The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying  – The Atlantic

An illustration of two hands—one black, and one white—shaking.

The pandemic has exposed the bitter terms of our racial contract, which deems certain lives of greater value than others.

Six weeks ago, Ahmaud Arbery went out and never came home. Gregory and Travis McMichael, who saw Arbery running through their neighborhood just outside of Brunswick, Georgia, and who told authorities they thought he was a burglary suspect, armed themselves, pursued Arbery, and then shot him dead.

The local prosecutor, George E. Barnhill, concluded that no crime had been committed. Arbery had tried to wrest a shotgun from Travis McMichael before being shot, Barnhill wrote in a letter to the police chief. The two men who had seen a stranger running, and decided to pick up their firearms and chase him, had therefore acted in self-defense when they confronted and shot him, Barnhill concluded. On Tuesday, as video of the shooting emerged on social media, a different Georgia prosecutor announced that the case would be put to a grand jury; the two men were arrested and charged with murder yesterday evening after video of the incident sparked national outrage across the political spectrum.

But Barnhill’s leniency is selective—as The Appeal’s Josie Duffy Rice notes, Barnhill attempted to prosecute Olivia Pearson, a black woman, for helping another black voter use an electronic voting machine. A crime does not occur when white men stalk and kill a black stranger. A crime does occur when black people vote.

The underlying assumptions of white innocence and black guilt are all part of what the philosopher Charles Mills calls the “racial contract.” If the social contract is the implicit agreement among members of a society to follow the rules—for example, acting lawfully, adhering to the results of elections, and contesting the agreed-upon rules by nonviolent means—then the racial contract is a codicil rendered in invisible ink, one stating that the rules as written do not apply to nonwhite people in the same way. The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal; the racial contract limits this to white men with property. The law says murder is illegal; the racial contract says it’s fine for white people to chase and murder black people if they have decided that those black people scare them. “The terms of the Racial Contract,” Mills wrote, “mean that nonwhite subpersonhood is enshrined simultaneously with white personhood.”

The racial contract is not partisan—it guides staunch conservatives and sensitive liberals alike—but it works most effectively when it remains imperceptible to its beneficiaries. As long as it is invisible, members of society can proceed as though the provisions of the social contract apply equally to everyone. But when an injustice pushes the racial contract into the open, it forces people to choose whether to embrace, contest, or deny its existence. Video evidence of unjustified shootings of black people is so jarring in part because it exposes the terms of the racial contract so vividly. But as the process in the Arbery case shows, the racial contract most often operates unnoticed, relying on Americans to have an implicit understanding of who is bound by the rules, and who is exempt from them.

The implied terms of the racial contract are visible everywhere for those willing to see them. A 12-year-old with a toy gun is a dangerous threat who must be met with lethal force; armed militias drawing beads on federal agents are heroes of liberty. Struggling white farmers in Iowa taking billions in federal assistance are hardworking Americans down on their luck; struggling single parents in cities using food stamps are welfare queens. Black Americans struggling in the cocaine epidemic are a “bio-underclass” created by a pathological culture; white Americans struggling with opioid addiction are a national tragedy. Poor European immigrants who flocked to an America with virtually no immigration restrictions came “the right way”; poor Central American immigrants evading a baroque and unforgiving system are gang members and terrorists.

Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, with its vows to enforce state violence against Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and black Americans, was built on a promise to enforce terms of the racial contract that Barack Obama had ostensibly neglected, or violated by his presence. Trump’s administration, in carrying out an explicitly discriminatory agenda that valorizes crueltywar crimes, and the entrenchment of white political power, represents a revitalized commitment to the racial contract.

But the pandemic has introduced a new clause to the racial contract. The lives of disproportionately black and brown workers are being sacrificed to fuel the engine of a faltering economy, by a president who disdains them. This is the COVID contract.

As the first cases of the coronavirus were diagnosed in the United States, in late January and early February, the Trump administration and Fox News were eager to play down the risk it posed. But those early cases, tied to international travel, ensnared many members of the global elite: American celebritiesworld leaders, and those with close ties to Trump himself. By March 16, the president had reversed course, declaring a national emergency and asking Americans to avoid social gatherings.

The purpose of the restrictions was to flatten the curve of infections, to keep the spread of the virus from overwhelming the nation’s medical infrastructure, and to allow the federal government time to build a system of testing and tracing that could contain the outbreak. Although testing capacity is improving, the president has very publicly resisted investing the necessary resources, because testing would reveal more infections; in his words, “by doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad.”

Over the weeks that followed the declaration of an emergency, the pandemic worsened and the death toll mounted. Yet by mid-April, conservative broadcasters were decrying the restrictions, small bands of armed protesters were descending on state capitols, and the president was pressing to lift the constraints.

In the interim, data about the demographics of COVID-19 victims began to trickle out. On April 7, major outlets began reporting that preliminary data showed that black and Latino Americans were being disproportionately felled by the coronavirus. That afternoon, Rush Limbaugh complained, “If you dare criticize the mobilization to deal with this, you’re going to be immediately tagged as a racist.” That night, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson announced, “It hasn’t been the disaster that we feared.” His colleague Brit Hume mused that “the disease turned out not to be quite as dangerous as we thought.” The nationwide death toll that day was just 13,000 people; it now stands above 70,000, a mere month later.

As Matt Gertz writes, some of these premature celebrations may have been an overreaction to the changes in the prominent coronavirus model designed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which had recently revised its estimates down to about 60,000 deaths by August. But even as the mounting death toll proved that estimate wildly optimistic, the chorus of right-wing elites demanding that the economy reopen grew louder. By April 16, the day the first anti-lockdown protests began, deaths had more than doubled, to more than 30,000.

That more and more Americans were dying was less important than who was dying.

The disease is now “infecting people who cannot afford to miss work or telecommute—grocery store employees, delivery drivers and construction workers,” The Washington Post reported. Air travel has largely shut down, and many of the new clusters are in nursing homes, jails and prisons, and factories tied to essential industries. Containing the outbreak was no longer a question of social responsibility, but of personal responsibility. From the White House podium, Surgeon General Jerome Adams told “communities of color” that “we need you to step up and help stop the spread.”

Public-health restrictions designed to contain the outbreak were deemed absurd. They seemed, in Carlson’s words, “mindless and authoritarian,” a “weird kind of arbitrary fascism.” To restrict the freedom of white Americans, just because nonwhite Americans are dying, is an egregious violation of the racial contract. The wealthy luminaries of conservative media have sought to couch their opposition to restrictions as advocacy on behalf of workers, but polling shows that those most vulnerable to both the disease and economic catastrophe want the outbreak contained before they return to work.

Although the full picture remains unclear, researchers have found that disproportionately black counties “account for more than half of coronavirus cases and nearly 60 percent of deaths.”* The disproportionate burden that black and Latino Americans are bearing is in part a direct result of their overrepresentation in professions where they risk exposure, and of a racial gap in wealth and income that has left them more vulnerable to being laid off. Black and Latino workers are overrepresented among the essential, the unemployed, and the dead.

This tangled dynamic played out on Tuesday, during oral arguments over Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’s statewide stay-at-home order before the state Supreme Court, held remotely. Chief Justice Patience Roggensack was listening to Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Colin Roth defend the order.

“When you see a virus like this one that does not respect county boundaries, this started out predominantly in Madison and Milwaukee; then we just had this outbreak in Brown County very recently in the meatpacking plants,” Roth explained. “The cases in Brown County in a span of two weeks surged over tenfold, from 60 to almost 800—”

“Due to the meatpacking, though, that’s where Brown County got the flare,” Roggensack interrupted to clarify. “It wasn’t just the regular folks in Brown County.”

