27 September, 2020

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I’m From Sri Lanka: Here’s Why Racism Is Unhealthy

By Minoli Ediriweera

Minoli Ediriweera

Have you ever thought about why racism is unhealthy? As a Sri Lankan living in the United States, I found that it was a common topic of discussion in the classroom. We spent hours learning about the Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I have a dream” speech and studying riots caused by the civil rights movement in the early ’60s. Racism has always been a divisive issue in America, and as a minority I have experienced my fair share of it. But none of it has seemed as polarizing as the current widespread protests across the United States sparked by the Black Lives Matter Movement. It is definitely a moment that will change the course of American history forever.

The United States of America was founded on principles of equality, justice, and freedom on July 4th, 1776. However, it was also founded by white slave-owners who intentionally created a government with discriminatory laws and practices to ensure that they could continue to maintain racial superiority.

After amendments to the U.S. constitution and centuries of struggle, which included a bloody civil war and a powerful civil rights movement, the effects of the institutional racism this country was founded upon are still very apparent in modern-day America.

With the country in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic (which has led to over 100,000 deaths so far) and nation-wide protests sparked by the brutal police killing of a middle-aged black man named George Floyd, the U.S. seems to be falling apart at the seams.

And what these seams are revealing is the reality for many African-Americans in this country: poor health due to their fears of racism and poor access to healthcare to deal with these problems. In fact, it has become such a big problem that American government officials  and healthcare boards are pushing for racism to be declared a public health emergency.

Cities in Minnesota and Ohio are asking for racism to be treated as a health risk, while the American Association of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics reached out to the public to denounce racism and police violence in America (CNN).

The American Academy of Pediatrics even mentioned that racism has been linked to “birth disparities and mental health problems in children”. African-American children are taught self-defense behaviors to protect themselves from police brutality from a young age and have to consistently monitor how they behave in public.

They are also often subject to bullying by classmates and may not receive the same opportunities in school or at work due to discrimination. All of these things lead to increased stress hormones, which can contribute to a variety of emotional and physical illnesses such as depression, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, and high blood pressure.

Coincidentally, the current coronavirus pandemic thrived on these disparities. The Guardian reported that the virus is three times as deadly for African Americans (compared to whites) and decades of systemic discrimination are to blame. Many minorities in the U.S. have struggled for generations socio-economically.

Black people are more likely to work essential jobs that offer little to no paid sick leave and expose them to more pathogens (food service, transportation, etc.). Housing segregation has led many minorities that live in low-income homes to spread the virus much more easily. They may depend more on public transportation and may live far away from essential stores or medical services. African-Americans are less likely to be covered by health insurance, and are already at risk because they tend to more at risk for having underlying conditions (such as hypertension or diabetes) than their white counterparts (CDC).

Even doctors had to make a choice, and they often chose to treat whites over blacks who needed more attention. The coronavirus didn’t just cause damage, it revealed an already-broken healthcare system that lacked the proper foundation to serve all Americans equally.

So where does that leave us? After all, the protests and the pain ask for one thing: change. But rebuilding is not enough. Old laws and systems that discriminate must be dismantled and replaced. New paid sick leave, universal healthcare, job recovery, low-cost college education must be implemented and would be a start to heal the centuries-old racial divide in the United States.

But change must first come in mentality. Teaching children to accept the differences of their peers would prevent young black children from experiencing bullying and therefore undue stress in their lives. Calling out racist behaviors from friends, family members, and even strangers to ensure the creation of a community that shows mutual respect.

Educating yourself about the struggle for civil rights or even the current struggle of your black counterparts will show them you support them, even though you have not experienced their difficulties yourself.

Voting for candidates who will work hard to create more just representation and opportunities for minorities in local, state, and federal elections is the next step.

Feeling less than human is a never-ending narrative that can have countless consequences on mental and physical well being. Living our lives how we want isn’t a gamble for most of us and it shouldn’t have to be that way for African Americans.

