By now, everyone likely knows that African Americans, who comprise only 32 percent of the state’s population, have made up 70 percent of Louisiana’s COVID-related deaths so far.
When Gov. John Bel Edwards made that statistic public during one of his daily press briefings earlier this month, he also said the “trend” was worthy of further study. Not surprisingly, Louisiana is not alone. Across the nation, the virus similarly impacts Black communities. For example, in Chicago, Blacks comprise 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths there as well, while making up only about 30 percent of the city’s population.
The reason is racism— historic, systemic and institutional racism, the good old-fashioned kind. With all due respect to Gov. Edwards, 400 years of racism is not a trend.
That we are 70 percent of the COVID-19 related deaths in the state should come as no surprise. Black Americans, including those of us who live in Louisiana, are more defenseless against every societal ill America has to offer. It starts the minute we enter the world—literally, from birth. In 1968, Black infants were about 1.9 times as likely to die as White infants. Today, the rate is 2.3 times higher for African Americans.
We already know the stats. We have repeated them incessantly in the pages of The New Orleans Tribune for 35 years to be exact. But we are always happy to remind.
African Americans are 2.5 times as likely to be in poverty as Whites. Even with the ACA (Obamacare) and the Medicaid expansion, we are still uninsured at higher rates than White Americans and more likely to work jobs where health insurance is not offered, while earning too much to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to afford private insurance. In 2017 the Black unemployment rate was 7.5 percent, up from 6.7 percent in 1968, but it is still roughly twice the White unemployment rate. The typical Black family had only $2,467 in wealth in 1963. And while today that figure is about six times larger ($17,409), wealth for White families dwarfs it. In 2016, the median African American family had only 10.2 percent of the wealth of the median White family ($17,409 versus $171,000).
All of those statistics and others point to the reason COVID-19 has hit our communities so hard. Yes, chronic illnesses that African Americans often suffer from at a disproportionate rate should and must be addressed by individuals and their doctors. But we simply cannot stop there, because structural racism is at the root of it all.
Glenn Ellis, a medical ethicist, researcher, lecturer and president of Strategies for Well-Being, a global consultancy that specializes in health equity and advocacy, says the fallout from COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on Black people offers an opportunity to determine how we will prevent this from happening again.
“What this virus is doing is clearly demonstrating how institutional racism has affected Black lives in America,” Ellis told The New Orleans Tribune. “And it is singling out the healthcare system to show how we are at a disadvantage. We can start with the method used to tell people to seek diagnosis and testing for COVID-19. They said to contact your primary care physician. Don’t go to the hospital. Don’t go to the emergency room. Many Black people don’t have primary care physicians. Even with Medicaid and Obamacare, they go to community clinics or community medical centers, where they see rotating physicians.”
The fact that African Americans are less likely to visit primary care physicians as their source of healthcare is not an obscure bit of information. According to a 2016 study published in a National Institute of Health study—whether the reason is mistrust, lack of access or socio-economic status/ability—Black Americans go to private physicians office for care at only two-thirds the rate of White Americans. Now if the National Institute of Health already knows this, someone somewhere had to have known that directing Americans to call their primary care physicians if they were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms would leave many Black Americans with no one to call.
As Ellis contends, the very fact that this reality was not considered when crafting and delivering the message that primary care physicians were the frontline for COVID-19 care at the very least indicated a lack of understanding for what it means to be Black in America. At worst, it was a blatant disregard for Blacks in America and a sign of institutional racism.
Ellis continues, “So if you are telling people not to go to the hospital, not to go to the emergency room, but to call their primary care physician, who are you talking to? They are not even talking to me because they don’t understand the realities of my culture. And that allows a viral infection to continue to spread. We were allowed to go much longer without taking precautions. Without any way to deny it, you have to look at what racism does to the wellbeing of Blacks in America.”
To be sure, even the drive-thru method of testing employed earlier in Louisiana and across the nation was innately biased against the poor and disenfranchised. It presumed that anyone and everyone experiencing symptoms of the disease also had a personal vehicle. In New Orleans, about 20 percent of the population lacks access to a personal vehicle, more than twice the national average. A lack of reliable transportation was a primary reason many New Orleanians, especially poor, Black New Orleanians were unable to evacuate before Hurricane Katrina.
We’ve Been Here Before
It would be one thing if COVID-19 was the first time the impact of racism in America was exposed in such a raw and jarring manner. But it’s not.
Didn’t we learn this lesson nearly 15 years ago in the aftermath Hurricane Katrina? Didn’t the storm shine a light on how the deep socio-economic disparities fueled by systemic racism created two New Orleans—one that was overwhelmingly Black and unable to respond to the storm’s threat. Haven’t we been here before? Then, why do we find ourselves in this disgustingly familiar place? Better still, what are we going to do about it?”
Ellis has a thought.
“Now for the second time in recent years, this country has been given a chance to decide who it wants to be. We have a chance to say, ‘No, we don’t want to be a nation where an entire segment of our population is disenfranchised because of racism’. But if the nation won’t do it, as a whole, then Black folk need to get serious. We have to look at our consumption patterns,” he says, specifically referencing how and where Black Americans receive news and information.”
He continues, “We have to get strict and do it across the board in all areas—how we spend our money and how we vote. We really have to put more scrutiny on and demand more accountability from the people we vote for. Either we are going to do it together as a country or we have to come together as Black people and say ‘we’re not going to allow our communities and our people to die like this again’. We don’t have the luxury to be sitting around, waiting on somebody to save us.”
No Time for the Blame Game
There is probably no individual or organization that encourages personal responsibility and the need for those of us in the Black community to save ourselves more than we do here at The New Orleans Tribune. Our mantra: “We must come together to save ourselves because no one else will.”
Of course, Black Americans . . . all Americans for that matter, should watch what we eat. We should not smoke or drink too much. We should exercise more. We should take seriously and, with the help of healthcare professionals, better manage chronic illnesses. We should make regular doctor visits.
We must do better as individuals, families, and communities when it comes to taking care of our bodies. The disparate vulnerability of Black Louisianans to the coronavirus has made that clear. We comprise 70 percent of COVID-19 related deaths in a state where we are only a little more than 32 percent of the population. And with that fact, perhaps it is a natural inclination to look at the Black community, point a finger and say that we must be doing something wrong, something that makes us more susceptible to the disease. And it is true. There are things we have done (or have not done) that have resulted in this uneven impact. It’s okay to talk about those things, especially if everyone else, especially our leaders and policymakers, are ready to talk about the things that have been done to Black people in America over the last 400 years, how those things have undermined our community and left us vulnerable to COVID-19 and so much more.
More importantly, we need leaders to develop a plan to address the issues that harm our communities from a policy standpoint.
That is why it was disappointing to hear Gov. John Edwards (and others, including Black leaders, elected officials and influencers) go on and on about the lifestyle behaviors that contribute to Black folk being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 without the proper context. The reason Black people are dying from coronavirus at a disproportionate rate does not begin and end with bad habits or existing chronic illnesses that afflict our community at higher rates than others. It begins with structural racism.
