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The Crossing Podcast

How Gentrification Is Affecting the Health of L.A. County’s Black and Brown Residents

Michelle Burton of the Social Change Institute talks about structural racism and its effect on generations of vulnerable communities.




Illustration by Define Urban.

As experts, advocates and leaders grapple with the flaws in California’s misshapen health care system, they often find themselves asking a foundational question: How much of the wild variance in health outcomes across the state is preordained?

Some of the answers feel obvious: Marginalized groups in the state have suffered worse health outcomes for decades, not years. A system built to earn profits first and care for patients second is not going to tip those outcomes in a favorable direction without forcible redirection.

But, Michelle Burton notes, there’s also a bigger issue to consider.

“The truth is, we are vulnerable in our communities — or at risk — because of racism and oppression that has been ongoing, that has been baked into these systems,” says Burton, chief strategy officer at the Social Change Institute, part of the Community Health Councils in Los Angeles. “The most visible [manifestation] of that in Los Angeles County is gentrification. Right now you have massive amounts of primarily Black and brown people being displaced from communities that they’ve lived in for four, five, six generations. L.A. County is being divvied up among the developer community.”

As lower income families and communities of color are pushed from their neighborhoods by redevelopment, the search for affordable housing becomes desperate. Families often wind up in far worse living conditions, Burton says, with predictably disastrous results for their long-term health and well-being.

In this episode of Capital & Main’s weeklong podcast series The Crossing, we talk with Burton about how structural racism is affecting — and will continue to shape — the health outcomes of entire swaths of people living in California.

Copyright 2021 Capital & Main

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