Those of us who have the privilege may not be able to single-handedly take down systemic racism in health care or law enforcement, but we can change a neighbor’s perspective on race to ease the anxiety-filled life of the black people in our community. The fight for the racial equality that this country has been promised for centuries is not an already-paved road, but one we will all have to carefully design and build together.

*Minoli Ediriweera is a high school writer in Maryland, USA. She is aspiring towards medical science and is a member of the 2020 Global Health Leaders Conference at Johns Hopkins University.

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Latest comments

  • 11
    1

    One guy said “Slavery was never abolished. It was extended to include all colors”

    Soma

    • 3
      0

      Soma
      How do you define racism in Sri.Lsnka which.eprse.than.in US

      • 4
        0

        Racism is there in every country. Only thing is the degree of racism varies. Can author name a single country which is not racist. There was a discussion among our batch of doctors about racism in USA and when Tamil doctors fired back about their experience of racism in Sri Lanka, Sinhalese doctors called for a cease fire saying let us forget the past and build up a country where everyone could live. This shows that Sinhalese only want to accuse others and when they are accused in return, want to sweep it under. You say that you spent hours learning about Martin Luther Kings famous “I have a dream” speech and the riots that took place in early 60s in USA, did you care to spend even a minute to learn about Prabaharan’s famous “Sudumalai Oration” and the riots that took place in 1983 in Sri Lanka.

        • 1
          4

          Dr. G. S.

          Could you enlighten the readers as to whether this “Sudumalai Oration” was delivered before or after he killed 13 army soldiers which triggered 1983 riots?
          .
          You are equating a Pol Pot to Mahatma Gandhi.
          .
          As you know his dream was articulated in the Vadukkodai Resolution which he adopted to make his “Sudumalai Oration”.
          .
          Please do not insult the Afro Americans in USA.

          Soma

  • 21
    4

    since post-independence era when the country was rolling on all its wheels, the UNP then-leader made the biggest stupidest mistake of appointing his son Dudley as his rightful successor bypassing the most senior SWRD Banda who knew that to dethrone the Senanayaka clan he had to outclass them by forming a party and contesting the 1956 elections on the race card.
    =
    this was the beginning of the curse which befell the rice exporting granary of the east where at the 1956 poll the UNP got the thrashing of its life,
    =
    this was the start of cancer that is malignant till today where the psychologically affected Sinhala man, woman and child feel threatened at the mere thought of associating with a Tamil or a Muslim.?
    being afraid of the minorities they only know to react by acts of discrimination, arson looting murders rape sodomizing and you name the types of frustrated inferior crimes they indulge in.?
    =
    they when the dust settles down cry and moan stating that their costs of living have reached the moon and that they have to pawn their precious belongings including selling their kids to the old white uncles.

    • 1
      8

      rj1952
      Bandaranayake did not use the ‘RACE’ card as highlighted by Demala racists. He capitalized the oppression of Sinhala Buddhists who are the Native people by colonial rulers, Christian Sinhala ‘Kalu Suddas’ and Vella Ala Demala elites who are the descendants of Malabar slaves who licked the sss of Brits to advance his political career.

      In 1948, Brits gave Independence to Sinhala ‘Kalu Suddas’ and Vella Ala elites. For the large majority of Sinhala Buddhists ‘Independence’ was nothing because the above mentioned two groups who ruled the country wanted to continue business as usual.

      Bandaranayake was not assassinated by a Buddhist Monk (Somarama). Behind him there was a Christian Oh See Korea.

      • 6
        1

        What exactly are you trying to say? Are you trying to say that SWRD Bandaranayake is a national hero? If you put your logical hat on and reason things out, you’ll find he was the fundamental cause of all of Sri Lank’s ills. The Senanaiakes and JR Jayawardena did his major bit too and of course, you’ve got the Rajapakshes to continue to torture Mother Lanka. The fact of the matter is Sri Lanka has never had a true national leader.

