Black Lives Matter Less: How Structural Racism Affects Health

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
July 12, 2021 - August 18, 20217/12 - 8/185 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineMarquisele Mercedes

Course Description

Black and Brown 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. 

Using a public health lens, this online course will feature facilitated virtual discussions, readings, and other content around structural racism and the health of individuals in society. The goal is to have students understand the contemporary hierarchical racial system in the US, to critique structures and systems that enforce and maintain this hierarchy, and to link these 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. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic this class is uniquely positioned to help students think through public health disparities such as those now receiving broader media attention due to the pandemic.

The course materials include various representations of racially disparate laws and policies, clips from 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.

This is an excellent course for high school students who want to: understand how history affects the current treatment of Black and Brown people in the US, discuss health inequities in light of the current pandemic, 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 student 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 pose meaningful and thought-provoking questions for discussion on assigned topics, and potentially experience group work through the development of a creative capstone project. Students will learn how to think more critically about the health effects of structural racism, and might become interested in pursuing scholarship that informs policies and programs aimed at addressing racial and socioeconomic 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

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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