It is true, coronavirus does not see race or class. But our nation and its healthcare system do. And that is the problem we need our leaders addressing substantially more than we need to be lectured by any of them about the amount of salt someone shakes on their meal.
It is disrespectful to go on and on about how Black people need to do a better job of seeking care from primary care doctors without talking about the institutional racism that helps explain why they don’t.
According to studies, Black Americans seek their healthcare from primary care physicians at a rate of about two-thirds that of White Americans. And unless we are ready to talk about a lack of cultural competency among many healthcare professionals, the lack of access and resources that keeps many Black Americans from seeking the medical care they need, the understandable and inherent distrust many Black Americans have for the established medical system, or the fact that only four percent of the nation’s practicing physicians are Black, then we are wasting our time. The “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in Black Males” went on for 40 years until as recently as 1972; and dark events like it, along with similar issues with this country’s medical establishment, are major reasons Black Americans don’t trust the established medical system. It’s true many Black people don’t go to the doctor as often as they should. Can you blame them? Better still, what can you do to change this reality?
Of course, we know there are things individuals must do to improve his or her own quality of life. But let’s put this thing in perspective. Historic and even current government-sanctioned policies that were and are racist at their core have shaped what it means to be Black in America in every way possible. So as our leaders try desperately to unpack the data, we believe too much energy has been spent pointing fingers at Black people for the decisions they make or don’t make while not nearly enough attention is given to circumstances that have driven those decisions for 400 years.
The way some folks talk about the disparate impact of the virus on the Black community, including U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams whose “do it for your Abuela . . . do it for Big Mama” plea to Black and brown Americans to not drink and to not smoke, is pejorative, superficial and utterly ignores the fact that 400 years of structural racism have manifested into every negative social determinant that impacts Black America. And if the nation’s surgeon general, who also happens to be a Black man, can’t dig any deeper than that to talk about not only habits that need to change, but government policies and healthcare industry practices that need to be transformed as well, then we are in trouble.
We were unnerved by Gov. Edwards, when, during his 1 p.m. address Friday (April 10), he
castigated the very community being hit hardest by this disease; then, almost as if it were an afterthought, he briefly mentioned something about “figuring out” the social determinants that play a role in the disparate impact COVID-19 is having on Black people in Louisiana and “see what we can do to address them.”
What is there to figure out?
Slavery. Domestic Terrorism. Jim Crow. Segregation. Redlining. Economic Exclusion. Historically Inequitable Treatment in the Education, Healthcare, Housing, and Criminal Justice systems. Are those enough social determinants for y’all?
And let’s be abundantly clear, we are not talking about ancient history. We are talking about a relatively young nation’s recent past that continues and current problems that exist because every one of this nation’s systems and institutions are built on a foundation of racism.
Yes, we must talk about poor diets, but let’s dare do that without mentioning that our city is littered with communities that are in fact food deserts forcing people to travel miles from home for fresh offerings or settle for the unhealthy options that are just up the block. How could anyone with even an ounce of decency talk about poor eating habits of a community and not talk about how areas in cities such as New Orleans and others like it across the country are void of healthy choices TODAY because of redlining policies that date back to the 40s, 50s, and 60s—an actual program created and sanctioned by the federal government to keep banks from backing loans to developers to build and sell homes in Black neighborhoods, which in turn kept Blacks from building wealth and kept business interests from opening groceries or other viable institutions to serve people they intentionally left trapped there. Today, groceries, banks, healthcare facilities, restaurants and the like won’t even consider many of these areas of our communities unless they are being gentrified.
Just look to New Orleans East for an example close to home. Large national grocery store and retail chains abandoned New Orleans East after African-Americans began to move there and white folks fled.
Stop victim-blaming and do something
Now as the state turns it’s attention to residents in the River Parishes, we have to talk about environmental racism. We hope that our leaders are not surprised because St. John, St. James and parishes that stretch along the Mississippi River, are getting hit hard now by coronavirus. As the number of cases in these areas grows, our leaders should not talk about the rate of diabetes or hypertension in these communities without mentioning the inequitable manner in which Black people in these communities suffer from cancer and respiratory illnesses because of the chemical plants that have been allowed to grow unchecked in their backyards.
We know it will be easier to talk about how residents along Cancer Alley need to exercise more. That way you don’t have to explain why the petrochemical plants are still allowed to flourish there despite their proximity to and detrimental impact on the communities of color. But we didn’t elect you to take the easy way out. Greed and environmental racism were already killing the people of these communities. COVID-19 is not helping. And neither will a brisk walk.
We could go on and on about every social determinant and point to historical or current policies and practices that directly impact the state of Black America today. We have been writing about this stuff for 35 years.
But right now, we just need y’all (including Black leaders) to stop it. Stop victim-blaming and do something.
For our part, we encourage our brothers and sisters to step up to the challenge and take as much control over their lives as they possibly can. We often dedicate the monthly “To Your Health” column of the this very newspaper to examining many of the illnesses that impact our community disparately, offering useful information and encouraging our readers to make healthier choices. Gov. Edwards is right about one thing—everyone needs to do his part. Everyone needs to do what they are supposed to do.
So, let us pray.
God grant us the courage to change the things we can and to accept personal responsibility for our individual lives.
Grant us the boldness to demand that our leaders fix the things they are supposed to fix, deliver services and create policies that close education, healthcare, housing, income and wealth gaps because that is what we elected them to do. And grant them the humility to either do their jobs or go home and be quiet.
Oh yeah, God, also grant them the wisdom not to blame the victims of 400 years of racism in America for not being able to handle this deadly virus as well as others who have enjoyed a 250-year head start in wealth, access, equity and opportunity in every way.
Black men kill each other at alarming rates all across America every day. Nearly every city’s daily news casts reports, “Today in our city three (or thirty depending on the size of your city) men were shot and killed in three (or thirty) separate shootings. Police have no suspects in any of the cases.” And immediately and innately you know that the people killed were black and the killers were black. This has been going on for the last 30-40 years and no end is in sight. New Orleans has one of the highest murder rates nationally. Why do black men kill each other?
First Let’s Dispel a
First thing you have to know is that 99.999% of black men do
not commit murder ever in their lives.
That is a fact! This is not a
black man issue. There is nothing
genetically or intrinsically wrong with black men. But the fact remains that
daily hundreds of black men across this country are murdered everyday by
another black man. Why does this happen
with this subset?
Common factors to Black
men murdering other black men
The first thing about murder is that people usually kill
people who are similar to them in many ways, particularly race. White men normally murder other white men and
black men normally murder other black men.
In the black community, these killings are normally city events. Rarely do you hear of a drive by in the country. Most of these daily killings occur on the city streets. People kill others who they interact with.
Young men engage in risky and violent behavior. Most of the men dying on our streets are
between the ages of 17-35.