        • 0
          5

          Rampshang,
          Mahinda Rajapakshe and Gotabhaya Rajapakshe are the true national leaders of Sri Lanka. They earned that status by liberating all the people in Sri Lanka irrespective of race or religion who went through hell for three decades due to barbaric Tamil terrorism.

          “The fact of the matter is Sri Lanka has never had a true national leader.”

          Racist separatist Malabar Vella Ala Dem malu who are the descendants of Dravida slaves brought to Sinhale by colonial parasites are the fundamental cause of all of Sri Lank’s ills.

          “you’ll find he was the fundamental cause of all of Sri Lank’s ills.”

          • 5
            0

            Eagle,
            You blame everybody but your own “Native Sinhalayo” for the mess this country is in. Just go to your history book and check the last time we had a healthy economy. Pre-1956.Who was doing the work then? Cheap labour from India. Who was teaching? Teachers from India. Who was lending money? Chetties and Afghans. Who ran the police and railway? Tamils and Burghers.Who managed big companies? Brits. You get my drift?
            Now tell me who screwed it all up? Why do you pretend to be blind?

    • 1
      9

      rj1952
      The threat from ‘Para’ Demalu (Tamils) did not enter into the minds of Sinhalayo who are the Native people in Sinhale in 1956.
      Sinhalayo who are familiar with their more than 2000 year old history knew the threat posed by ‘Para’ Demala invaders from Hindusthan who invaded Sinhale 52 times from 3rd Century BC and the destruction caused in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa Kingdoms.
      Same ‘Para’ Demalu who came to this country as slaves launched a terrorist campaign to slaughter Sinhalayo to grab North and East of the country to create a separate State for the descendants of Dravida slaves brought to Yapanaya by colonial parasites.
      With the nasty experiences Sinhalayo had with ‘Para’ Demalu, the feeling they have that they are a threat is not a hoax. You know what our elders told about unborn and dead Dem mala.

      Quote “this was the start of cancer that is malignant till today where the psychologically affected Sinhala man, woman and child feel threatened at the mere thought of associating with a Tamil or a Muslim.?” Unquote

      • 5
        2

        You illiterate little idiot. Get civil you the product of suya basa education. Go back to school and learn the history you smelly excrement.

    • 1
      8

      rj1952
      The threat from Mus Lins is also not a hoax as some Mus Lin leaders and academics trying to convince.
      Sinhala Buddhists saved Mus Lin refugees from persecution by Portuguese but in 1915 they betrayed Sinhala Buddhists and collaborated with British to kill Sinhalayo.
      In the recent past, some Mus Lins who got ‘Swollen Heads’ due to money flowing from Middle East and their ability to control Sinhala politicians have started harassing Sinhalayo, especially in the Eastern part of the country. I got this information from Sinhalayo who live in Seruwila.
      Mus Lins vandalize Sinhala Buddhist heritage sites, build mosques on top of them and encroach land belong to temples.
      They carried out terrorist attacks and ruined the economy that was recovering from Tamil terrorism.

      Sinhala Buddhists should not take the threat from Mus Lins lightly in the name of ‘Sanhindiyawa’. If they do, future generations will have to face the consequences.

      Quote “this was the start of cancer that is malignant till today where the psychologically affected Sinhala man, woman and child feel threatened at the mere thought of associating with a Tamil or a Muslim.?” Unquote

    • 6
      2

      Why don’t you carry and tell the whole truth and mention the suya basa, Sinhala Sri Legislation so on and so forth? That Englis educated moron who could not speak Sinhalese passed the legislation which was the cause of the civil war which costs hundreds of thousands of lives since independence. Prabhakaran did not come out of thin air. All the blood spilled in Sri Lanka is in the hands of the Bandaranaike family.

