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When Ageism And Racism Collide: What A F**king Conundrum

March 25, 2022

From work and decreasing earnings to healthcare, aging Black people have felt the impact of ageism and its consequences. Here’s how to spot it, call it out, and get the support you need to combat it.  

Compounding inequalities: Aging while Black

In a world where being Black can be a crime or death sentence, there’s never a dull moment when Black people celebrate birthdays while alive, well, and outside of racial conflict. But as the community continues to age, another atrocity hits the surface and shakes up the realm of equality: ageism. According to the World Health Organization, ageism “refers to the stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination towards others or oneself based on age.” If you’re Black and experience the gift of maturity, you may encounter inequalities not just because of your race but also your age.  

Ageism’s impacts on the Black community

Ageism is directly correlated with healthcare, and the adverse effects on the Black population run deep. For example, a 2016 CIGNA Health Disparities report found that Black Americans are 80% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than whites and nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized, and are more than twice as likely as whites to suffer from Alzheimer’s and other kinds of dementia.  Poor health is intensified by limited access to quality healthcare, typically accessed through high-priced healthcare insurance, and in the United States, minority groups are placed at a disadvantage due to high insurance costs.

According to a recent article from the Washington Post, age discrimination strikes twice in the workplace: new research implies that the youngest Black workers experience the most age discrimination, and the discrimination continues to rise once workers hit middle-age and then near retirement. 

“Black people have always been more objectified, scrutinized, and surveilled than White people,” University of Connecticut sociologist Matthew Hughey told the Washington Post. “Every little thing is nitpicked on a résumé or explained as a possible red flag.”

How to spot it and call it out 

Thankfully, Americans are legally protected against ageism in the workplace by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Those that experience age discrimination in the workplace can file a charge with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

The most practical way to fight age discrimination, in general, is by recognizing and speaking against cultures that discriminate against older adults—in the workplace, in healthcare, and anywhere it’s prevalent. Without a voice to speak against it, we won’t see a need for change.  

Whether our melanin glows in the sun or we age like fine wine, society can always attempt to hold us back. Recognizing the injustices surrounding our communities and forming plans to combat them can adequately prepare the Black community for discrimination that may come and how to fight it. The reality is that prejudice is all around us. How you choose to help yourself and others is an excellent start to pushing back on a narrative of inequality while promoting the betterment of your surrounding society and the world at large.