Perhaps Roggensack did not mean that the largely Latino workers in Brown County’s meatpacking plants—who have told reporters that they have been forced to work in proximity with one another, often without masks or hand sanitizer, and without being notified that their colleagues are infected—are not “regular folks” like the other residents of the state. Perhaps she merely meant that their line of work puts them at greater risk, and so the outbreaks in the meatpacking plants, seen as essential to the nation’s food supply, are not rationally related to the governor’s stay-at-home order, from which they would be exempt.

Yet either way, Roggensack was drawing a line between “regular folks” and the workers who keep them fed, mobile, safe, and connected. And America’s leaders have treated those workers as largely expendable, praising their valor while disregarding their safety.

“There were no masks. There was no distancing inside the plant, only [in the] break room. We worked really close to each other,” Raquel Sanchez Alvarado, a worker with American Foods, a Wisconsin meatpacking company, told local reporters in mid-April. “People are scared that they will be fired and that they will not find a job at another company if they express their concerns.”

In Colorado, hundreds of workers in meatpacking plants have contracted the coronavirus. In South Dakota, where a Smithfield plant became the site of an outbreak infecting more than 700 workers, a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the issue was their “large immigrant population.” On Tuesday, when Iowa reported that thousands of workers at meat-processing plants had become infected, Governor Kim Reynolds was bragging in The Washington Post about how well her approach to the coronavirus had worked.

“We can’t keep our country closed down for years,” Trump said Wednesday. But that was no one’s plan. The plan was to buy time to take the necessary steps to open the country safely. But the Trump administration did not do that, because it did not consider the lives of the people dying worth the effort or money required to save them.

The economic devastation wrought by the pandemic, and the Trump administration’s failure to prepare for it even as it crippled the world’s richest nations, cannot be overstated. Tens of millions of Americans are unemployed. Tens of thousands line up outside food banks and food pantries each week to obtain sustenance they cannot pay for. Businesses across the country are struggling and failing. The economy cannot be held in stasis indefinitely—the longer it is, the more people will suffer.

Yet the only tension between stopping the virus and reviving the economy is one the Trump administration and its propaganda apparatus have invented. Economists are in near-unanimous agreement that the safest path requires building the capacity to contain the virus before reopening the economy—precisely because new waves of deaths will drive Americans back into self-imposed isolation, destroying the consumer spending that powers economic growth. The federal government can afford the necessary health infrastructure and financial aid; it already shelled out hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to wealthy Americans. But the people in charge do not consider doing so to be worthwhile—Republicans have already dismissed aid to struggling state governments that laid off a million workers this month alone as a “blue-state bailout,” while pushing for more tax cuts for the rich.

“The people of our country are warriors,” Trump told reporters Tuesday. “I’m not saying anything is perfect, and will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.”

The frame of war allows the president to call for the collective sacrifice of laborers without taking the measures necessary to ensure their safety, while the upper classes remain secure at home. But the workers who signed up to harvest food, deliver packages, stack groceries, drive trains and buses, and care for the sick did not sign up for war, and the unwillingness of America’s political leadership to protect them is a policy decision, not an inevitability. Trump is acting in accordance with the terms of the racial contract, which values the lives of those most likely to be affected less than the inconveniences necessary to preserve them. The president’s language of wartime unity is a veil draped over a federal response that offers little more than contempt for those whose lives are at risk. To this administration, they are simply fuel to keep the glorious Trump economy burning.

The president’s cavalier attitude is at least in part a reflection of his fear that the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus will doom his political fortunes in November. But what connects the rise of the anti-lockdown protests, the president’s dismissal of the carnage predicted by his own administration, and the eagerness of governors all over the country to reopen the economy before developing the capacity to do so safely is the sense that those they consider “regular folks” will be fine.

Many of them will be. People like Ahmaud Arbery, whose lives are depreciated by the terms of the racial contract, will not.

Source: The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying

ADAM SERWER is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers politics.

Also Read: George Floyd: America’s Racial Contract Is Exposed Anew – The Atlantic

The Effect of the Coronavirus on America’s Black Communities | The New Yorker

The old African-American aphorism “When white America catches a cold, black America gets pneumonia” has a new, morbid twist: when white America catches the novel coronavirus, black Americans die.

Thousands of white Americans have also died from the virus, but the pace at which African-Americans are dying has transformed this public-health crisis into an object lesson in racial and class inequality. According to a Reuters report, African-Americans are more likely to die of covid-19 than any other group in the U.S. It is still early in the course of the pandemic, and the demographic data is incomplete, but the partial view is enough to prompt a sober reflection on this bitter harvest of American racism.

The small city of Albany, Georgia, two hundred miles south of Atlanta, was the site of a heroic civil-rights standoff between the city’s black residents and its white police chief in the early nineteen-sixties. Today, more than twelve hundred people in the county have confirmed covid-19 cases, and at least seventy-eight people have died. According to earlier reports, eighty-one per cent of the dead are African-American.

In Michigan, African-Americans make up fourteen per cent of the state’s population, but, currently, they account for thirty-three per cent of its reported infections and forty per cent of its deaths. Twenty-six per cent of the state’s infections and twenty-five per cent of deaths are in Detroit, a city that is seventy-nine per cent African-American. covid-19 is also ravaging the city’s suburbs that have large black populations.

The virus has shaken African-Americans in Chicago, who account for fifty-two per cent of the city’s confirmed cases and a startling seventy-two per cent of deaths—far outpacing their proportion of the city’s population.

As many have already noted, this macabre roll call reflects the fact that African-Americans are more likely to have preëxisting health conditions that make the coronavirus particularly deadly. This is certainly true. These conditions—diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and obesity—are critical factors, and they point to the persistence of racial discrimination, which has long heightened black vulnerability to premature death, as the scholar Ruthie Wilson Gilmore has said for years. Racism in the shadow of American slavery has diminished almost all of the life chances of African-Americans. Black people are poorer, more likely to be underemployed, condemned to substandard housing, and given inferior health care because of their race. These factors explain why African-Americans are sixty per cent more likely to have been diagnosed with diabetes than white Americans, and why black women are sixty per cent more likely to have high blood pressure than white women. Such health disparities are as much markers of racial inequality as mass incarceration or housing discrimination.

It is easy to simply point to the prevalence of these health conditions among African-Americans as the most important explanation for their rising death rates. But it is also important to acknowledge that black vulnerability is especially heightened by the continued ineptitude of the federal government in response to the coronavirus. The mounting carnage in Trump’s America did not have to happen to the extent that it has. covid-19 testing remains maddeningly inconsistent and unavailable, with access breaking down along the predictable lines. In Philadelphia, a scientist at Drexel University found that, in Zip Codes with a “lower proportion of minorities and higher incomes,” a higher number of tests were administered. In Zip Codes with a higher number of unemployed and uninsured residents, there were fewer tests. Taken together, testing in higher-income neighborhoods is six times greater than it is in poorer neighborhoods.

Inconsistent testing, in combination with steadfast denials from the White House about the threat of the virus, exacerbated the appalling lack of preparation for this catastrophe. With more early coördination, hospitals might have procured the necessary equipment and staffed up properly, potentially avoiding the onslaught that has occurred. The consequences are devastating. In the Detroit area, where the disease is surging, about fifteen hundred hospital workers, including five hundred nurses at Beaumont Health, Michigan’s largest hospital system, are off of the job with symptoms of covid-19. Early in the crisis, at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital, nurses were reduced to wearing garbage bags for their protection. Across the country, health-care providers are being asked to ration face masks and shields, dramatically raising the potential of their own infection, and thereby increasing the strain on the already overextended hospitals.