    • 3
      0

      Dear Rohan Johnpillai,
      .
      Thanks. This reads much better, and you’re being rational. I will comment on a few details, maybe a little later when I have the time, and then get on with my life.
      .
      Anonymous Eagle Eye,
      .
      Your comment is hate-filled still, although (upon your enquiry elsewhere) you asked if I hadn’t asked RJ58 to change his style of writing. I’m pretty sure that you didn’t expect to receive my response saying that I had emailed Johnpillai. And it was at great length.
      .
      All decent and responsible readers will without doubt judge for themselves. The overwhelming need is for us to co-exist on this island. Johnpillai is in Melbourne – I told him that as well. To think of the consequences of what he writes upon us who continue to live in the remoter parts of Sri Lanka.
      .
      It is because of the specifics that I included in my two emails to Johnpillai that he must have changed his style of writing. Eagle Eye’s writing will obviously never change. I’d be happy if you prove me wrong, EE.
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe (48 3111 444V) aka “Sinhala_Man”

  • 22
    2

    Ms Minoli ,
    I am equally concerned about the way the blacks are treated in USA

    What is true in USA is true in Sri Lanka as well!

    Racism is unhealthy universally.

    It is doubtful whether the United States of America was founded on the principles of equality, justice, and freedom on July 4th, 1776.

    The founding fathers of USA thought that “man” means white Christian American and that is why even after more than 250years of establishment, the blacks have to fight for equality, justice and freedom.

    You have to be a minority to understand the pain of a minority.

    The majority live in a different world.

    They are indifferent to the pain of a minority.

    Can you name a single country where minorities are treated equally, fairly and with dignity?

    To be born as a minority is a sin

    Ms Minoli your own country Sri Lanka is not an exception. Once you go back to Sri Lanka, you may not feel the same way.

    Shall we start from Sri Lanka in this noble mission?

    • 2
      13

      srikish
      Minorities are treated equally, fairly and with dignity until the day want to be treated fairly, equally and with dignity.

      Soma

      • 6
        0

        Soma,

        In Sri Lanka racism is healthy!

      • 5
        1

        Treating equally means while their property is damaged and lives taken law enforcement watches idly.
        Those atrocities more often than not lead.by.powerful ministers and members of parliament.
        Atleast in US Majority led the protest in several places.
        The people on the force knelt in front of the protesters to say sorry to the protesters.
        You talk of treating fairly arsehole

  • 12
    3

    How can RACISM be gone off from the heads of the AVERAGE people – when BUDDHAGAMA sivuru wearers abuse it on and on ?

    I think it should come from the kindergarten level. Then only, we can pluck the fruits in the course of time. Lanken law makers do the duties of the authorities instead of doing the due reagarding getting the due law reforms done for the benefit of the masses. Getting a tiny law reform costs any govt many more months and they just stay attacking… this has lot do do with srilanken society. Sociologists, historians, psychologists and other professionals should get together for a common consensus building. Then only we can move as one.

    In Europe, even if you you call a black as a ” NIGER” in public, it is a punishable act yet today in Italy, Germany, France and UK. I know this is still not 100% practical in Uk or several other countries but their law and order authorities are well aware of it and even popular soccer players were convicted for having attacked the coloured players in other leagues. :
    .
    But our SO CALLED Pinguththarayas living up their hidden propensities in public would not think twice before going to do it in public. This should be stopped.

    • 7
      0

      Better to be even earlier than at Kindergarten level while the child is feeding from his mothers Brest!.

    • 2
      8

      leelagemalli
      In USA, racism was introduced and practiced by White European Americans against African American minority who are the descendants of slaves brought by Europeans whereas in Sri Lanka, racism was introduced and practiced against Sinhalayo who are the Native people in Sri Lanka by a tiny minority of ‘Oluwa Idimunu’ (swollen-headed) ‘Para’ Malabar Vella Ala Dem Mala descendants of slaves from Malabar brought by European colonial parasites who got English education thanks to Christian Missionaries and a privileged status due to infamous ‘Divide and Rule’ policy of British colonial rulers.

      “How can RACISM be gone off from the heads of the AVERAGE people – when BUDDHAGAMA sivuru wearers abuse it on and on ?”

