulting and putting to good use the taxpayer’s money to fight against racism, the county instead opted to educate the victims of discrimination about the trauma they carry around.
The Billboard advertisements, which read, “Our black babies are nearly 60% more likely to be premature due to discrimination. Racism hurts your baby long before they’re born,” has divided public opinion. While the majority of folks, including myself, would agree that there are far better things to spend money on educating and contributing to the fight against racism, there are political leaders who would rather deny the scale of racism in America.
Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego city council member and chairman of Reform California, addressing his dismay on the billboards, said,
“The big lie is that somehow America is filled with racism — when in fact, America has made so much progress on that issue. It’s truly something to celebrate.”
Feel-good slogans are good. Yet when they undermine society as a collective by saying we have come a long way from slavery and that Americans must celebrate whatever little freedom is thrown their way, the result is more hurt and anger, as shown during the Black Lives Matter protests.
Mr. DeMaio is worried that the billboards would erode public trust in doctors and hospitals. Multiple studies showed that black people are victims of racial bias in medicine. The belief held is that black people are biologically different from white Americans and can withstand more pain because black people have thinner skin. Mr. Demaio’s concern is, therefore, entirely too late as trust has already been a casualty.
While San Diego’s attempt to tackle racism in this form of scaring the victims of bigotry should be condemned, perhaps they should also be commended for making Americans discuss the current woes of Racism in America.
If billboards are San Diego’s favorite medium of information, perhaps it would have been ideal to have those billboards near police departments and hospitals. That would have informed the city that black people feel pain like any other human being and deserve care. Black people also need to be respected and their rights not violated when interacting with those entrusted to protect them and their constitutional rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Do you believe the billboards will improve racism in San Diego?