But these are often cited, unsurprising factors. More salient is what goes into the psyche of a guy who can look into the eyes of another man and pull the trigger at close range or jab a knife with the intent to murder another man? What are the other factors that contribute to becoming a murderer? Why do Black men kill each other
The guy who ain’t never scared and always looking to
escalate a situation. Down for whatever. Nothing to live for and anticipating the day
he will either kill or be killed. This
mindset is cultivated in a limited option, few chances, success deprived
life. This guy has had a number of
arguments and fist fights throughout his life.
He hates authority and frequently feels angry or resentful towards
people. He often seeks to overcome a
feeling of powerlessness. This guy is a
walking heap of rage. He is always nothing
but a gun and an argument away from murder.
The Disrespected Man
A man who feels like everybody but him gets respect.
Unemployed or stuck in a low wage hard work job
where his contributions are unrecognized
Lives with his mother and has little control over
his home environment
Has a child but no custody and a bad relationship
with his baby mama
Been profiled and harassed by the police
Observes community members driving nice cars
Rejected for better jobs
Feels unable to change his life status and is
insignificant in the world
Seeks to overcome feelings of impotence
For this guy, respect is everything and options to express
anger or refutation are often limited. He
often seeks to overcome a feeling of impotence. If another who seems unworthy
of disseminating criticism or scorn or generally crosses the line of imagined
respect, then a high level of response will be meted out.
Little life happiness
Thrill seeker often brags and talks about his toughness and ‘hood status.
Wants to make a real name for himself
Will recklessly escalate a situation or
When challenged by a non-believing skeptic, this man often
acts in unnecessarily violent ways in unnecessarily violent situations. Often seeks to overcome a feeling of powerlessness.
Too often black men suffer an inferiority
vilifies and criminalizes black men on a daily basis.
American culture is based upon the notion that
black people and specifically black men are less intelligent, completely
unpredictable, beast like, lazy etc., etc.
Black men internalize this notion and are
conditioned to see little value when they look in the mirror.
Beset by internal angst and torment.
Unresolved pain combined with poverty,
ignorance, oppression, violent police, violent neighborhoods, etc.
symptoms of an inferiority complex include a high sensitivity to criticism, perceiving
others as a threat, jealousy, a lack of dreams.
The daily feeling of isolation, powerlessness and impotence is like being a prisoner of war. One reason black men grab their genitals is to stress their vitality. Men who have been literally stripped of the ability to display their manhood – great jobs, big houses, educational attainment and all the other accoutrements of modern society- are literally killing to express their power in life. Twisted but true.
by Preeti Vani
Your answer may depend on how we ask the question.
Research from Stanford shows it’s possible to change how people blame groups in large-scale conflicts (like race relations in America).
“Unpacking” a group (ex: White Americans) into subgroups (ex: White Democrats, White Republicans) makes people blame the overall group more.
This effect was found in three different contexts: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the gender wage gap, and race relations in America.
Discovery of this effect is relevant because narratives of intergroup conflict can shape life-and-death decisions in today’s institutions.
Source: Gladson Xavier/Pexels
What do the gender wage gap, race relations in America, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have in common? They are all intergroup conflicts — that is, multiple groups that have a stake in the conflict and its outcomes. For example, both men and women are involved in the work needed to close the gender wage gap. Similarly, members of different racial groups are involved in debates around racial justice. People also tend to make moral judgments in all of these conflicts, sometimes believing that one side is “right” and another is “wrong.”
Importantly, different people assign blame to parties in different ways. A team of researchers from Stanford University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that altering the way in which parties are presented changes the amount of blame allocated to those parties — even for important and long-standing divides, like the examples above.
Oftentimes, these conflicts invigorate the battle for public opinion. We spend our time and energy convincing people that we are blaming the “right” parties. The weapons deployed on this battlefield range from new social media influencers and photogenic images of human suffering to simplified narratives filled with old stereotypes and prejudices.
How do you win the battle for public opinion? By convincing the world that the other side is to blame for decades of bloodshed and hatred. This seems difficult — surely people hold entrenched positions in such protracted, moralized conflicts, forged by national loyalties and fueled by media echo chambers.
Or do they?
Study: Who’s to blame?
We recently discovered that shifting public opinion in entrenched conflicts, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, can be surprisingly easy. In our experiments, we asked research participants a simple question: “Who do you blame for the conflict?” Participants allocated 100 percent of the blame between the sides of the conflict (the Israelis and the Palestinians).
While outlining the parties that one can potentially blame, the larger groups can be “unpacked” into smaller subgroups, or they can be left “packed” as the larger group. For example, Israel has three major political blocs — the Right-Wing Bloc, the Center Bloc, and the Left-Wing Bloc. We can represent Israel in a “packed” way, by simply having “Israel” as an option in the choice set, or we can represent Israel in an “unpacked” way, by having Israel’s major political blocs as options. We can do the same for the Palestinians.
You probably have an opinion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And regardless of how we present the options, you probably think that your opinions on the conflict — and the extent to which different parties deserve blame — are unlikely to change much as a function of how the question is asked. Here’s the fascinating part. When we “unpacked” the Israeli side to three political subgroups, the proportion of blame assigned to Israel increased by 30 percentage points, from 38 percent to 68 percent, with the Palestinian side receiving 32 percent of the blame. When we unpacked the Palestinian side into three subgroups, the same thing happened, only in reverse — now most of the blame was assigned to the Palestinians, with only a small portion of the blame assigned to Israelis. In other words, a slight difference in the framing of choices shifted the public opinion from allocating the majority of the blame to the Israelis to allocating the majority of the blame to the Palestinians.
We didn’t stop at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We found similar effects when we asked different samples of participants who they blamed for the gender gap in wages in the U.S. (between men and women), and who they blamed for current racial tensions in the United States (between White Americans and Black Americans).
In the case of race relations, we either kept the groups “packed” as “White Americans” and “Black Americans,” or we “unpacked” the groups into political subgroups (e.g., “White Democrats,” “White Independents,” and “White Republicans”). When only the “Black Americans” group was unpacked, 58 percent of the blame for racial tensions was allocated to White Americans — but when only the “White Americans” group was unpacked, our participants now allocated 84 percent of the blame to White Americans.article continues after advertisement
This shockingly large shift in public opinion has important real-world implications. For example, if the U.S. president were to veto a bill related to racial justice, a two-thirds Congressional supermajority is required to override the veto. This benchmark is encapsulated within our 26 percentage point shift in the blame allocated to White Americans. A simple presentational change dramatically shifted public opinion on topics where people could reasonably be expected to have established views. What’s going on?
Partition dependence and its effects
This phenomenon is known as “partition dependence.” It is the human tendency to allocate more attention to a category when it is unpacked into subcategories. Partition dependence is a natural cognitive process. Essentially, it means that when we think about groups, we don’t naturally think about every subgroup contained within that overall group. For example, when we think about “Americans,” we don’t ordinarily think about every subcategory of “Americans.” But when a large group is unpacked into its constituent subgroups, it commands more of our attention, which in this case results in a larger portion of the blame.
