It’s easy to confuse the two words endemic and epidemic. As you can see from the chart, epidemic refers to a sudden surge in the instances of a disease or situation, whereas endemic makes reference to an ongoing, chronic situation. To be endemic means to be imbedded in the fabric of a culture.
Usually we see these two terms associated with disease. That’s where the terms have their most common usage. But there is another setting in which endemic is employed, and it is there that I want to go in this post. The following examples may seem familiar to you.
- Obesity is endemic to our food-obsessed culture in America.
- Frugality is endemic to families which are dominated by memories of the Great Depression.
- Wherever guns are freely bought and held, the increased instance of suicide is endemic.
- Addiction to electronic personal communications is endemic in today’s youth culture.
But, given the circumstances of the past few weeks, I want to suggest that this is a situation requiring our attention:
RACISM APPEARS TO BE ENDEMIC IN AMERICAN CULTURE.
In spite of my mentioning it as a result of the past few weeks’ circumstances, I would maintain that it is no surprise to most of us to make this statement. We who have thought about it, read about it, or experienced the results of it, have known for a long time that racism is rampant in America.
The most recent evidence we have is the almost weekly killing of black men and boys by white police officers. Those who have statistics available have shown us that even in the most diverse neighborhoods and communities, the police departments are dominated by white officers. It is clear that many of those white officers do not have a clue what life is like for black families and individuals.
When Mayor DiBlasio of New York City indicated that he had to sit his black son down and talk frankly about how to react should he be stopped by a white police officer, people were enraged. The fact of the matter is that the Mayor was being a very responsible parent, and should be commended for his cautionary instructions. The instances of black-white conflict are endemic in our society, particularly in our cities.
Hearing the latest statistics, one has to wonder if this is a case, not of endemic racism, but of epidemic racism. It is shocking to hear, day after day, of brutal conflicts between white police officers and black citizens. As I said earlier, we are getting media reports that appear to point out that deaths in these conflicts is on a weekly basis. That sounds like an epidemic to me.
I’m not one of those with easy answers to these situations. I honestly find myself torn in many of these situations when the issues of blame, criminal charges, and punishment begin to be required. But, regardless of these issues, it is clear that our society in America is sick, and may be in critical condition. Certainly to those black citizens who live in urban settings, it is true. (And then there is the whole question of Native American statistics, which, in some places exceed those of black communities.) Rather than arguing amongst ourselves about the symptoms, it is important that we get to the causes and the potential therapies to reduce the instances. As with any illness, there are immediate needs and long-term needs.
Chart Credit: Yahoo