By Scott Young

My headline might sound overreaching. Clearly a rule can’t define something as complex as human behavior. But despite this, I’ve found most people tend to make the same mistakes. These mistakes are frequent enough that they create conflicts later. Remembering these seven rules will help you avoid these mistakes.

People Skills is About Being Nice, Friendly and Interesting, Duh!

Most the books I’ve read on dealing with people either make two claims:

  • Incredibly obvious stuff that most sensible people understand; even if they haven’t always mastered it. Things like be nice, be considerate, etc.
  • Bizarre and complex theories that may explain some behavior, but is difficult to generalize.

Between these two I’ve found there seems to be a gap of information that is can be applied generally, but isn’t always obvious. These frequent mistakes tend to cause most people conflicts, social errors and emotional upsets.

The Seven

Here are the seven rules I’m talking about:

Rule One: Never blame malice for what can easily be explained by conceit.

People don’t care about you. This isn’t because people are mean or hurtful, but simply because they are mostly focused on themselves. Consider this hypothetical pie-chart showing the variety of thoughts a typical person has:

Thought Chart

*Data is hypothetical

In this example, 60% of thoughts are self-directed. My goals. My problems. My feelings. Another 30% are directed towards relationships, but how they affect me. What does Julie think of me? How will boss evaluate my performance in the next review? Do my friends like me or see me as irritating?

Only 10% in this model is time spent in empathy. Empathy is the rare event where one person actually feels the emotions, problems and perspective of another person. Instead of asking what Julie thinks of me, I ask what is Julie thinking.

Within that 10%, most people then divide attention between hundreds of other people they know. As a result, you would occupy a fraction of a percentage in most peoples minds, and only a couple percentage points in a deeply bonded relationship. Even if you are in another persons thoughts, it is how your relationship affects them, not you.

What does this mean?

  • Embarrassment doesn’t make a lot of sense. Since others are only focusing a small portion of there thoughts onto judging you, your self-judgement is overwhelmingly larger.
  • People who appear to be mean or hurtful don’t usually do it intentionally. There are exceptions to this, but generally the hurt you feel is a side-effect, not the principle cause.
  • Relationships are your job to maintain. Don’t wait to be invited to parties or for people to approach you.

Rule Two: Few Social Behaviors are Explicit

Basically this rule means that most the intentions behind our actions are hidden. If a person is feeling depressed or angry, usually the resulting behaviors distort their true feelings. If I feel you snubbed me, I might hold my tongue but ignore you later.

The old joke is that women use words like, “fine,” and, “go ahead,” when they really feel the opposite. But I’ve noticed men do this too in polite situations, although often not in the same way.

The application of this rule is that you need to focus on empathy, not just hearing a person. Demonstrate trust, build rapport and learn to probe a bit. By focusing on empathy you can usually break away these subversions and get to the heart of the issue faster.

The other application of this rule is that most the time you feel something, nobody else knows about it. So don’t get angry when people aren’t responding to you. If you deceive your thoughts with your actions, don’t get angry when you fool people.

Rule Three: Behavior is Largely Dictated by Selfish Altruism

To say everyone is completely selfish is a gross exaggeration. That ignores all the acts of kindness, sacrifice and love that make the world work. But I would argue that most (not all, but most) behavior does work from the principles of selfish altruism.

Selfish altruism is basically win/win. It is where helping you directly or indirectly helps me. There are a couple main categories where this applies:

  1. Transactions – If I purchase a car, both myself and the dealer benefit. I get a vehicle, which I want. The dealer gets money to improve his lifestyle. This is the predominant form of selfish altruism between people who don’t have emotional bonds.
  2. Familial – Blood is thicker than water. We are designed to protect people who share our genes. This can sometimes shift towards extremely close friends and loved ones.
  3. Status – Helping someone is a sign of power. Many species of primates will offer assistance as a sign of dominance. People act similarly, offering aid to boost their self-esteem and reputation.
  4. Implied Reciprocity – Many relationships are based on the idea that if I help you, one day you will help me as well.

Occasionally behavior falls outside this group. Nameless heroes dying for causes that don’t help their bloodline. Volunteers devoting their time towards humanitarian missions. But these are the minority, whereas most actions can be explained by some form of selfish altruism.

How do you apply this rule? You understand the motives of people and appeal to them as if they were selfish. Find ways to help people within these four categories. Don’t expect people to offer aid outside of selfish altruism, it isn’t impossible, but it isn’t likely.

Rule Four: People Have Poor Memories

Ever been told someone’s name at a party and then forgot it later? Another rule of human behavior is that people have trouble remembering things. Especially information (as you’ll recall in rule one) that doesn’t apply to themselves. People are more likely to remember your similarities than your differences (unless they were emotionally incensed by them).