Importantly, the partition to subgroups can be along different consequential dimensions. When we asked about the gender wage gap, we unpacked “men” and “women” by race (i.e., “White Men,” “Asian Men,” “Hispanic Men,” and “Black Men”). When we asked about race relations, we unpacked “White Americans” and “Black Americans” by political orientation. Across multiple important social issues, we found that partition dependence can be used as a tool to persuade others and sway opinions by having people consider a more (or less) comprehensive set of potentially blameworthy parties.
Why should you care? We should all care because narratives of intergroup conflict can shape life-and-death decisions in institutions ranging from the United States Congress to the United Nations. Considering different sets of perpetrators changes how blame is allocated, which may matter quite a bit in the court of public opinion as well as in the International Court of Justice. The ease of using simple presentational tools to shift public opinion in complex and entrenched moral conflicts — such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the conflict between White Americans and Black Americans — should be a lesson to all of us. How we ask the question determines where the blame lies.
Kari Rusnak, MA, LPC,CMHC
Learn why you need to prioritize time for dates.
First of all, date nights don’t have to be at night. You can do them any day at any time; the most important thing is spending quality time while engaging in shared meaning. The Gottman Institute’s research shows that 2 hours a week devoted to dates are part of a happy healthy relationship. Here are some date night ideas that could take at least two hours:
Take a walk or a hike together
Go to a coffee shop and talk
Have dinner out or cook a meal together at home
Go to a museum or art exhibit
Take a class together to learn something new
Play a board game
Engage in an outdoor activity like kayaking or a sport
Go to the gym or workout class together
Go to a festival or event in your tow
Why are date nights so important?
Spending quality time together without distractions boosts connection. It can be rare for us to give our partners our full attention without being distracted by kids, work, chores, or our phones. On a date night the focus is on each other and the activity you do together. It’s helpful to put your phones away during the date as well.
This time builds positive interactions to store your emotional bank account: 5-to-1 is the ratio of positive interactions to negative in order to maintain a positive perspective. Date nights can be an opportunity to boost that ratio and have a good time together.
It helps you engage in activities with shared meaning, like rituals of connection. Shared meaning is the way you define and share things as a couple. Rituals of connection are things you both share and enjoy together—from a morning kiss to the way you celebrate important events to, of course, date nights.
It gives you time to talk about your relationship. Having time alone gives you a chance to check in about what is going right in the relationship as well as anything you need to work on over the next week. Discussing this during a date night can make these discussions feel safe.
You get to have fun together. Having fun in relationships is very important for satisfaction. It’s helps to balance out all of the stress and responsibility.
Get more consistent about date nights
Talk to your partner about setting up a time each week when you can spend two hours together. This can be the same time every week or you can schedule the next one at the end of your most recent date night. It can be helpful to schedule date nights like you would a medical appointment or work meeting. This makes it feel more prioritized and harder to cancel or forget about.
Currently New Orleans has a major teenage crime problem. Far too many teenagers are committing crimes. Car jackings, murders, shoplifting – nothing seems shocking anymore. Many assume because they are black, they are prone to crime. Others think young minds are undeveloped and do not understand the reality of their choices. Listen to WBOK 1230am radio, the voice of the black community, and invariably a caller of three will call in blaming bad parenting. Some cite a complete breakdown of the family unit. A bunch of callers will blame absent fathers. Rarely do you hear about the effects of past mass incarceration. Yet past mass incarceration causes crime today.
If you just believe black people are naturally bad, then you are a real part of the problem. I mean if your heart skips a beat when a group of young black boys turn the corner and face you, then you are just being cautious. But if you automatically feel like your life is threatened then you are a brainwashed fool. This limited and stupid thinking is racism based and rooted in greed and corruption. And it produced centuries of bad policy.
The bad policy? Mass Incarceration. How did we get it there? Blacks and whites commit crimes at about the same rate. Yet black men fill jails and prisons across the country. Why?
Mass incarceration was the backlash to freeing the slaves. The 13th Amendment has a unique exception for those interested in the continued exploitation of black labor. Read it:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Incarceration jumped a whopping 20000% after the amendment became law. In essence, black men went from being enslaved to incarcerated overnight. Today, Louisiana is still a worldwide leader in mass incarceration. Even after serious and significant reforms.
What are the effects of mass incarceration and how does it contribute to crime:
Lack of paternal influence and guidance in families
Sons and daughters feeling isolated and fearful
Gang and street stuff attraction
Poor educational outcomes for children in families of incarcerated families
Poverty from lack of paternal income
Breakdown of the family unit
More than normal female led single parent families
Mass incarceration, born just after slavery and continuing today has a direct impact on the crimes we see now. This year violence is at levels not seen since 2005. And children who are 15-18 today were born in, just before or right after 2005. Two things about the year 2005. Louisiana was the mass incarceration capital of the world by far. Oh and this storm tore through the city. The federal levees failed. And today we see the double whammy of our state’s bad policy and poor planning.
Why are kids in gangs and don’t have fatherly influence? Father in jail.
Why are so many black families in poverty? Father in jail.
On and on and on and……
Storms are bigger and more frequent. Crimes are more brazen and frequent. Only smart policy can fix both.
Crunch Time At The Legislature
Let’s talk bills. Not the money kind, but the ones our state legislators are proposing and pouring over. Previously, we covered 3 in particular. Here’s what has happened to them since. We are tracking the Louisiana legislature
Now is not a good time to be Robert E. Lee. Yes, he’s dead, I know. But his legacy is alive and taking some serious Ls. Actually, it’s been on a slow burning descent since 2017.
First, his statue was plucked from his very own Circle. Then he lost his Boulevard. After that, the aforementioned Circle was renamed. Now, he’s on the verge of losing one of his last remaining signs of relevancy – his state recognized holiday. Yes, there’s a Robert E Lee Day in Louisiana [insert face palm]. It’s January 19th. Sorry if you missed it. Because if Rep. Matthew Willard’s bill passes, this year could be the last year the state recognizes Lee Day.
As of now, Rep. Willard’s bill is still alive and kicking its way through the Senate. Surprisingly, it coasted out of the House with a 62-20 vote. And that was after a 12-0 romp through the House Judiciary Committee. It did all this with minimal headlines and fanfare.
You would’ve thought the bill would spark hyperbole of the highest order. But the knives stayed in. And the red meat was left out. Instead of claims of attacking heritage and trying to erase history, members of the House treated us to efficiency and silence. Now it’s up to the Senate.
Over at the Senate, the bill is still waiting to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republicans hold a 4-3 advantage in that Committee. If it passes there, it’s on to the full Senate, then the governor’s desk.
HB209 – allowing Orleans Parish to go beyond state regulation of guns.
