Here's where it gets interesting. The researchers had each Latina student prepare a three-minute speech on "what I am like as a work partner" for their
white partner. But before each student gave her speech, she read her partner's responses -- and, among other things, knew if the person evaluating her
speech held racist beliefs. To monitor stress during the speech, the researchers hooked the speakers up to blood pressure cuffs and sensors to measure
other cardiovascular data, including an electrocardiogram and impedance cardiography.
When Latina participants thought they were interacting with a racist white partner, they had higher blood pressure, a faster heart rate, and shorter
pre-ejection periods. What this shows is an increased sympathetic response, or what is often called the "fight or flight response." Merely the anticipation
of racism, and not necessarily the act, is enough to trigger a stress response. And this study only involved a three-minute speech.
What if someone feels she lives under the constant threat of racism? This is the implication for racial profiling. Stop-and-frisk policies do not only
affect the people who come into contact with law enforcement. They also affect the people who fear they could be next.
In addition to battling the constitutional impact of Stop and Frisk as co-counsel in Floyd v. New York, the Center for Constitutional Rights
released the report, "Stop and Frisk -- The Human Impact: The Stories Behind the
Numbers, the Effects on our Communities." The report summarizes 54 interviews with people who have been stopped and frisked -- and what it meant for them
emotionally and physically. It tells alarming stories about inappropriate touching, sexual harassment, threats, and humiliation. And it also connects us
with the Sawyer team's study on anticipating prejudice.
"The scale and scope of stop-and-frisk practices in communities of color have left many residents feeling that they are living under siege," the CCR
authors write. When we read the NYCLU's 2012 report on Stop and
Frisk, it is easy to see why. In 2011, there were 685,724 stops. In 70 of 76 precincts, greater than 50 percent of stops targeted blacks and Latinos. In 33
precincts, that number skyrockets to over 90 percent. Perhaps most shockingly, the number of stops of young black men (168,126) actually exceeded the
number of young black men in New York City (158,406).
However, supporters of Stop and Frisk argue that it is an effective crime control tool and, if you want to avoid a stop, then do not commit a crime. The
problem is that 90 percent of black and Latino men stopped were
innocent. What might this mean in terms of heightened vigilance and stress? Not only must black and Latino people in New York anticipate acts of prejudice
from the police, but they also must know innocence does not reduce the risk of harassment.
These are ways that discrimination becomes embodied during one person's life. But no person discriminated against is an island. When conditions of social
injustice affect this many people, and prompt poor health outcomes, risk passes down generations. And this damage isn't going away any time soon. Even in
the absence of discrimination, Nancy Krieger argues that populations "would continue to
exhibit persistent disparities reflecting prior inequities."
"At a time when the first generation of African Americans born in the post-Jim Crow Era is only 40 years old," Krieger wrote in 2005, "it is probably not
accidental that current life expectancy among African Americans resembles that of White Americans 40 years ago."
Racial profiling should be considered a social determinant of health, because it exposes people to discrimination and the fear of discrimination. Race may
be a social construct, but racism materializes in poor health.