By: Evelyn Cordero, CEI Intern
Portia Boston, Diversity Trainer, uses her platform to educate the community about anti-racist work and introduces weathering as a term we should know and care about. Weathering refers to the increased likelihood of earlier health deterioration of Black people mostly due to mental and physical stressors caused by a lifetime of enduring racism (Boston, 2020; Geronimus et al., 2006).
Recognizing the Effects of Weathering
The term weathering was coined by Dr. Arline Geronimus, and it is a metaphor for how stress caused by everyday racism shapes or weathers the body (Martinez, 2020). Navigating a racialized reality means persistent high-effort coping with acute and chronic stressors present, which has a profound effect on health, including hypertension, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders, as well as depression and anxiety (Boston, 2020; Geronimus et al., 2006).
Microaggressions and Weathering
As we make our way towards a more just society, we must understand how racism impacts Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Racism is not limited to extreme encounters. Racism can be and often is delivered in subtle ways. According to psychologists Dr. Derald Wing Sue and Dr. Lisa Beth Spanierman, microaggressions are delivered daily without the perpetrators’ awareness (Sue & Spanierman, 2020, p. 24). Racism is also institutional, meaning it is hidden in education, healthcare, and other institutions in the form of systematic policies or laws and practices that provide differential access to goods, services, and opportunities of society by race (Morgan et al., 2018).
The book Microaggressions in Everyday Life (2020) showcases several examples of everyday racism experienced at the micro-level. One example includes store owners following Black customers around the store. The book highlights that the message here is “You are going to steal,” “You are poor,” and “You don’t belong.” At the institutional or macro-level, an example of the effect of racism is hidden in housing and the environment. Redlining laws from the 1930s imposed by our federal government determined risky neighborhoods by the amount of Black and immigrant residents. This segregationist housing policy has modern-day implications because communities impacted by redlining were not invested in in the same way that white communities were. For example, thoughtful greenspace designs include more trees which cool the air and provide shade. Black neighborhoods are now up to 5 degrees hotter due to fewer trees directly linked to housing discrimination that occurred 90 years ago (Anderson, 2020).
Weathering in the Time of COVID
During an interview with Portia, she shared that people of color are probably not shocked that experiencing racism day to day takes a physical toll. Portia expresses how weathering may be linked to COVID-19 mortalities as health disparities have highlighted the disproportionate death toll for Black Americans. The health effects of weathering make Black Americans a high-risk population, which only furthers the healthcare disparities that existed before the pandemic. Dr. Arline Geronimus states, “In weathered populations, people and families have multiple morbidities. They can be hypertension or diabetes, depression and anxiety, joint pains, autoimmune disorders, like lupus … and now it’s COVID-19” (Martinez, 2020).
Why Schools Should Care About Weathering
Educators in schools can introduce self- and community care practices to reduce the stress that BIPOC students experience due to microaggressions, as well as identifying and addressing microaggressions when they occur during the school day.
Portia highlights methods to alleviate the harmful effects of weathering in an Instagram post.
Introducing the term weathering to staff, students, and families is the first step in eliminating the health disparities that Black Americans experience. To learn about other ways of increasing equity in education for Black, Indigenous, and other students of color visit our Equity in Education series.
Anderson, M. (2020). Racist housing practices from the 1930s linked to hotter neighborhoods today. NPR.
Boston, P. (2020). What is “weathering?” And why you should care about it. Instagram.
Geronimus, A. T., Hicken, M., Keene, D., & Bound, J. (2006, May). “Weathering” and age patterns of allostatic load scores among blacks and whites in the United States. American Journal of Public Health.
Martinez, J. (2020). The major health ramifications of racial ‘weathering’ on Black people. WELL + GOOD.
Morgan, J. D., De Marco. A. C., LaForett, D. R., Oh, S., Ayankoya, B., Morgan. W., Franco, X., & FPG’s Race, Culture, and Ethnicity Committee. (2018, May). What racism looks like: An infographic. Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Sue, D. W. & Spanierman, L.B. (2020). Microaggressions in everyday life. (second edition). Wiley.