Just because you’re a chartered city it doesn’t mean you can chart your own path, at least when it comes to guns. That’s what the House Criminal Justice Committee concluded when they heard Rep Mandie Landry’s bill. 9 of the 10 members fired off nays and shot the bill down. That means in the midst of a carjacking, murder, and violent crime spree, a city like New Orleans can’t pass regulations to protect its citizens from people with guns.
If it’s not a good time to be Robert E. Lee, it is definitely a good time to be a gun owner. With this bill dead, it’s still legal for guns to be brought almost anywhere, like church, a kids soccer game, or a restaurant. And if you happen to lose your gun at one of these places or have it stolen, you don’t even have to report it to the police. That was another stipulation that went down with this bill.
The 9 -1 vote was a testament of principle over priorities. Or maybe it was a testament to Louisiana’s priorities. The state dubbed the sportsman’s paradise continues to support gun laws that make its citizens easy prey. And we will keep tracking bills in the Louisiana legislature.
HB798 – ensuring that neither BESE nor school boards can water down present social study standards for African American history. THIS IS NOT A CRITCAL RACE THEORY BILL.
This is also a bill that hasn’t been heard yet. The House Education Committee has left Rep. Royce Duplessis’ bill sitting on the shelf since early March when it was submitted. This is a bill you would expect to not be controversial. It simply says BESE and local school boards must abide by the social study standards BESE just approved for African American history.
The point is to prevent some rogue teacher or school board or even BESE itself from disregarding state law. If the law says such and such aspect of African American history has to be taught, then that’s what has to be done. Boom. That’s it.
You’d think this bill would already be bouncing from the Senate to the governor’s desk. But instead, it’s just languishing on the calendar as the legislative session counts down.
June 6th – legislative session adjourns
Speaking of counting down, there’s a little over 3 weeks to go before the session ends on June 6th. There’s much for legislators to go over, including the remaining 2 of these 3 bills. We will keep tracking these bills in the Louisiana legislature. And we’ll keep you informed on how it goes.
A Black truck driver on TikTok known as Gideon reveals in a viral video what he witnessed last week while traveling through a “sundown town.”
The video, which has been viewed nearly 800,000 times since posting, details the man’s experience while visiting the notorious town of Vidor, Texas.
Vidor was once considered a haven for the Ku Klux Klan and has long been seen as a “sundown town,” a predominately white area that is considered unsafe for Black people after sunset due to racial violence. Although city officials have claimed that the town has undergone significant changes in recent decades, Gideon’s experience reveals that some things still haven’t changed.
“Pretty much everybody I know in Texas that’s Black tells me, ‘Do not go to Vidor, Texas,'” Gideon says. “I’m like ‘OK’ but here I was in Vidor, Texas.”
The TikToker goes on to state that while driving to his destination to drop off his load, he came across numerous trailer parks with Confederate flags and even a doll of a Black man hanging from a tree by its neck.
Upon reaching his destination, Gideon says that he was approached by a security guard who immediately alerted his fellow workers that they were experiencing a “code red.” The security guard expressed that he did not want to be responsible for the truck driver’s safety by allowing him to drive further into the business to drop off his delivery.
Gideon says another man eventually appeared about 15 minutes later to quickly help him unload his truck before urging him to leave the area.
“He said, ‘Dude, you might want to get up out of here as soon as possible. We’re at sundown. You want to leave now.'”
After asking the man if he could rely on the police, Gideon was allegedly told that local law enforcement would “turn a blind eye” to any potential incident. The TikToker says he drove until he reached the next town over where he fell asleep in his truck with an AR-15 rifle. His account of the visit was made the following day after he felt he was safe.
The Daily Dot reached out to Gideon to inquire further about the video but did not immediately receive a reply.
Comments under the video were filled with remarks from other residents of Texas who were similarly aware of the town’s reputation.
“POV: You’re from TX and knew he was talking about Vidor before he said it,” one user wrote.
“I’ve always been told don’t even stop for gas in Vidor, Tx,” another added.
Some users even argued that a new “Green Book” was needed, a reference to the annual guidebook designated safe destinations across the country for Black Americans between 1936 and 1966.
“We need an updated Green Book,” one viewer commented.
Many were simply shocked to hear that such areas still existed in the country.
“Wow,” one commenter added. “I hate that there are places in our nation that are still this racist.”
At least one alleged resident of Vidor even left a comment regarding the town’s poor image.
“Not everyone in the town is like that… but it is the ones who are like that that ruin everyone else’s reputation… I live in Vidor myself,” the user wrote.
The experience came as an unpleasant surprise to many, but countless others have long been aware that such dangers remain ever present.
What you should eat, and stop eating, to avoid cognitive decline.
People generally have poor diets by almost any definition of the term.
Eating lots of leafy greens today for lunch sounds comforting but will not negate a decade of poor diet choices.
The most important question is: “What should I stop eating to avoid becoming unhealthy and demented?”
The New York Times recently published an interesting article by Amelia Nierenberg that asked about the effects of specific foods on the mental decline that comes with aging. Since publishing my book Your Brain on Food, I have been asked that question more often than any other: What can I eat to make myself mentally healthy and become smarter? The Times article was accurate but missed two critical issues that contribute to determining whether our diet can cause cognitive decline. First, dementia is a lifestyle phenomenon. Eating lots of leafy greens today for lunch sounds comforting but will not negate a decade of poor diet choices. Second, obesity is a significant risk factor for dementia. No specific food item can make you lose weight.
People generally have poor diets by almost any definition of the term. We eat too much fat, salt, and sugar. We consume too much alcohol and nicotine and exercise too little. Most of America, regardless of age or socioeconomic status, is overweight or obese. Our bodies are storing too much fat; this fat produces a harmful environment of inflammation, oxidative stress, and physiological imbalance that often leads to metabolic syndrome. Simply stated, our lousy diet generates an environment in our body that ages us too quickly and impairs our thinking.
Thus, your question should be the following…
What should I stop eating to avoid becoming unhealthy and demented?
A diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, combined with reduced caloric intake, is ideal (and the one universally recommended) because it compensates for the numerous negative effects of your current diet. Dieticians, physicians, and all other health care providers beg their patients to change their diet; patients rarely do.
Poor diets cause some mental health disorders. The most common mental health disorder is depression. Obesity and the presence of too much body fat underlie our vulnerability to depression. People who lose body fat, via exercise or liposuction, experience improved mood and cognitive function. Thus, excessive body fat can make you both depressed and stupid and also make it less likely that you will respond to anti-depressant therapy. Today, an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence obtained across a wide spectrum of medical disciplines strongly argues that obesity accelerates brain aging, impairs overall cognitive function, and, ultimately, is responsible for the numerous processes that kill us.
A little sugar is not harmful to your brain or body. From your brain’s perspective, dietary sugar is indispensable. Without a constant uninterrupted supply, you will quickly lose the ability to think and slip into a coma. However, diets high in sugar lead to metabolic diseases which have significant negative effects on cognition. Diabetes is a significant risk factor for dementia.