The early wave of disproportionate black deaths was hastened by Trumpian malfeasance, but the deaths to come are the predictable outcome of decades of disinvestment and institutional neglect. In mid-March, Toni Preckwinkle, the president of the Cook County Board in Illinois, which encompasses Chicago, lamented the covid-19 crisis and proclaimed that “we are all in this together,” but, weeks later, she closed the emergency room of the public Provident Hospital in the predominantly black South Side. Preckwinkle claimed that the closure would last for a month and was a response to a single health-care worker becoming infected with the virus. Leave aside the fact that nurses, doctors, and other health-care workers have been testing positive for covid-19 across the country, and their facilities have not been shuttered. It is a decision that simply could not have been made, in the midst of a historic pandemic, in any of the city’s wealthy, white neighborhoods on the North Side.

Meanwhile, in Cook County Jail, three hundred and twenty-three inmates and a hundred and ninety-six correctional officers have tested positive for covid-19. Not only have officials not closed the county jail as a result but they also have yet to release a significant number of jailed people, even though the facility has the highest density of covid-19 cases in Chicago. These are the kinds of decisions that explain why there is a thirty-year difference in life expectancy—in the same city—between the black neighborhood of Englewood and the white neighborhood of Streeterville. They are also just the latest examples of the ways that racism is the ultimate result of the decisions that government officials make, regardless of their intentions. Preckwinkle is African-American, and the chairperson of the Cook County Democratic Party, but her decisions regarding Provident Hospital and Cook County Jail will still deeply wound African-Americans across Chicago.

The rapidity with which the pandemic has consumed black communities is shocking, but it also provides an unvarnished look into the dynamics of race and class that existed long before it emerged. The most futile conversation in the U.S. is the argument about whether race or class is the main impediment to African-American social mobility. In reality, they cannot be separated from each other. African-Americans are suffering through this crisis not only because of racism but also because of how racial discrimination has tied them to the bottom of the U.S. class hierarchy . . .

Read More: The Effect of the Coronavirus on America’s Black Communities | The New Yorker

Opinion | My Mother’s Death Will Have Everything and Nothing to Do With Covid-19 – The New York Times

My Mother Is Busy Getting Ready to Die

No insurance. 64 years old. Alone, along with all the other black people at the bottom of the pandemic.

By 

Dr. Manigault-Bryant is an associate professor of Africana studies at Williams College.

My mother is dying a painful death, and it has everything and nothing to do with Covid-19.

In a piece for The Atlantic detailing the ways in which the coronavirus seems to be hitting black people the hardest, Ibram X. Kendi wrote: “Sometimes racial data tell us something we don’t know. Other times we need racial data to confirm something we already seem to know.” My mother is a living example of what we already know about race, class and suffering.

She is not in an elder-care facility, nor a hospital. She has not been, and most likely will not be, tested for the virus or receive a diagnosis of having it.

Still, hers is the body of all the black people at the bottom of the pandemic. No insurance, though not for lack of trying. Medicaid applications denied for reasons we don’t understand. Inconsistent care at a local public clinic meant hard-to-come-by appointments and checkups only at moments deemed most critical. It wasn’t enough.

Now, she’s dying from end-stage liver disease and kidney failure, diagnosed too late to save her. This has nothing to do with Covid-19.

She is not even that old (64, and thus Medicare ineligible), but FaceTime tells no lies, and she is wasting away before us. What’s worse, even as I’m exactly four hours and three minutes away — geographically closer than I’ve been in over a decade — I can’t be near her, touch her, cook for her, kiss her or tell her all of the things that I don’t yet know I need to say. This has everything to do with Covid-19.
On the occasion she’s strong enough to answer the phone, holding the phone for FaceTime proves too much. Calls come too late, even as time is too short. The grandchildren who live close by cannot get close to her — the idea of transmitting anything to her, as she’s so obviously immune-compromised, is terrifying. The underlying conditions would amplify an already-certain death. This has everything to do with Covid-19.

My brother, who lives exactly six minutes and 24 seconds away from Mommy, risks seeing her because someone needs to make sure she’s still breathing. That check-in is thus essential. He scrubs himself clean after work with all manner of chemicals — he’s a waste management truck driver, an essential employee. This is an effort to protect her. He’s close to her. This is an effort to protect us. This has everything to do with Covid-19.

He tries to get her to eat something other than her single meal of applesauce and Vienna sausages. This has nothing to do with Covid-19.

It’s officially power-of-attorney and health-proxy time. Getting my mother to the lawyer — a four-minute drive — is a thing. My brother and I spend hours strategizing transportation. The errand feels like it takes an eternity. This has everything to do with Covid-19.

Like so many, countless others, my family and I are going to be left with the unsettling weight of her death. My mother is going to die soon, and it will most likely be alone. I am afraid. I am one of many grieving, forever-changed faces. No repast. No low-country songs sung graveside. No sending up our timber for her. We cannot grieve properly. Lots of regret. This has everything to do with Covid-19.

When the pandemic is over, we still won’t know how to deal with this. We’re not ready for this kind of grief. Death is so utter, so absolute, yet so much right now is uncertain. My mother is dying a painful death, and it has everything and nothing to do with Covid-19.

LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant (@DoctorRMB) is associate professor of Africana studies at Williams College and the author of “Talking to the Dead: Religion, Music, and Lived Memory Among Gullah/Geechee Women.”

 

Confinement and Disease from Slavery to the COVID-19 Pandemic – AAIHS

 

Confinement and Disease from Slavery to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Apartment building in Chicago, 1941, (Russell Lee: Library of Congress)

As many college students as well as others have moved back home during the current pandemic people’s houses are feeling more cramped than ever. The conditions of small living spaces feel even more confining as communities are tasked with staying inside as much as possible with orders to shelter in place still intact in some locations. These conditions have left many feeling restless, bored, agitated and sad as they try to carve out private space and a sense of normalcy in such an uncertain time. The feelings of confinement ordinary people are facing contrasts starkly with the views of celebrity housing available through live streams, photos, and videos on social media. Gal Gadot and several other celebrities, for example, released a video of them singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The video was posted to Gadot’s Instagram with the caption “We are in this together, we will get through it together. Let’s imagine together. Sing with us. All love to you, from me and my dear friends.” Immediately, people on Instagram and Twitter noted the emptiness of these gestures coming from wealthy celebrities without the addition of material action.

The pandemic has drawn to a head the inequalities in housing and wealth defining the contemporary US. The nation’s majority have been left scrambling to make rent for their tiny apartments while watching the wealthy squirrel away in large open concept mansions with lush lawns and huge pools.

For Black communities, these contradictions are nothing new, as forced immobility and confinement have defined their historical and contemporary experiences with regard to the matters of space. As West Africans were rendered slaves, one of their primary spatial experiences was confinement, first in slave castles like El Mina in modern Ghana and then aboard the thousands of slave ships that traversed the Atlantic across five centuries. Africans crossed the ocean packed in and chained together with little room to move.

The carceral space aboard the slave ship  put captives in a position of increased vulnerability to diseases and illness. Despite slave trader’s efforts to bring only “healthy” Africans across the sea many ships suffered numerous casualties due to yellow fever, smallpox, scurvy, malaria, flux, and several other diseases. Sowande’ Mustakeem has noted that the isolation caused by the sea voyage along with the cramped and unsanitary conditions captives were held in created unique and devastating encounters with disease. The spread of disease was further aggravated by the violent treatment of captives aboard these ships as well as poor nutrition. As people’s bodies attempted to heal from physical and psychological injuries as well as illness, they faced an environment that only further deteriorated their capacities to fight infection.