Recently I even broke this rule. I made arrangements to talk to a person I hadn’t met before on the phone. Even with my normally foolproof system of calendars and to-do lists, a few spontaneous schedule changes caused me to miss the call. I quickly apologized and made a new arrangement.

But the fact is most people don’t have organized GTD systems. People are forgetful by nature, so once again, don’t assume malice or disinterest if something is forgotten. The other side of this rule is that you can demonstrate reliability by having a good memory or system (if it doesn’t fail you).

Rule Five: Everyone is Emotional

Perhaps this is an exaggeration. But the core of the message is that people tend to have stronger feelings about something than they let on. People who regularly have outbursts of anger, depression or flamboyant enthusiasm are generally frowned upon in most cultures. This especially applies to men (for women trying to figure us out).

The application of this rule is to not assume everything is fine just because someone isn’t having a nervous breakdown. We all have our individual problems, angst and upsets that are normally contained. You don’t need to call people out on their private deception, but being sensitive to those underlying currents gives you an advantage in trying to help.

The alternate application of this rule is similar to rule two. People generally assume everything is fine unless you just had a blowup.

Rule Six: People are Lonely

This is another broad generalization. But it is amazing how many people who seem to have it all, suffer from bouts of loneliness. As social animals, I believe people are especially sensitive to any threats to becoming ostracized. In Neanderthal times, exile meant death, so loneliness and the desire to be with other people is a strong one.

The application of this rule is that loneliness is fairly common, so in that sense, you really aren’t alone. I used to be bothered when I felt alone or an outsider in a social group. Although I’m still human, I’ve found recognizing this feeling to be fairly common as a way to minimize it.

Rule Seven: Did I Mention People Are Self-Absorbed?

This may sound like a reiteration of rule one, but I believe the applications extend beyond relationships and your emotional state. The fact that people tend to be too concerned about themselves to give you much attention, that people tend to be lonelier, more emotional and feel differently than they let on applies to how you view the world.

If anything this perspective should make you more proactive and independent. Once I started really learning these rules, it made far more sense that I needed to take charge. By placing your individual happiness in the hands of another person (or people), you ignore all these rules and do so at your own peril.

I like to take an optimistic, but realistic view of people. People who are generally try their best, but make mistakes and suffer from unintended self-absorption. In other words, they are basically like you.

2 thoughts on “The Critical 7 Rules To Understand People”
  1. Who’s at Fault? find a Mirror!…

    LBRC- Louisiana is #50 in a USA Class of 50! NOLA is at The “Bottom” in Louisiana! If a Nuclear Carrier runs aground, who will The Joint Chef’s interview 1st, why! There are consequences to low expectations when “Huge” Nuclear Carriers are manned by  “Incompetence! Who “Avoids” and evades “Competent and Experienced Scholars” in areas where they have study and “International Collaboration” plus “Peer Review”? Ans. A City where illiteracy is a rampant Badge of Dishonor and The Public School Board  Proliferate it! Who Captains NOLA, it’s Income, and Sets Priorities for Budgeting? Ans. Mayor and Council (De Facto- We Know it’s The Caucasion Moneyed Class! They’re Handled With Care! Do “Not” Offend?)! Moving Along…

    1. A few have advantages in maintaining poor educational outcomes. Still it seems  forbidden for Negroes to Read! Nothwithstanding without comprehension, “What’s the Point”!

    2. NOLA has a “Wealth” of local Universities and a “Highly Specialized Indigenous Professional  Class” plus Science, STEM and Law Clinics”! Which areas aren’t covered? Take 1 issue, ENTERGY NOLA? Follow City Council Logic? 

    3. Tulane, Xavier, Dillard, Loyola, SUNO, Delgado and other “Local” Universities have and are “Training” lots, if not most the “Engineers, Scientist, Attorneys” and yada…, on  Energy Matters! Yet? Who does “Your” NOLA Council pay “Exhorbent” amounts of your “Local Tax Dollars” to “Advise” ‘Dem About “Local” Energy Engineering, Environmental Law, related to Energy Production or “Any” matter relating to Scientific Input regarding ‘Dat Production”? Ans. “Your” NOLA Council pays “Millions” to “Out of Town” so- called Advisors, to advise them about Energy Issues Studied “Locally” by a Host of “Cartified Scholars”! Question Imhotep? What literate mind whose home is own fire and has a sufficient Fire Extinguishing inside, runs down the street several blocks in search of “Expert” advice about should they or shouldn’t they “Employ”/Pun Intended, what’s inside? Clues?