A small percentage of the general population is vulnerable to the lack of specific nutrients in their poor diet. This category of nutrients often includes vitamins and some minerals. Adding those nutrients back to their diet is often beneficial. However, numerous studies have now conclusively shown that for the overwhelming majority of us, supplements with vitamins and nutrients are a waste of money.
In contrast, a small percentage of the general population is vulnerable to the presence of specific nutrients in their poor diets. A good example of such a nutrient is gluten. If you are sensitive to gluten, do not eat it. If you are not gluten-sensitive, then avoiding gluten is a bad idea, according to the results of a study involving over 15,000 participants who were followed for 30 years. The American College of Cardiology now strongly recommends against the adoption of gluten-free diets for people without a medical necessity.
We are often told that our diet affects our health and mood.
That’s not quite the way it works: In reality, a healthier diet can only compensate for your current lousy diet. Fruits and vegetables and whole grains cannot help to boost mental health; they can only undo the damage that you are already causing.
No diet, no nutrients, and no drugs (do not believe the nonsense you have read about nootropics, a 21st-century brain placebo) have ever been proven scientifically to enhance health or brain function. The advice you hear about so often is designed to convince you to stop your poor diet in order to avoid becoming unhealthier and cognitively impaired. Therefore, choose your diet wisely—your longevity and memories depend upon it.
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — If you are Black or Hispanic in a conservative state that already limits access to abortions, you are far more likely than a white person to have one.
And if the U.S. Supreme court allows states to further restrict or even ban abortions, minorities will bear the brunt of it, according to statistics analyzed by The Associated Press.
The potential impact on minorities became all the more clear on Monday with the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion suggesting the court’s conservative majority is poised to overturn the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion. The draft decision is not yet final but it sent shockwaves through the country. Overturning the Roe v. Wade decision would give states authority to decide abortion’s legality. Roughly half, largely in the South and Midwest, are likely to quickly ban abortion.
When it comes to the effect on minorities, the numbers are unambiguous. In Mississippi, people of color comprise 44 percent of the population but 81 percent of women receiving abortions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks health statistics.
In Texas, they’re 59 percent of the population and 74 percent of those receiving abortions. The numbers in Alabama are 35 percent and 69 percent. In Louisiana, minorities represent 42 percent of the population, according to the state Health Department, and about 72 percent of those receiving abortions.
“Abortion restrictions are racist,” said Cathy Torres, an organizing manager with Frontera Fund, a Texas organization that helps pay for abortions. “They directly impact people of color, Black, brown, Indigenous people … people who are trying to make ends meet.”
Why the great disparities? Laurie Bertram Roberts, executive director of the Alabama-based Yellowhammer Fund, which provides financial support for abortions, said women of color in states with restrictive abortion laws often have limited access to health care and a lack of choices for effective birth control. Schools often have ineffective or inadequate sex education.
If abortions are outlawed, those same women — often poor — will likely have the hardest time traveling to distant parts of the country to terminate pregnancies or raising children they might struggle to afford, said Roberts, who is Black and once volunteered at Mississippi’s only abortion clinic.
“We’re talking about folks who are already marginalized,” Roberts said.
Amanda Furdge, who is Black, was one of those women. She was a single, unemployed college student already raising one baby in 2014 when she found out she was pregnant with another. She said she didn’t know how she could afford another child.
She’d had two abortions in Chicago. Getting access to an abortion provider there was no problem, Furdge said. But now she was in Mississippi, having moved home to escape an abusive relationship. Misled by advertising, she first went to a crisis pregnancy center that tried to talk her out of an abortion. By the time she found the abortion clinic, she was too far along to have the procedure.
She’s not surprised by the latest news on the Supreme Court’s likely decision. Most people who aren’t affected don’t consider the stakes.
“People are going to have to vote,” said Furdge, 34, who is happily raising her now 7-year-old son but continues to advocate for women having the right to choose. “People are going to have to put the people in place to make the decisions that align with their values. When they don’t, things like this happen.”
Torres said historically, anti-abortion laws have been crafted in ways that hurt low-income women. She pointed to the Hyde Amendment, a 1980 law that prevents the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in rare cases.
She also cited the 2021 Texas law that bans abortion after around six weeks of pregnancy. Where she lives, near the U.S.-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley, women are forced to travel to obtain abortions and must pass in-state border patrol checkpoints where they have to disclose their citizenship status, she said.
Regardless of what legislators say, Torres insisted, the intent is to target women of color, to control their bodies: “They know who these restrictions are going to affect. They know that, but they don’t care.”
But Andy Gipson, a former member of the Mississippi Legislature who is now the state’s agriculture and commerce commissioner, said race had nothing to do with passage of Mississippi’s law against abortion after the 15th week. That law is the one now before the Supreme Court in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.
Gipson, a Baptist minister who is white, said he believes all people are created in the image of God and have an “innate value” that starts at conception. Mississippi legislators were trying to protect women and babies by putting limits on abortion, he said.
“I absolutely disagree with the concept that it’s racist or about anything other than saving babies’ lives,” said Gipson, a Republican. “It’s about saving lives of the unborn and the lives and health of the mother, regardless of what color they are.”
To those who say that forcing women to have babies will subject them to hardships, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, a white Republican, said it is “easier for working mothers to balance professional success and family life” than it was 49 years ago when Roe was decided.
Fitch, who is divorced, often points to her own experience of working outside the home while raising three children. But Fitch grew up in an affluent family and has worked in the legal profession — both factors that can give working women the means and the flexibility to get help raising children.
That’s not the case for many minority women in Mississippi or elsewhere. Advocates say in many places where abortion services are being curtailed, there’s little support for people who carry a baby to term.
Mississippi is one of the poorest states, and people in low-wage jobs often don’t receive health insurance. Women can enroll in Medicaid during pregnancy, but that coverage disappears soon after they give birth.
Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black infants were about twice as likely as white infants to die during the first year of life in Mississippi, according to the March of Dimes.
Across the country, U.S. Census Bureau information analyzed by The Associated Press shows fewer Black and Hispanic women have health insurance, especially in states with tight abortion restrictions. For example, in Texas, Mississippi and Georgia, at least 16 percent of Black women and 36 percent of Latinas were uninsured in 2019, some of the highest such rates in the country.
Problems are compounded in states without effective education programs about reproduction. Mississippi law says sex education in public schools must emphasize abstinence to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Discussion of abortion is forbidden, and instructors may not demonstrate how to use condoms or other contraception.
The Mississippi director for Planned Parenthood Southeast, Tyler Harden, is a 26-year-old Black woman who had an abortion about five years ago, an experience that drove her to a career supporting pregnant women and preserving abortion rights.
She said when she was attending public school in rural Mississippi, she didn’t learn about birth control. Instead, a teacher stuck clear tape on students’ arms. The girls were told to put it on another classmate’s arm, and another, and watch how it lost the ability to form a bond.