In the North American context, despite variation in housing circumstances across different regions and time, the enslaved were forced to live in confining spaces. Whether awaiting sale in a dingy and overcrowded slave pen in Richmond, living in overcrowded gender-segregated barracks in Charleston, or making lives in a drafty and inadequately sized cabin on a rural sugar plantation in New Orleans’ hinterland, slaves experienced the quotidian violence of tight living irrespective of other differences in their social conditions and labor. This contrasts sharply with white slave owners who demonstrated their power with sprawling homes on sprawling estates. Consider for example, Thomas Jefferson’s Albemarle County, Virginia mansion, Monticello in contrast to the small and poorly insulated log cabin structures in which the people he enslaved lived. The contrasts between Black and white space also had another dimension related to mobility. Especially in the wake of the Jacksonian era, white people moved freely, while enslaved people’s movements were legally regulated and violently circumscribed. Even free Black people, especially after Nat Turner’s bloody 1831 rebellion, were strictly delimited in their abilities to move freely. Confinement and immobility were twinned conditions for slaves. As Katherine McKittrick analyzesHarriet Ann Jacobs, spent seven years in her grandmother’s garret or attic space, unable to fully stand upright in nine-foot-long, seven-foot-wide, three-foot-tall space. She hid in this space, carving it as a “loophole of retreat” in order to evade the violence of her master and eventually to escape. For Jacobs freedom required a subtle reworking of the confinement enforced on Black life and Black geographies.

This lack of mobility and confinement continued after slavery as part of its afterlives along with the related condition of predisposition to contagious disease and premature death. In Chicago between the World Wars, Black migrant communities were forced into the West and Southside by legally sanctioned segregation, policing, and vigilante violence. Black families rented small apartments called kitchenettes at exorbitant rates, and as St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton characterized  in their influential study, lived in cramped poorly heated and congested conditions. As Rashad Shabazz argues, in the spaces of kitchenettes, Black Chicagoans experienced an expression of carceral power in their ordinary lives, manifest in the arrangement of their housing. He writes “by creating close associations between people the kitchenette made privacy of any kind impossible, shaming its residents by putting all actions under the forced gaze of others in the room.”1 This kind of housing arrangement is psychologically wearing, as Richard Wright’s Native Son disturbingly and dramatically fictionalizes. Many Black Chicagoans, across generations, experienced life-long emotional states like the frustration, restlessness, and captivity some people stuck in their homes due to the pandemic currently are experiencing for the first time.

This confining geography extending out from kitchenette also had deadly effects. In 1918 and 1919 the Spanish Flu pandemic caused mass death and tremendous social upheaval that anticipated and rehearsed what Black communities are currently experiencing with COVID-19. Prisoners today are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19—the highest number of cases tied to a location is a prison in Ohio where 80% of the prisoners have tested positive. This resonates with the history of the Spanish Flu in Chicago. As one Chicago Defender writer noted, “Chicago police stations are doing more to breed disease than any other agency supposed to be working for the good of Chicago.”2 The journalist went on to note the way Chicago jails “huddle prisoners together” without medical examinations and how this led to the spread of the deadly flu.3 The carcerality of the kitchenette also made its residents vulnerable. Shabazz notes that Black Chicagoans had higher rates of mental illness, disease, and death all of which were influenced by their crowded and run-down living conditions. These kinds of vulnerabilities tied to spatial confinement are ongoing in Chicago where 50% of the deaths from COVID are Black, and where segregation and carcerality continue to define the landscape.”4

Blackness’s tie to tight spatial control and confinement,extending between living spaces and formal carceral institutions, and from slavery to the present, puts Black people at greater risk for disease and infection exacerbated by the mental health effects of confinement. This greater vulnerability tied to spatial confinement, overcrowding, and other effects of our nation’s anti-Black geography buttresses the spatial advantages white communities enjoyed historically and which they continue to enjoy. White slave owners profited from the confinement and forced vulnerability of their slaves. White landowners in Chicago profited from overcharging their Black tenants for poor quality housing. The risk of death, disease, and mental illbeing that Black people live with exists to produce white safety and comfort, guaranteed in exclusive geographies away from lead paint, rusty water, over-policing, and gratuitous violence. In order to mitigate the unequal deadly effects of COVID-19  and to prevent the future of devastating conditions disproportionately affecting Black people, we must reimagine the American landscape outside this history defined by the twinned and reinforcing structures of Black immobility and confinement.

  1. Rashad Shabaz, Spacializing Blacknes: Architectures of Confinement and Black Masculinity in Chicago. (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2015), 50. 
  2. “Spanish Plague Raging in Chicago: All Places of Public Assemblage Ordered Closed by Health Officials,” Chicago Defender (Chicago, IL), Oct. 19, 1918. 
  3. Ibid. 
  4. The Color of Caronavirus: COVID-19 Deaths by Race and Ethnicity in the US.” APM Research LAB, May 5th, 2020. https://www.apmresearchlab.org/covid/deaths-by-race. 

Source: Confinement and Disease from Slavery to the COVID-19 Pandemic – AAIHS

‘The Father of Environmental Justice’ Isn’t Surprised by COVID-19 Health Disparities – Texas Monthly

As the coronavirus keeps large swaths of Texas shut down, from the economy to the education system and social life, it has become common to note that the disease “doesn’t discriminate.” But Robert Bullard, a professor and former dean at Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan–Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, has spent the past four decades researching the opposite: how natural disasters and crises wreak havoc on society unequally. Low-income communities of color often have far fewer resources to address disaster and, as a result, face far greater risks than whiter, wealthier neighborhoods in times of crisis.

Indeed, across the nation, evidence suggests that people of color are dying at higher rates from COVID-19 than are white people. Though Texas’s Department of State Health Services has so far reported incomplete racial data, some counties are following the national trend. In Harris County, for example, 40 percent of those who died from COVID-19 were black, though black people account for only 20 percent of the county’s population.

A number of factors could be responsible for the disparity. In Texas, black and Latino communities have higher rates of preexisting conditions that make the coronavirus deadly, like asthma and high blood pressure. When it comes to health care, black, Hispanic, and Native Americans in the state are more likely to be uninsured than white residents, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Testing for COVID-19 is also far from equally accessible: in the city of Dallas, testing is concentrated in high-income areas. And people of color might also be more likely to be employed in sectors that preclude social distancing: black and Latino workers are the least likely to report being able to work from home, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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While COVID-19 is a new phenomenon, racial disparities in health outcomes are not. In the seventies, Bullard’s research in Houston demonstrated that toxin-releasing facilities like waste and sewage plants were disproportionately placed in the city’s black neighborhoods, leading to a higher concentration of health problems. To this day, the pattern holds true.

Bullard’s work catalyzed the American environmental justice movement, which argues that environmental problems disproportionately affect communities of color and the poor, and that race and class should be accounted for in their potential solutions. Texas Monthly spoke with Bullard about how the pandemic intersects with environmental issues and why people of color are more vulnerable to the disease.

[This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.]

Texas Monthly: In your book The Wrong Complexion for Protection you write, “When societal resources are distributed unequally by class and race, it should be no surprise that population health is distributed along those lines as well.” Were you at all surprised by the racial disparities many counties are reporting with COVID-19?

Robert Bullard: No. When it comes to who gets in line first, and who has priority [for resources like health care], a lot of that is predetermined by the power structures, politically and economic. Oftentimes privilege aligns with race, with white people getting the first and the best protection. And so it’s not surprising when you look at how structural and institutional racism has given privileges for some and disadvantaged others. And when you have poverty, lack of access to health care, [high rates of] uninsured, many who have no private automobiles and are dependent on the buses and public transportation, and neighborhoods in pollution sacrifice zones—and then you pile on top of that the stress of racism—you’re going to get people who are vulnerable. It’s not rocket science. These social determinants of health have been known for many years.

