Tenet 3: Because the differential treatment of individuals based upon racial classification is embedded within social systems and institutions"including public policy and law"racism is commonplace rather than rare and aberrant. As such, racism is omnipresent in society, which CRT refers to as "normal." This is sometimes misinterpreted to mean that CRT purports it is "normal" or expected for white people to be racist. The point here is that because differential access by race to resources, opportunities, benefits, and burdens is embedded within many aspects of our institutions and legal/policy systems, racial inequality continues to be reproduced outside of acts of personally mediated racism. Understanding structural racism within our systems and polices related to education, income, housing, food, criminal justice, the environment, and health care matters greatly for addressing population health inequities.3
Tenet 4: While racism is perpetuated at the structural/macro level in society, listening to and understanding the lived experiences of individuals is essential for understanding how racism works to create inequities in individual outcomes, including health. A main question for population health is how does living within institutions and systems that differentially structure exposures, experiences, and opportunities based on race/ethnicity get "under the skin" and produce health inequities?3-6 Moving beyond descriptive research that simply documents racial disparities in health outcomes, CRT rightly asserts that there is a need to better represent in research, the media, and policy advocacy and reform work how racism in all of its manifestations is experienced by people in ways that matter, including for physical and mental health.
In sum, CRT provides a framework for unpacking and understanding the fact that racial differences in important social outcomes, including morbidity, mortality, and other health indicators, exist and persist in the United States and other societies despite advances in civil rights. Population health scientists of all political persuasions should be deeply concerned about the current movement to ban the use of the tenets and concepts of CRT, as they are fundamental to a scientific understanding of racial inequality in every type of social, economic, and health outcome. Beyond banning the tenets of CRT in K-12 public schools, there is discourse regarding the need to ban such teaching and application in public universities, in publicly funded research, and in government-sponsored communication and education. Even if such actions are unsuccessful, the chilling effect on population health teaching, science, and policy work could be profound.
Given the misinformation and misguided political actions underway, it is incumbent upon those committed to health equity through population health science to publicly defend the tenets of CRT and their long-standing contributions to population health. The stakes"the ability for education, research, community-based efforts, and policy reform to improve the health and well-being of all"are incredibly high.