“They’d tell you, ‘If you have sex, this is who you are now: You’re just like this piece of tape — all used up and washed up and nobody would want it,’” Harden said.
When she became pregnant at 21, she knew she wanted an abortion. Her mother was battling cancer and Harden was in her last semester of college without a job or a place to live after graduation.
She said she was made to feel fear and shame, just as she had during sex ed classes. When she went to the clinic, she said protesters told her she was “‘killing the most precious gift’” from God and that she was ”‘killing a Black baby, playing into what white supremacists want.’”
Harden’s experience is not uncommon. The anti-abortion movement has often portrayed the abortion fight in racial terms.
Outside the only abortion clinic operating in Mississippi, protesters hand out brochures that refer to abortion as Black “genocide” and say the late Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and a proponent of eugenics, “desired to eradicate minorities.” The brochures compare Sanger to Adolf Hitler and proclaim: “Black lives did not matter to Margaret Sanger!”
The Mississippi clinic is not affiliated with Planned Parenthood, and Planned Parenthood itself denounces Sanger’s belief in eugenics.
White people are not alone in making this argument. Alveda King, an evangelist who is a niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is among the Black opponents of abortion who, for years, have been portraying abortion as a way to wipe out people of their race.
Tanya Britton, a former president of Pro-Life Mississippi, often drives three hours from her home in the northern part of the state to pray outside the abortion clinic in Jackson. Britton is Black, and she said it’s a tragedy that the number of Black babies aborted since Roe would equal the population of several large cities. She also said people are too casual about terminating pregnancies.
“You just can’t take the life of someone because this is not convenient — ‘I want to finish my education,’” Britton said. “You wouldn’t kill your 2-year-old because you were in graduate school.”
But state Rep. Zakiya Summers of Jackson, who is Black and a mother, suggested there’s nothing casual about what poor women are doing. Receiving little support in Mississippi — for example, the Legislature killed a proposal to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage in 2021 — they are sometimes forced to make hard decisions.
“Women are just out here trying to survive, you know?” she said. “And Mississippi doesn’t make it any easier.”
Associated Press reporters Noreen Nasir in Jackson, Mississippi, and Jasen Lo in Chicago contributed to this report.
by Orissa Arend
Historically, we have thought of reparations for African Americans in terms of land or money. But a recent forum of Justice and Beyond (J&B April 25) focused on energy reparations in New Orleans. “Petro-racial capitalism” is a term used by Nikki Luke and Nik Heymen in a scholarly paper. They were panelists on the J&B forum. Delving into the history of both reparations and the exploitative practices of the energy sector, they noted the “racialized accumulation [of wealth and property] enacted through processes of slavery, patriarchy, imperialism, and genocide.” For an in depth analysis, see “Community Solar as Energy Reparations: Abolishing Petro-Racial Capitalism in New Orleans,” American Quarterly, Volume 72, Number 3, September 2020.
Luke and Heyman hold out the real possibility of a renewable and reparative energy system. It would require changing the norms about property, profit, power, and privilege. Maybe the seeds of energy reparations were there all along. In 1865 the Union Major General William Tecumseh Sherman issued Special Order 15 on the recommendation of some Black clergymen. From this Order came the language of “40 acres and a mule.” It strikes me that the mule, that humble, over-worked beast of burden, was the energy part of the formula.
A LOOK AT THE HARMS
The energy sector in Louisiana has created ecological and economic vulnerability through generations of dispossession and reckless disregard for the damage that industries are causing to our climate. The agricultural plantation culture was replaced in the early twentieth century with the oil and gas plantation culture to make Louisiana “America’s very own petro-state,” in the words of Michael Watts, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. Vast profits by energy producers have been realized through regressive taxes and utility rates, regulatory benefits, state subsidies, and tax evasion for extractive industries. Taxpayer money is given as subsidies to the oil and gas companies thus depriving the state’s residents of much needed funds for social services.
One result of these practices for African Americans in New Orleans is the fact that 30 percent more whites own homes in our city than do people of color. The gap has widened by 10 percent since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This gap is a result of racist policies in many sectors and state-supported asset stripping. In New Orleans Black households are six times more likely to live in poverty than white households. Lamar Gardere, Executive Director of the Data Center, was also a panelist. He provided much needed information from the Data Center’s “Prosperity Index” for Justice and Beyond’s call for a Reparations Task Force and Community Fund.
After Hurricane Katrina, substantial property credits were given to HOMEOWNERS for renovation and also for residential solar energy. Renters were left on their own. Six percent of household income is considered an affordable amount to spend on utilities. In New Orleans, low-income residents pay 10 percent. Luke and Heynen recommend “continued organizing against the corrupt practices of utilities like Entergy, which advance petro-racial capitalism without concern for the planet or people.” They stress “continued organizing” because they want New Orleanians to be aware of bold efforts yielding valuable lessons from the past.
A HISTORY OF RESISTANCE
New Orleans has a history of reparations organizing and politics. A few examples: On February 27, 1865 the New Orleans Freedman’s Aid Association bought land from the government to lease to collectively organized groups of Black farmers. The cooperative economic model included self-help banks. That endeavor came to a screeching halt when President Andrew Johnson decided to give the land back to the former Confederates and plantation owners.
Another example: Five days after Katrina, former Black Panthers Malik Rahim, Robert King, and a small band of revolutionaries, pooled their resources and started the Common Ground Collective. These revolutionaries resurrected the survival programs of the Black Panthers from the 1960s and early 1970s and taught their collective organizing principles to an immense cadre of young, mostly white volunteers from all over the country and around the world. They gutted houses, set up health clinics, planted trees and gardens, and showed what could be done with hardly any money and little or no government help. Malik was a Green Party candidate for New Orleans City Council in 2002 and for Congress in 2006. Environmental Justice was central to his platform.
Perhaps there is a historical thru-line and an opportunity to revisit some of the unfinished goals of emancipation. In 2018 New Orleans initiated the first community solar program in the southern U.S. The City Council advanced the Community Solar Rule. Council President Helena Moreno says that by making solar panels available by subscription in communal areas the new Rule would “allow individuals to benefit from the power and bill credits that independent solar projects produce without installing panels on their own homes. This helps all New Orleanians, especially low-income ratepayers, benefit from solar energy production without outsized installation costs.”
Logan Burke of the Alliance for Affordable Energy explained our energy situation at the Justice and Beyond forum in this way: “While Louisiana’s economic story is often told as ‘energy rich,’ the extractive nature of traditional energy economies have left most residents out of the riches. The power of renewable, distributed, and efficient energy is that it can be democratized, put in community hands, and benefit more than just corporations. The key will be whether policies are enabled that support individual rights, and whether the communities that have been so harmed by extractive practices, especially Black and Indigenous communities, will receive the first fruits of energy democracy.”
“The first fruits of energy democracy.” Wouldn’t it be glorious if the institutional innovations currently being undertaken by the New Orleans City Council bore just such a bounty? But we know from experience that vigilance and continued anti-racist organizing will be required to accomplish this kind of repair.
