Public Racism vs Public Health: Covid-19

The tensions revealed by the COVID-19 epidemic are planted deep in the US experience. On the Laura Flanders Show, race and gender scholar Mab Segrest discusses how white supremacy has trumped science throughout American history, with particular focus on the evidence she uncovered in her new book, Administrations of Lunacy: Racism and the Haunting of American Psychiatry. Segrest’s work was the subject of a Laura Flanders Show special feature this March. She shared her thoughts on public health, public racism and COVID-19 with Laura recently from her home near Durham, NC.

“We’re living under an administration of lunacy again.”

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In this interview, Segrest points out that, “The particularities of this disaster might be surprising, but the fact that we were headed increasingly towards disaster has been a feeling that many people have shared, even though we’ve understood it differently.” She states that the need to eliminate “afterlives of slavery” and elevate “ecologies of sanity” is more pressing now than it ever has been.

According to Segrest, public health can be a heroic force. The public health system puts us in community, it makes us (and our public officials) accountable to environments, and it shows that germs have no color line. Public health solutions, however, must be applied equally and not just to privileged, overwhelmingly white communities.


  • Mab Segrest, Author and gender studies scholar

Author and activist Mab Segrest has spent the last 30 years fighting racism, and sexism, and homophobia. And writing books that connects those things and put them in the context of America’s jagged history. Her book Memoir of a Race Traitor: Fighting Racism in the American South became a classic text of white anti-racism. Her latest book, Administrations of Lunacy, looks at the racist roots of psychiatry.

Full Interview with Mab Segrest

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