And so the coronavirus is basically taking advantage of those vulnerabilities, and you’re seeing it play out in the deaths. And that’s more than sad. It’s unacceptable.

TM: The coronavirus seems to be a public health disaster that’s layering on top of existing disparities in environmental and social determinants of health. How do you see these things as interconnected, and how are environmental vulnerabilities making the coronavirus worse in certain communities?

RB: We know that if communities are saturated with all kinds of polluting facilities—landfills, incinerators, petrochemical plants and refineries, and coal power plants—and the air quality is bad, you’ll find high rates of ill health: asthma, respiratory illnesses, and other kinds of diseases that are elevated among people of color and poor people, like diabetes and hypertension.

We’re not even dealing with the coronavirus yet: we’re talking about studies that have shown that areas that have high concentration of polluting facilities also have high concentration of health disparities.

So when you apply that to this virus that appears to be attacking the respiratory system … and the cardiovascular system, it’s already hard to breathe in some of these neighborhoods. The coronavirus will make it even harder. It will kill you.

The idea is that if a community is located physically on the wrong side of the levee, the wrong side of the river, on the wrong side of the tracks, it receives less protection than those who are on the right side. Communities of color are disproportionately more vulnerable.

You tell me your zip code, and I can tell you how healthy you are. And so when you talk about trying to map out those social, economic, and racial vulnerabilities, and then overlay health, you can see that there’s a big disparity. You can go from one census tract or one zip code to another, and life expectancy changes by more than fifteen or twenty years by just crossing that line.

TM: Has Texas’s response failed to acknowledge preexisting health disparities?

RB: Texas has the second lowest percentage of testing but that doesn’t surprise me. What surprises me is that it doesn’t have the worst.

This virus does not does not look at your race, or your color. It looks at vulnerability. You can try and look at geographic areas the virus is hitting and not look at race. But then if you put race back in, you will see that there is a discernible pattern. Oftentimes, lax enforcement of environmental law means that communities on the frontline suffer. And that goes hand in hand with lax civil rights enforcement. Texas has the highest rates of uninsurance in the nation, and it has resisted expanding Medicaid, for example. So these policies have created vulnerabilities and it disadvantages communities.

If you talk to people in those neighborhoods on the streets, they can tell you without mapping that they’re most likely to get flooded. Most likely to get polluted. Most likely to suffer from extended unemployment. Or they don’t have the benefit of working from home or a safety net for sick days and paid leave. The medical folks call it comorbidity. Folks on the frontline have always known that’s how things are connected. It’s the cumulative impact of all these things coming at you at one time.

TM: What sort of public policies do you think that Texas, or the United States more generally, should implement to close these racial disparities?

RB: There are some obvious things that need to happen like strengthening people’s access to health care and health insurance. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen attempts to weaken both access to health care and environmental standards with federal rollbacks of specific provisions of the Clean Air Act and tailpipe pollution, and even today with mercury emissions.

So for many of us who have been advocates of environmental justice and health equity, that’s the wrong direction. Other states have taken the high road, and expanded Medicare and access to health insurance. And we should also acknowledge that climate change will make it even more difficult in the future for Texans with hotter days and more bad air-quality days. There will be more outbreaks [because of climate change], as health professionals and scientists have said. We can’t wait to address these issues. We need a real emergency plan for disasters, especially as our population is growing in Texas, to make our cities and rural areas more resilient.

TM: Low income communities are also more likely to live in environmentally vulnerable areas, particularly those at risk of flooding. Do you have concerns about hurricane season coming up and how that might put a double strain on some communities?

RB: The communities that are hit hardest and take the longest to recover, those are the same communities that I’m worried about. On June 1, if we have an active hurricane season in communities that are already suffering from COVID-19, how can you shelter in place when you have to evacuate? Where do people go? If you go to a shelter, it’s going to be hard to social distance. So you’re talking about disasters compounding. That should be worrisome for FEMA and the state government. I’m hoping there is planning for that, so that we don’t get caught flat-footed. I would hope that the smartest people in government are working on the areas that have historically had these severe weather events.

People are stressed about the virus, and people who live on the Gulf Coast, April and May is when they start getting stressed about hurricane season. How are we going to respond to another Harvey or Imelda? In many cases, community groups are the first line of defense. People aren’t going to wait on the government for [immediate aid], because if we do, it will be too late. It’s important to lift up organizations and institutions that have built up that trust in communities. We have to make sure that these organizations are funded and positioned in a way that can address what’s happening.

Why African-Americans may be especially vulnerable to COVID-19

African-Americans are more likely to die from the disease than white Americans

two people wearing masks
African-Americans have increased exposure to COVID-19, in part, because they disproportionately have jobs in the service sector. Here, a man is shown with his ride share driver at a train station in Joliet, Ill., on April 6.CHARLES REX ARBOGAST/AP PHOTO

COVID-19 was called the great equalizer. Nobody was immune; anybody could succumb. But the virus’ spread across the United States is exposing racial fault lines, with early data showing that African-Americans are more likely to die from the disease than white Americans.

The data are still piecemeal, with only some states and counties breaking down COVID-19 cases and outcomes by race. But even without nationwide data, the numbers are stark. Where race data are known — for only 3,300 of 13,000 COVID-19 deaths — African-Americans account for 42 percent of the deaths, the Associated Press reported April 9. Those data also suggest the disparity could be highest in the South. For instance, in both Louisiana and Mississippi, African-Americans account for over 65 percent of known COVID-19 deaths.

Other regions are seeing disparities as well. For instance, in Illinois, where the bulk of infections are in the Chicago area, 28 percent of the 16,422 confirmed cases as of April 9 were African-Americans, but African-Americans accounted for nearly 43 percent of the state’s 528 deaths.

Other data find similar trends. A study published online April 8 in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report looked at hospitalizations for COVID-19 across 14 states from March 1 to 30. Race data, which were available for 580 of 1,482 patients, revealed that African-Americans accounted for 33 percent of the hospitalizations, but only 18 percent of the total population surveyed.

Here are three reasons why African-Americans may be especially vulnerable to the new coronavirus.

1. African-Americans are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19.

SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is highly contagious, even before symptoms appear (SN: 3/13/20). So to curb the virus’ spread and limit person-to-person transmission, states have been issuing stay-at-home orders. But many individuals are considered part of the critical workforce by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and must continue to work. That includes caregivers, cashiers, sanitation workers, farm workers and public transit employees, jobs often filled by African-Americans.

For instance, almost 30 percent of employed African-Americans work in the education and health services industry and 10 percent in retail, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. African-Americans are less likely than employed people in general to work in professional and business services — the sorts of jobs more amenable to telecommuting.

Additionally, a disproportionately high percentage of African-Americans may live in places that could increase their risk of exposure. Census data from January 2020 show that only 44 percent of African-Americans own their own home compared with almost 74 percent of white people. Consider a family living in a crowded inner-city apartment, says epidemiologist Martina Anto-Ocrah of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. “Can you possibly take an elevator alone? No.”

African-Americans’ risk of higher exposure to COVID-19 has historical roots — including legal segregation in schools and housing, discrimination in the labor market and redlining, the practice of denying home loans to those living in predominantly African-American neighborhoods. Those forces have contributed to a persistent racial wealth gap, with African-Americans continuing to struggle to move into neighborhoods with the sorts of socioeconomic opportunities that allow white families to better avoid exposure to COVID-19.

“All the ingredients are in place for there to be a sharp racial and class inequality to this [pandemic],” says Robert Sampson, a sociologist at Harvard University.

