Black Lives Matter Less: How Structural Racism Affects the Health of Black Lives and Communities

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Course DatesMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRNRegistration
July 08, 2019 - July 19, 20197/08 - 7/19M-F 12:15P-3:05POpenShekinah Fashaw

Course Description

Black people in the US have shorter life expectancies, live with more physical and mental illness, and have more disability than White people. This course will help students connect health inequities to systematic racism in our society and its institutions, with a particular focus on the criminal justice and law enforcement system.

Using a public health lens, this course will feature facilitated discussions around structural racism and the health of individuals in society. The goal is to have students be able to understand the contemporary hierarchical racial system in the US, to critic structures and systems that enforce and maintain this hierarchy, and to link racial hierarchy and inequity to health inequities. Students will be challenged to consider their own privilege within these structures, and how that privilege affects their health and position in larger society.

The course materials include various representations of racially disparate law enforcement, including police brutality in the public media (articles, news reports, viral videos) and scholarly critiques and commentaries on structural racism and health written by Black academics. Students will also be assigned to read articles that provide a historical context of white supremacy in the US.

One of the course instructors, Dr. Sirry Alang, teaches a course on race and health at Lehigh University. Dr. Alang has been instrumental in organizing community forums around police brutality and has written extensively on the effects of racism on the mental and physical health of Black people and Black communities.

This is an excellent course for high school students who want to: understand how history affects the current treatment of Black people in the US, learn how to create safe spaces to have sensitive discussions about race and privilege, and organize their peers and communities around an agenda of social justice. The capstone of this course will be a demonstration, forum, or other activity devised by the class to engage in public discussion around racism and health.

By the end of this course, students will understand how to read and interpret information from academic journal articles, learn how to facilitate classroom discussions on assigned topics, and experience group work through the development of a creative capstone project. Students will learn how to think more critically about the health effects of racism, and might become interested in pursuing scholarship that informs policies and programs aimed at addressing racial health inequities at a federal, state or local level.

Prerequisites: This class is open to students of any age. College-level reading materials (scholarly journal articles) will be assigned. The content of the class will include explicit depictions of police brutality, as commonly presented in the news media.


Course Information

  • Course Code: CEBI0981
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2019.

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