It is difficult to open a magazine or newspaper these days without encountering an article telling us how “African Americans are more at risk for this or that disease or misfortune”. It has gotten to the point where it is almost a cliche’. But if it is whites who are disproportionately at risk, then those same magazines and newspapers will maintain total silence regarding this fact.
A recent front page Oregonian headline (October 13, 2011) reads:
Taking a stand to prevent suicide
… So far this year, Portland police and firefighters have responded to 55 suicides or attempts – and those are just the cases that play out in public – up from 39 such calls in all of 2010. Portland police have been called to a total of 70 suicides and 144 attempts, up from 69 suicides and 129 attempts last year.
The pace has shaken the city’s public safety responders…
The number of suicides in Oregon, which has a suicide rate 35 percent higher than the national average, keeps climbing. The number of calls to Oregon Partnership’s Suicide Lifeline has risen from 11,303 in 2008 to 19,016 in 2010…
The state has issued grants to counties to train adults and youths in suicide intervention skills and to support public awareness campaigns and outreach to at-risk populations, such as elderly and youth…
The article is a fairly long one and it deals with various risk factors – but not once is race or ethnicity mentioned. In fact, gender is also not specifically mentioned; we must read between the lines, from the context and examples, that males are more at risk than females.
A government website gives us a clearer understanding of who these “at-risk populations” actually are:
Men were 3.7 times more likely to die by suicide than women. The highest suicide rate
occurred among men ages 85 and over (78.4 per 100,000). White males had the highest
suicide rate among all races / ethnicity (25.6 per 100,000). Firearms were the dominant
mechanism of suicide among men (62%)…
Sex, Race / Ethnicity
Men have a greater risk of dying by suicide than women. In each age group, suicide rates
are higher among males than among women (figure 3). Overall men were 3.7 times more
likely to die by suicide than women (figure 4). Among all suicide victims, 97 percent of
the suicides were white. The age-adjusted suicide rate among whites was 15.8 per
100,000, which was almost double the rates observed among populations of other races.
Overall white men had the highest suicide rate. This is mainly due to extremely high
suicide rates among elder white men aged 60 and over. There were not significant
differences in rates between white women and women of other races (Figure 4).
It is interesting that the Oregonian article copies, almost verbatim, a paragraph from the above source that deals with mental disorders, drugs and alcohol use – but completely omits all of the information from previous paragraphs that deal with gender disparities. As for the government’s explanation of the racial disparity in suicide rates, it must be tempered by the fact that the median age for whites, nationwide, is about 10 years older than the median age for blacks (though I’m not sure what it is in Oregon specifically). Be it as it may, the suicide rate for whites is over twice that of blacks and Hispanics and three times that of Asians. If the reverse were true, it would be impossible to imagine that the Oregonian would omit this fact in their story; we would be reminded, over and over again, that “people of color” are more at risk.
When we are told that non-whites are at higher risk for various diseases, it is because the media considers non-whites to be important. Obviously, whites (as a group) are not important in their eyes. But normal people feel otherwise. Aside from the obvious fact that whites suffer more from depression and low self-esteem (for obvious reasons), non self-hating whites deserve answers so that steps can be taken to reduce the risk of suicide*.
*I speak of the “risk of suicide” even though it’s a conscious decision one makes, because the instinct of self-preservation is our strongest instinct and, in my view, something must be wrong with a person if he chooses to take his own life (with certain exceptions of course).