By Daniela Mansbach and Alisa Von Hagel
Anti-abortion organizations aim to make abortion illegal for all women – or, barring that, to make abortion as difficult as possible to access. The war on abortion access has many fronts, including mandated delays, special counseling rules, and rules limiting the reasons a woman can offer for wanting to end her pregnancy. At the end of 2017, for example, Ohio passed a law that bans abortion for women whose fetuses have been diagnosed with Downs Syndrome. Ten states bar women from ending pregnancies based on the sex of their fetus, and some state legislatures are currently considering similar bans for abortions based on race. Regardless of the intention of these laws, they create barriers to reproductive care and can also ignore the typical reasons women seek abortions – because the pregnancy was unintended and unwanted and they do not believe they can financially provide for a new child. Many barriers to abortion disproportionately affect Black women.
How the Anti-Abortion Movement Makes Racial Arguments
As part of their broader strategy to restrict access to abortion, many pro-life organizations claim that higher rates of abortion for Black women are evidence of racism on the part of abortion providers and advocates. Of the 160 pro-life websites we surveyed in the course of our research, almost 20% make this claim explicitly, arguing that abortion clinics and doctors target minority women in a systematic and purposeful way. The organizations that link abortion with race often compare abortion with the Holocaust, genocide, and slavery. For example, one such group, Abortion in the Hood, uses images of the Planned Parenthood symbol and the Confederate flag under the headline “which one kills 266 black lives everyday?” One of the most radical organizations we studied, Klan Parenthood, goes so far as to equate pro-choice advocates to Klan members, featuring an image of a doctor wearing a Klan outfit with the slogan: “Abortion, because Lynching is for Amateurs” on their website’s homepage.
Pro-life organizations deploy such messaging about increased abortion rates for Black women to argue that the fight against abortion is the civil-rights struggle of the day, co-opting the rhetoric of anti-racism movements. For example, the anti-abortion group Protecting Black Lives writes that “if the current trend [in abortion rates] continues, the black community may cease to make a significant positive contribution in society.” A similar organization, Black Genocide, emphasizes the political implications of abortion, falsely stating that African-Americans “are the only minority in America that is on the decline in population. If the current trend continues, by 2038 the black vote will be insignificant.” While some might assume these extreme comparisons and imagery would be relegated to the fringe of the abortion debate, they actually have a direct – and growing – effect on state-level policy. This is evident in the increase in laws that restrict access to abortion based on the race of the baby. One such example is the passage of an Arizona law in 2011 that banned abortions based on the race of the fetus, justifying it as a tool for addressing “race-related discrimination that exists in Arizona and throughout the nation.”
The Real Link between Racism and Reproductive Health
Anti-abortion groups find it possible to make extreme racial claims
because statistics, such as data from the Guttmacher Institute, show that women of color have higher abortion rates than white women. Despite significant declines for all groups in the past decade, women of color still obtain abortions at a rate two to three times higher than the rate for white women. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, while non-Hispanic Black women account for only 13.3% of the U.S. population, they receive approximately 35% of all abortions.
Yet even though it is accurate to say that Black women have higher rates of abortions in proportion to their share of the general population, research shows that this is due to higher rates of unintended pregnancy among women of color in general, and Black women in particular. When researchers control for rates of unintended pregnancies, Black women do not have a higher percentage of abortions.
In 2008, 69% of all pregnancies among Black women were unintended, compared to 56% of pregnancies unintended for Hispanic women and 42% unintended for white women.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, from 2006 to 2010, 9% of births to non-Hispanic white women were defined as unwanted, compared to 18% for Hispanic women and 23% for Black women.
The percentage of unwanted pregnancies that end in birth rather than abortion suggests that Black women are actually more likely than women of other races to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. Further, given that many more of their pregnancies are unintended, it is not surprising that the abortion rates of Black women are higher than those of white and Hispanic women.
Why do minority women in the United States have higher rates of unintended pregnancies? There are many reasons, but limited access to affordable and effective contraception is among the most important causes. Limited access, in turn, is often attributed to funding cuts to programs that provide contraception to low-income and minority communities, plus the scarcity of reproductive healthcare providers in neighborhoods where high concentrations of minority women live and work. Other recent studies – such as the Turnaway Study of women who did and did not receive desired abortions – find that many women of all races cite economic reasons for terminating a pregnancy.
The overall picture is that Black women in the United States often face difficult socio-economic circumstances, which influence their reproductive access and choices. As long as pervasive racial disparities in health care and economic wellbeing persist, Black women will face disproportionate risks of unintentional pregnancy – and many of them, as well as many white women, will choose abortion.
Abortion providers are hardly the ones discriminating against Black women. Instead, they are trying to address their needs and choices. Abortion providers will continue to serve the unmet needs of Black women who are making the best parenting decisions they can for themselves and their families.
Read more in Alisa Von Hagel and Daniela Mansbach, Reproductive Rights in the Age of Human Rights (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).
New Orleans Lawyer and Iraq War Veteran Appointed to Board of Directors of West Point
President Biden Appoints Roderick “Rico” Alvendia, to the Board of Directors for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
NEW ORLEANS – (Apr. 20, 2022) The President of the United States has appointed New Orleans Attorney and retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, Roderick “Rico” Alvendia, to the Board of Directors of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. President Biden selected Alvendia to serve a three-year term on the board, wherein he will advise the President on the ongoing status and morale of the U.S. Military Academy.
Since 1802, West Point has educated and trained future officers to lead in the U.S. Army, and Alvendia will serve on its historic 200-year-old Board of Directors alongside senior members of Congress, including U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, U.S. Senator Richard Burr, and fellow Iraq War veteran U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth.
“I am honored and humbled to serve our great nation once again on this important bi-partisan Board. I appreciate the trust and confidence of President Biden in selecting me for this opportunity, especially during such challenging times around the globe. The men and women of West Point are central to our country’s future leadership at home and abroad,” said Alvendia.
Alvendia served honorably as an Army Officer for 25 years and received the Bronze Star Medal for his service during combat operations in Iraq in 2005 with the Louisiana National Guard 256th Brigade Combat Team, where he was part of an international team of lawyers who assisted Iraqi prosecutors in their criminal trials against insurgents.
A Loyola Law School graduate, Alvendia dedicates his time to raising his son, Noah, and co-managing The Alvendia, Kelly and Demarest Law Firm, while also helping Louisiana Veterans in need. In 2013, together with other Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, Alvendia started the Legion of Mars Mardi Gras Krewe, the first New Orleans carnival organization established to honor U.S. military veterans and their families. Alvendia and the Mars Krewe have since helped thousands of local veterans while deployed or in financial hardship.
Alvendia stated that he is proud to represent his fellow New Orleanians and Louisianans and will continue to help local veterans as he serves on the Board of Visitors. Alvendia will continue working at his law firm and remain based in New Orleans while traveling to New York and Washington D.C. throughout his three-year Presidential Appointment.