  • 9
    1

    I believe the peaceful protesters of George Floyd’s killing were very recently labelled “low lifes” by the US president. He even threatened to unleash the US military to bring back “peace” to US cities being blocked and barricaded by masses of civilians of all colours. The record of the US military in foreign theaters against “lesser” people is well known. Crimes against humanity and genocide are common strategies in far away engagements. This is surely a turning point in what America will be in the future. Violence is also permitted by UN conventions if the state is oppressive and is harming society at large. Maybe it’s time to consider these options and not heed all those familiar refrains of “do it peacefully” where nothing happens as a result..

  • 15
    2

    “I’m From Sri Lanka: Here’s Why Racism Is Unhealthy”

    Minoli Ediriweera – from the heading I was expecting your experience of unhealthy Racism in Sri Lanka.

    But there is not a word about Sri Lanka.

    so why it matters you are from Sri Lanka in the context of Racism in USA….unless you are experiencing racism in USA as a brown person?

  • 3
    10

    Tell this to Dustbin Zooka or whoever that hag is.

  • 3
    9

    Is the US a Sinhala Buddhist country ? JaffnaTelegraph and it’s unhinge writers need to tell us.

    • 5
      1

      Is the US a Sinhala Buddhist country ?

      wishful thinking ?
      or Perhaps you are thinking Gota should not have renounced US citizenship…but stayed back and made it in to one?

  • 6
    1

    The United States of America was founded on principles of equality, justice, and freedom

    That means breath free, & Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.

    Equality has been promised for centuries and The Black is not allowed to breath then what about the other matter, this country cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.

  • 8
    1

    Racism always prevailed in the US, but it has increased drastically under a racist and divisive president. He has done nothing to unite the country, has consistently made racist statements, and passed policies targeting Muslims, Mexicans, Africans, Chinese, and said he preferred immigrants from caucasian nations. He has treated illegal immigrants who are asking for refuge, inhumanely. Hate crimes have gone up under Trump, and basically he is supported by neo nazi and white supremacy groups.

    Our “kallu sudas” who are Trump supporters have embraced him despite his obvious record, and keep justifying his lies, insults, and racist comments. I guess if that anger and hatred was turned against brown skinned Sri Lankans, the tone might change, or maybe not.

    No leader, even here in Sri Lanka, can succeed, and the nation cannot succeed, if the country is constantly divided, has consistent ethnic violence, and the minority the target of ugly attacks and remarks. It is unfortunate that leaders because of their own greed and ambitions, reject that golden opportunity to unite the country, instill in the majority the need to accept all Sri Lankans as belonging here, and stop hate speeches and hate crimes by penalizing those guilty. Being silent is being complicit. Setting one against the other, using religion as a prop, for political gains is on the long run a losing game, and can cripple the economy.

    • 2
      1

      Contd.

      Trump chose to take the negative road, and tries to emulate a dictator. We see the same unfortunate signs here too. Those who admire “strongmen” will not like it if they were the targets of their hate policies and strongman tactics against citizens. The word Rathupaswala comes to mind. Unarmed civilians being killed by SL military, all because they protest their contaminated water, and acting on orders by our present strongman. That was Sri Lanka’s shame.

      Trump supporters especially the Evangelicals think a man thrice married, who has committed adultery many times, has been caught on tape saying he grabs women by their private parts, paid a porn star to keep her silence before elections ( just after his wife got a baby) and who used a Bible as a prop, IS A GOOD CHRISTIAN MAN!
      It makes no sense.

  • 2
    1

    My dear Minoli,
    /
    As a Gratien awarded poet (not sure whether you know of the Gratien or its distinguished previous winners like Medawattegedara), I wish to let you know that I am touched by your sentiments on the matter of racism. But your expression can improve.
    /
    I have a feeling that you could gain a lot from a bit of training in poetry. Don’t fear the absence of meaning, rhythm (elismaya as they say in Sinhalese), or any other redeemaable feature. Just writing is enough. But you need close personal training.
    /
    If you like to learn poetry, please visit and drop a line to meet and discuss the matter further. I have the goods, as they say.