2. African-Americans have a higher incidence of underlying health conditions.

Among those at highest risk of getting severely ill with COVID-19 are patients with other serious health problems, such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease (SN: 3/20/20). Over 40 percent of African-Americans have high blood pressure, among the highest rates in the world, according to the American Heart Association. By comparison, about a third of white Americans have high blood pressure. Similarly, African-Americans tend to have higher rates of diabetes.

Part of that heightened risk has to do with African-Americans’ disproportionate exposure to air pollution. Such pollution has been linked to chronic health problems, including asthma, obesity and cardiovascular disease (SN: 9/19/17). In an April 2019 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sampson and fellow Harvard sociologist Robert Manduca showed that poor African-American neighborhoods have higher levels of lead, air pollution and violence than poor white neighborhoods (SN: 4/12/19).

 

 

 

Researchers are still sorting out how neighborhood stressors contribute to poor health. But even if the causes aren’t always clear, research suggests that helping people move to better neighborhoods can improve health. For instance, a 2017 study in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that for African-American adults, moving out of racially segregated neighborhoods was linked to a drop in blood pressure (SN: 5/15/17).

3. African-Americans have less access to medical care and often distrust caregivers.

Inequities in access to health care, including inadequate health insurance, discrimination fears and distance from clinics and hospitals, make it harder for many African-Americans to access the sort of preventive care that keeps chronic diseases in check.

According to a December 2019 report from The Century Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank based in New York City and Washington, D.C., African-Americans are still more likely to be uninsured than white Americans. And African-Americans who are insured spend a greater fraction of their income on premiums and out-of-pocket costs, about 20 percent, than the average American, who spends about 11 percent.

Census data show that about 20 percent of African-Americans live in poverty compared with 10 percent of white Americans. As a result, African-Americans have been disproportionately hurt by some states’ decisions not to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. Expanded Medicaid has been linked to a reduced likelihood of deaths from cardiovascular disease (SN: 6/7/19) and a reduction in the racial health gap between white and black babies (SN: 4/23/19).

Lack of preventive care means that African-Americans are more likely than other racial groups in the United States to be hospitalized or rehospitalized for asthma, diabetes, heart failure and postsurgery complications, researchers reported in 2016 in the Annual Review of Public Health.

African-Americans can also face hidden biases to care. For instance, an algorithm used to determine which patients should receive access to certain health care programs inadvertently prioritized white patients over African-American patients (SN: 10/24/19), researchers reported in October 2019 in Science. That disparity arose because the algorithm used health care spending as a proxy for need, but African-Americans often spend less on health care because they are less likely to go to a doctor. In part that may be because African-Americans have a long-standing distrust of the medical establishment due to events such as the Tuskegee experiment (SN: 3/1/75), in which hundreds of African-American men with syphilis were denied treatment for decades.

“These long-standing structural forms of discrimination that African-Americans have faced in the [United States] are manifesting in what we’re seeing with COVID right now,” says epidemiologist Kiarri Kershaw of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Even so, more can be done to identify communities that might be especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and improve their odds of coping with the pandemic, Sampson says. For example, “look at a map of incarceration, lead risk and violence in Chicago [and] you’ll basically see a map of COVID deaths,” he says. Those kinds of proxies could provide a road map to identifying at-risk communities and targeting resources to them, such as greater access to COVID-19 testing, distribution of masks and mobile clinics to provide care.

INCREASING PUBLIC POWER TO INCREASE COMPETITION: A FOUNDATION FOR AN INCLUSIVE ECONOMY

INCREASING PUBLIC POWER TO INCREASE COMPETITION:  A FOUNDATION FOR AN INCLUSIVE ECONOMY

ISSUE BRIEF BY WILLIAM DARITY JR., DARRICK HAMILTON, AND RAKEEN MABUD
MAY 2019

Executive Summary

The United States needs an economy grounded in justice and morality, where everyone, free of undue resource constraints, can prosper. To achieve this, citizens ought to have universal access to undeniable economic rights, such as the right to employment, medical and health care, high quality education, sound banking and financial services, or a meaningful endowment at birth (Paul, Darity, Hamilton 2018). Currently, our system provides these rights primarily through the “free market” by private providers, but these private companies often fail to meet the following criteria:

•   Quantity: Are goods adequately supplied?
•   Quality: Are the goods high quality?
•   Access: Do people have adequate access to these goods?

Because of the failure of America’s markets-first approach to policy, the federal government should intervene by introducing public options that provide these essential goods and services in direct competition with private firms. Doing so will set “floors” on wages and quality and “ceilings” on price for private actors who are intent on providing important economic rights at a cost. In employment, this might mean providing a federal jobs guarantee (FJG); in financial services, this could mean access to bank accounts and safe, nonpredatory loans. Throughout this issue brief, we explore what public options might look like in employment, health, housing, education, and financial services. We argue that in these sectors, public options are necessary to combat high-cost, low-quality provision by private actors and ensure universal and better quality access to all Americans.

Full Report here.   https://rooseveltinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/RI_Increasing-Public-Power-to-Increase-Competition-brief-201905.pdf

CREATIVE COMMONS COPYRIGHT 2019 | ROOSEVELTINSTITUTE.ORG

The report features the work of OUR COMMON GROUND Voices, Drs. William “Sandy” Darity and Darrick Hamilton

Darity Hamilton

How Tobacco Companies Led A Devastating 50-Year Infiltration Into Black Communities

A college student’s film project reveals the targeted effort to push menthols onto the black populace.

 

Lincoln Mondy’s asthma is probably the only reason why he’s never smoked a cigarette.

Doctors warned his parents about the dangerous effects their smoking habit could have on their son, but it was almost impossible to stop because in Farmersville, Texas, “tobacco is everything,” according to Mondy. At the age of 14, Mondy took matters into his own hands when he made a PowerPoint presentation for his mom, whom he lived with, which warned her about tobacco’s adverse effects. With the support of Mondy and other family members, his mother eventually quit smoking by the time he was 15. But getting his father to quit was a different beast to tackle.

My black family all smoked menthol,” Mondy, who is biracial, told The Huffington Post about a pattern he noticed on his paternal family’s side. “Like why do they smoke menthol but my white side dips and smokes cigarettes that aren’t menthol?”

THE AFRICAN AMERICAN TOBACCO CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL

Menthol is a flavoring additive that makes it easier to inhale smoke which makes it more addictive than non-menthol cigarettes, according to the Center for Disease Control. More than 70 percent of black smokers prefer menthol, as shown in the infographics (above and below) by the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. After learning that black people are more likely to die from smoking-related diseases than whites, Mondy realized his father’s affinity for menthol wasn’t a coincidence.

The now 22-year-old senior at George Washington University, started to research the campaigns big tobacco companies used to target black communities for his film project,“Black Lives/Black Lungs.” The film was published in March in conjunction with Truth Initiative, and he found some very disturbing facts.

Check out “Black Lives/Black Lungs” in the video below and keep scrolling to continue the story.

Mondy searched for keywords within the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents database like “ethnic,” “ghetto,” “lower income” and “negro.” He found countless documents that outlined tobacco companies’ strategies in its campaigns which were aimed specifically at black people. He said the latter three search terms yielded results that surprised him, but it was a document from Lorlliard Tobacco that said “negroes” smoke menthol to “mask a real/mythical odor,” which he said disturbed him the most.

They started really seeing [that] saying menthols would make people think ‘fresh breath,’” Mondy said of his findings. “So in like the ‘60s they started targeting on that. They really started going really hard on ‘hey, smoke this, it’s healthier, fresh breath, minty,’ those kind of buzz words that would make people feel like its healthier than a regular cigarette.”