  • 2
    1

    Soma,

    In Sri Lanka racism is healthy!

  • 4
    0

    Ashan, you are absolutely right. There is two sides to this story. As you said there is racism in most countries , including the U.S which unfortunately is on the rise because of a President who instead of uniting is spewing hatred and violence from the time he declared his nomination and continued to do so, even after taking office.Fortunately there were not many before ,who resemble him. On a positive note we see people including politicians regardless of color and creed have come out protesting such inhumane act. When first arrived in the U.S , I witnessed The “Rodney King” incident where whole LA was burning. Yet all legal avenues were followed and some of the officers were punished and King was paid almost 4 million in compensation. Most of such incidents take place during police confrontations (due to apprehension and hidden hostility) and less outside of it, because of strict Laws and monitoring. U.S is one of the few countries which has stringent laws against racial discrimination.( all forms of discrimination). The fact these sporadic incidents are televised globally it self shows people are proactive and voicing their protest. Do anyone think such things are possible in Lanka ??? I am sure most Lankan minorities would have felt such discrimination and abuse in their own country than else where.

    • 2
      1

      Whether the US or Sri Lanka, the tone is always set at the top. Leaders of multi religious and multi cultural nations, HAVE to unite a nation for it to progress, divided nations never, ever, prosper. Sri Lanka is not wealthy nation, constantly looking out for handouts from outside, and CANNOT afford to have ethnic violence like Sri Lanka has always had.
      We are never able to prevail economically. Two steps forward three steps back.

      Social media has given the vicious and the vile, the opportunity to spread racism, and target the “other”, and political leaders like Modi, GR, and even Trump, use it for their own devious agendas. The result is a divided nation, constantly in chaos, ethnic violence,

      • 1
        1

        Contd.
        and a nation struggling to get on track. Leaders like Trump, Modi, and GR are going about it the wrong way, and all the proof you need is just take a good look at what is happening in all countries. Countries in utter chaos, citizens living in fear, and no peace,

  • 10
    0

    The author has done a good job the only flaw is that she should have compared and contrasted The USA with the Blood Stained Sri Lanka, her being a Sri Lankan. I dare say that she enjoys a lot better rights there than the Morally Corrupt Sri Lanka. I’m an ardent follower of USA politics since the assassination of President Kennedy and believe me when I tell you that in terms of human rights and racism they on much better grounds and have made good progress until this imbecile Trump came on the scene.

    • 1
      8

      Rampshang,
      During Barak Obama’s time as President more African Americans have been killed by White Police compared with other Presidents.
      Like Ranil Wickramasinghe who came to power using ‘CHANGE’ as the slogan and miserably failed to ‘CHANGE’, Barak Obama also came with the slogan ‘CHANGE’ and miserably failed to bring any ‘CHANGES’.

  • 5
    0

    Eagle, this is typical of you. You just give some off hand information and expect readers to believe. . If you say there was more police killing during Obama term please prove with numbers. I lived in the U.S during that time and what you are saying absolutely untrue. There were school shooting and gun violence but not police killings, as you say. In fact it was other way where many of those policemen were killed while on duty. During Obama time “dash cams” were made into law, where whole police confrontation will be recorded on the camera fixed to their patrol cars (mandatory) as evidence. . There were cases filed in many states , against racial profiling by police.(in New Jersey, New York).Blacks were recruited in more numbers when needed according to community proportions. The fact Obama (colored) was elected it self ,shows you are wrong. Can you quote similar things in Lanka ?????

  • 3
    0

    These incidents are sporadic where there are few bad apples in every corner, but when it happens in U.S , it gets such global attention because of transparency. Yet right minded people in general have come out en masse protesting ,demanding such actions to be stopped . (not continued as in Lanka). If there were few SUCH cases majority took place during Trump,s term (in fact three took place in last few months). Where as hundreds gets killed in despot countries including Lanka and people are not even aware of it. Trump is the only president who told in public that ” he wanted police to be aggressive when confronting minorities”. Ashan and Rampshang has explained this in detail.

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