In addition to the language used in advertisements, these tobacco companies would buy a disproportionate amount of ad space in black publications like Ebony, Jet and Essence in comparison to mainstream magazines like Life, Vanity Fair and Elle. In 1962, Ebony carried twice as many cigarette ad pages as Life. These ads showed black men and women with cool and even empowering demeanors as they held a cigarette.

Many tobacco companies were ordered in 2014 by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler to run corrective statements in many publications about their overall misleading messages about the negative health effects of smoking in ads, but black media outlets were completely ignored.

THE AFRICAN AMERICAN TOBACCO CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL

Mondy also found that businessmen from tobaccos companies would take “ethnic field trips” to neighborhoods highly populated with black people in the ‘60s where they would stay for hours and give away menthol cigarettes.

“You’re getting them hooked for free,” Mondy said of the these “disturbing” marketing tactics by the tobacco companies. “So they’d go and take really impressive research to kind of pinpoint the culture and see what people like, what people don’t like. And then, maybe like three months later, after that one ethnic field trip, there’d be an ad targeted specifically to that population.”

Phillip Gardiner, public health activist and co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, wrote in his 2002 study “The African Americanization of menthol cigarette use in the United States” — which Mondy refers to often in his research — that tobacco companies saw the distinct traits of the black community, philanthropy included, and adjusted their marketing accordingly to build the community’s trust:

“Because the industry was based in the South, and the majority of black people lived and worked in the South, even as many migrated to urban centers, it was to the advantage of the tobacco industry to develop a strategic relationship with the African-American community. Moreover, the tobacco industry was one of the first major corporate employers to hire and promote African-Americans, not just in the processing of tobacco but also as executives (Gardiner, 2001; Robinson & Sutton, 1994).”

Mondy called the tobacco industry’s infiltration into the black community “strategic.” Tobacco companies like Altria have donated millions of dollars to black institutions — including the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, historically black colleges and universities, and the NAACP — over the years. In 2014, Altria donated one million dollars to the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture which opens this year. Mondy said these institutions would risk vital funding which could ultimately help them to have a positive impact on the black community if they spoke up against the tobacco companies.

They have no choice,” he told HuffPost. “In the ‘70s when the NAACP needed funding for meetings, the tobacco industry was there, no one else was there. The tobacco industry was there to give money to them so they couldn’t say smoking is bad.”

Today, menthol is the only tobacco additive that is not banned, despite a 2009 law which banned other flavor additives like cherry and bubblegum. Yet, as shown in the graphic below, the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium found that if menthol was banned that 44.5 percent of black smokers would quit smoking tobacco.

THE AFRICAN AMERICAN TOBACCO CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL

Mondy said he believes the reason it hasn’t been banned is due to political reasons — Lorillard, the company which produces Newports, has donated to more than half of the black democrats in Congress compared to just under 3 percent of non-black Democrats in 2014.

In 2015, Lorillard, whose sales depended on menthols for roughly 85 percent of sales the year prior, merged with Reynolds American Inc. — the company that owns R.J, Reynolds Tobacco Company. Jacob McConnico, a spokesperson for the R.J, Reynolds Tobacco Company, provided a statement to HuffPost in regards to claims about marketing practices that specifically targeted the black community in the past few decades and today:

“I am not able to provide any insight to claims related to alleged marketing activities of up to 50 years ago. I can tell you, as it relates to our marketing today, our marketing efforts are designed to reach a wide and diverse audience of adult tobacco consumers. Those efforts are designed to include elements of interest for all adult smokers, regardless of their ethnicity or gender. Adult African-Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities have the same ability and right as the rest of the population to evaluate and make informed decisions about whether or not they want to use tobacco or any other consumer product. It would not be appropriate to exclude minority audiences or media from our brand communications.”

Steve Callahan, a representative for Altria Client Services, the company which owns Philip Morris USA brands such as Marlboro, Virginia Slims, among others, also said that he couldn’t speak on marketing campaigns from the past in a statement to HuffPost. He said there has been tighter regulation on tobacco companies due to the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement which changed the way brands market tobacco and the 2009 Tobacco Control Act in which the Food and Drug Administration began regulating the manufacture, distribution and marketing of these products.

Also, Callahan said to HuffPost that Philip Morris USA is “committed to marketing our products responsibly by building relationships between our brands and adult smokers while taking steps designed to limit reach to unintended audiences.” He added, “Philip Morris USA markets its menthol cigarette brands using the same marketing approaches it uses for its non-menthol cigarette brands.”

Advocates like Gardiner, however, aren’t convinced that tobacco companies shouldn’t be held accountable.

The bottom line is that African-Americans prefer menthol cigarettes because the tobacco industry pushed these products on and created the demand among this population,” Gardiner wrote in his study. “Did the industry do this on purpose? The answer to this question is an unequivocal yes.”

Despite tobacco’s deep impact on the black community, Mondy said he’s using his “Black Lives/Black Lungs” project as a vehicle of hope. With the help of Truth Initiative, he plans on interviewing key players in the fight to ban menthol and turn his findings into a documentary which he intends to premiere this summer. His efforts aren’t to shame smokers because quitting tobacco can be a hard feat, especially, if a person may have smoked his or her entire life. Instead, he said he wants to educate people on the issue.

AFRICAN AMERICAN TOBACCO CONTROL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL

Mondy’s approach to informing others has even made his father take quitting more seriously. He said his dad texted him in February to tell him that he had gone 30 days without smoking a cigarette, the longest in Mondy’s lifetime.

“This is like so engorged into our community,” he said. “I think it’s important to equip people with the education and information and so like, I’m not going around saying ‘smoking is bad, stop smoking.’”

Instead, Mondy said he hopes the research he provides will lead people to make an informed decision on whether they want to quit smoking or “keep buying from these companies that benefit from black death.”

Learn more about the tobacco industry’s targeted campaign on the black community with “Black Lives/Black Lungs” and watch the video above.

Source: How Tobacco Companies Led A Devastating 50-Year Infiltration Into Black Communities

Black men increasingly hard to find in medical schools

 

PROFESSION

Black men increasingly hard to find in medical schools

A dwindling share of students pursuing physician careers are African-American men. Experts warn that the trend could exacerbate racial health disparities and doctor shortages.

By KEVIN B. O’REILLY, amednews staff. Posted Feb. 25, 2013.

As a medical student, Frank A. Clark, MD, was one of the few African-American men in his class. It wasn’t that he saw black men being rejected from medical school. The bigger problem was that he didn’t see many on track to get there at all.

“Even during my collegiate career, I was a biology major with a minor in chemistry, and I didn’t see many other African-American males on the premed route,” says Dr. Clark, now a psychiatry resident at Palmetto Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia, S.C.

Black men are notable in that their numbers are lagging even as other minorities and women are continuing a long-term trend of gaining greater representation among medical school applicants and students, according to the most recent Assn. of American Medical Colleges report on medical education diversity.

The report said 2.5% of medical school applicants were black men in 2011, a drop from 2.6% in 2002. That compares with 9% and 11% increases in the share of Asian and Hispanic male applicants, respectively, during the same period. A 10% greater share of matriculating students were Asian men in 2011 than in 2002, and Hispanic men made up a 24% larger proportion of new medical students. The share of white male applicants and matriculants was stable.

10% of U.S. men 30 and older are black, but less than 3% of practicing doctors are black men.

Growth in the number of African-American women applying for — and attending — medical school has been comparatively weak as well, with their representation, as a percentage of all applicants and graduates, also in decline. However, their numbers are still enough to create, as they have for some time, the biggest gender gap among all racial or ethnic groups.

Twice as many African-American women as men applied to medical school, and black women accounted for nearly two-thirds of black students who were accepted and eventually matriculated. That disparity translates into graduation rates, with 63% of new black MDs in 2011 being women.

By comparison, the non-Hispanic white gender gap in favor of men is 55%-45%, and while most other racial and ethnic groups skew female, they don’t come near the African-American gender gap. Overall, according to AAMC, the male-female gap in applicants and matriculants in 2011 was 53%-47% favoring men, a near-historic low ratio that has held steady for the past few years.

The AAMC report said the “persistent” problem of black male underrepresentation among medical school applicants speaks to a need for medical schools, which have stepped up minority recruitment efforts in recent years to try to get their student bodies to reflect the American population, “to institute plans and initiatives aimed at strengthening the pipeline.” Efforts include attempts to interest more black male youth in medicine and hiring more faculty members “from racially and ethnically underrepresented groups.”

“We have a major, major problem in this country,” said Marc Nivet, EdD, the AAMC’s chief diversity officer. “There is just simply an enormous amount of indisputable evidence that we’re not intervening as effectively as we’d like as a society to increase the talent pool of African-Americans who are capable of taking advantage of the science curricula available up and down the pipeline.”

Despite a 3% rise in the total number of male African-American medical school graduates during the last decade, the proportion of new doctors who were black men fell from 2.6% in 2002 to 2.4% in 2011. African-Americans account for 13% of the U.S. population, but only 6% of 2011 matriculants were black, as are just 4% of practicing doctors. And while the Census Bureau reports that 10% of U.S. men 30 and older are African-American, less than 3% of practicing doctors are black men, according to American Medical Association data.

Multiple repercussions

The underrepresentation of black men in medicine is problematic for multiple reasons, experts say.

The shortage could worsen access to care in low-income communities, because black medical students are likelier than any other group to have a firm commitment to practicing in underserved areas, with 55% saying they plan to do so. Meanwhile, several studies have found that patients who are treated by physicians with whom they share racial or gender characteristics report greater satisfaction with their care and higher rates of medication compliance.

63% of new black MDs in 2011 were women.

With the U.S. Census Bureau projecting that nonwhites will account for a majority of the American population by 2050, a sputtering pipeline of black male doctors could worsen the physician supply problem. The AAMC projects that by 2025, the country will be short by 130,000 doctors of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

“This has huge implications,” said Rahn K. Bailey, MD, president of the National Medical Assn., which promotes the interests of African-American physicians and patients.

“Society does better with balance all the way around,” he said. “And we don’t have balance if we have disproportionately twice as many females as males applying to enter the profession, or twice as many from California as from New York, or twice as many people who want to go into surgery as into pediatrics. We need everybody. We need all hands on deck.”

Disparities begin early

The gap seen among African-American men in medicine does not start when students apply to medical school. About 3% of college graduates are black men, and women account for nearly two-thirds of black students to earn bachelor’s degrees. Nearly three-quarters of African-Americans majoring in biology or biomedical sciences are women, according to 2009 U.S. Dept. of Education data.

Nationally, 52% of male African-Americans earn high school diplomas, compared with 58% of male Hispanics and 78% of male non-Hispanic whites, said a September 2012 report published by the nonprofit Schott Foundation for Public Education. For every black male physician, there are about 50 African-American men incarcerated at the federal, state or local levels, according to 2009 U.S. Justice Dept. data.

Twice as many African-American women as men apply to medical school.

Reaching male African-Americans at younger ages is critical, experts say. Twelve medical and dental schools now take part in the six-week, tuition-free Summer Medical and Dental Education Program, administered by the AAMC and the American Dental Education Assn. The program, launched in 1989, each year offers intensive preparation for dental or medical school, clinical experiences, and academic enrichment in math and science to about 1,000 college freshman and sophomores who are from underrepresented minority groups or low-income families.

Some medical schools are working to encourage math and science among elementary and secondary school students. The Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., works with the local public schools as early as the third grade, offering field trips to Duke health care facilities. Starting in the fifth grade, 25 students from underrepresented minority groups or low-income families are selected from each participating school to join Duke’s BOOST program, which offers extra math and science instruction, overnight field trips and summer workshops. The outreach effort continues with high school students, said Brenda Armstrong, MD, dean of admissions at Duke’s medical school. The school had more black graduates in 2011 — 20 total, 14 women — than all but four other medical schools.

“A lot of this has to do with giving [male African-Americans] the academic tools to work with at an early stage, and you have to reinforce those successes and keep them in the system,” said Dr. Armstrong, a professor of pediatrics.

Affirmative action’s future in doubt

Experts’ concern about the diminishing share of black men entering medicine is accentuated by uncertainty about the future of affirmative action. A case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, could produce a ruling this year that restricts how publicly funded medical schools factor race, ethnicity and gender into admissions decisions. The AMA joined in a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the ability to use race as one part of the admissions process.

The AMA also co-founded the Commission to End Health Care Disparities in 2004 with the National Medical Assn. The commission studies gaps in care and convenes expert panels to provide practice and policy recommendations. In 2002, the AMA launched the Doctors Back to School program, which sends black, Hispanic and other physicians to visit schools to encourage minority students’ interest in medicine.

Dr. Clark, the Columbia, S.C., psychiatry resident, has taken part in the back-to-school program and also made other trips to talk with area elementary and high school students. Role models are key to encouraging more male African-Americans to pursue math, science and medicine, said Dr. Clark, a member of the AMA Minority Affairs Section’s governing council.

“As physicians, we have an obligation to not only serve our community in terms of providing good patient care, but also to be mentors, to reach out to those people who look up to us,” he said. “People do look up to us. We may not be Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. We may not have won championships, but we still have a role in the community to play, and a role that’s vital to the community.”

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 ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The last decade reshaped medical school diversity

The proportion of African-American men in medical schools has fallen since 2002, while a rising share of medical students come from Asian and Hispanic backgrounds.

Group 2002 applicants (%) 2011 applicants (%) 2002 matriculants (%) 2011 matriculants (%)
White men 10,483 (31.2%) 13,506 (30.8%) 5,355 (32.5%) 6,252 (32.5%)
White women 8,974 (26.7%) 10,451 (23.8%) 4,619 (28.0%) 4,808 (25.0%)
Asian men 2,965 (8.8%) 4,645 (10.6%) 1,474 (8.9%) 1,968 (10.2%)
Asian women 2,984 (8.9%) 4,296 (9.8%) 1,556 (9.4%) 1,891 (9.8%)
Hispanic men 1,167 (3.5%) 1,655 (3.8%) 549 (3.3%) 790 (4.1%)
Hispanic women 1,274 (3.8%) 1,804 (4.1%) 581 (3.5%) 843 (4.4%)
Black men 874 (2.6%) 1,107 (2.5%) 391 (2.4%) 445 (2.3%)
Black women 1,738 (5.2%) 2,108 (4.8%) 735 (4.5%) 737 (3.8%)
Total 33,625 43,919 16,488 19,230

Note: Individuals who did not mark a race or ethnicity, or who identified as multiracial, foreigners, Native Americans, Alaskans, Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders are not included in this chart.

Source: “Diversity in Medical Education: Facts & Figures 2012,” Assn. of American Medical Colleges, November 2012; “Minorities in Medical Education: Facts & Figures 2005,” AAMC

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WEBLINK

“The Urgency of Now: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males,” Schott Foundation for Public Education, September 2012 (blackboysreport.org/urgency-of-now.pdf)

“Adherence to Cardiovascular Disease Medications: Does Patient-Provider Race/Ethnicity and Language Concordance Matter?,” Journal of General Internal Medicine, November 2010 (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20571929)

“Diversity in Medical Education: Facts & Figures 2012,” Assn. of American Medical Colleges, November 2012, and earlier years (www.aamc.org/initiatives/diversity/179816/facts_and_figures.html)

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