    4. NOLA is on “Fire”! Not so? NOLA is 1 of Louisiana’s “Poorest of The ‘Po, it’s Citizenery, not its “Exclusive” Economy! Like The Continent of Africa or an “Enslaved Ante Bellum Louisiana Negro, Share Cropper”, The Land and Environment is Rich”! The Wealthy Pollute it and Citizens Breathe it! Citizen Saps called “Rate Payers” and/or Common Tax Payers, pay “All” The Bills! “Every Dollar in Tax Coffers Come From Citizens”! Where do Corporations get Dollars when and if they Pay? Exceptions- GE, Trump et al, you “Heard” ‘Dem brag, “They don’t pay”?

    a. Over 26k Opportunity Youth in NOLA, 99.999% Black and growing! You don’t call ‘Dat a Fire? Trauma, PTSD is “Off The Chain” in NOLA! Why? You talk about Katrina, but lots of citizens were in NOLA Pre 1965 Civil Rights and Hurricane Betsy, Vietnam Veterans,  Gulf Wars, we haven’t even touched ongoing Systemic Racism! 

    b. Who avoids Universities and Local Expertise with respect to advice, like Sick avoid Doctors? A State and City who ranks #50 in a USA Class of 50! Stupidity “Self- Perpetuates”, why MAGA Zealots are more feverish than ever! What is ‘Sic? Ans. You revere a “Lie” and a “Confirmed Liar” more than “Truth”! Denial? We believe Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as Stupid Does”! 

    5. Keep it real! NOLA Council, Mayors as in years past, are “Gift of Gab” Specialist! Always doubt your lying eyes? Glittering Generalities rule, little relation to “Reality”! 

    a. Explain the “Fall” from resources for NOE? What Plaza, right? ‘Stuntun Negro voters are Dupes, just like what they put on Council and elsewhere! Sorry…? Peace…

  2. (((o))) – (((o))) eye opening
    ————————————————–
    * – Discernment is not the ability to figure out what is right or what is wrong.
    * – Discernment is knowing the the difference between right and “almost right”.
    * – Wisdom is the power to see and the inclination to choose the best and highest goal and the surest means of attaining it.
    * – Knowledge is the accumulation of information.
    * – Intelligence is taking wisdom and knowledge and accomplishing excellence.
    * – Common Sense is, ability to instantly recognize perceive formulate and respond to what ever is presented and avoid catastrophic events, a disaster, or danger or harm, resulting from a better mind that illustrates elite superior cognitive reasoning & logic, but, common sense is not found in most people.
    * – Common Sense is multiplied in humans as they embrace wisdom, knowledge, and intelligence, which then results in superior quality of actions or re-actions which avoids errors and a waste of time and assets.
    * – Human Common Sense, can be like a perfectly designed software which when activated, it instantly and accurately draws from the programmed knowledge and spontaneously operates.
    * – Human Common Sense is ready to function always, because of or from the intentional accumulation, retention, and storage of what one has learned from observation, schooling, or life experiences or those acquired as an apprentice, which begins from the moment of birth, and then retains and values the learning by storing in the mind for later recall to benefit ones life.
    * – Human Common Sense, is always impaired by defective reasoning, defective logic, defective cognitive functions, and all these are often the results of improper training, improper school curriculum, and the distractions of mental skills caused by, human hedonism, human heathenism, human paganism.
    * – Human Common Sense, and effective reasoning, fail when the human mind is stimulated with the daily consumption from, lust, greed, envy, and covetousness.
    These behaviors are all mentally destructive and mentally toxic to the mind of humans and incrementally impair events for good quality successful conditions in a persons life.
    —————————————————————-
    *** “GUILE”, is the use and practice of skillful shrewd sophistry, by using deceit, a trick, a scheme, a scam, sorcery, or witchcraft, upon any man, woman, or child, with the intended goal to confuse, mislead, deprive, hurt or harm. Guile, is practiced every day by men, women, children, leaders, nations, and frequently thru spiritual wiles. Advertising is often more guile that truth.
    *** – “GUILE”, is practiced intentionally with the goal to control something in other people, and also guile can be the result of any person told fake information learned from unverified sources that then deceives people, but both, still, lead to the hurt, harm and abuse of other people.
    ^^^ GUILE and DANGER !!!
    People who daily practice “guile”, intentionally or thru ignorance or any method, are people that are not good for any friendship.
    People of guile want power and control over others, either verbally, physically, mentally or technically.
    People of guile, are themselves, beguiled, from powers and principalities, and live daily in a blindness, formed by allusions, illusions, delusions, and confusion.
    People of guile, their conduct illustrates the example which expresses easily visible steps which hurts others, or seeks to take advantage of others, yet they often cannot see it or understand it, and often very hostile when it is explained to them.

    GUILE, is the construct of language, feelings, drama, & acting, used to deceive or bewitch, or trick people.
    WAR BATTLE PLANS of ARMY’S have for centuries used “guile” to confuse, deceive and distract an enemy to believe something one way, while the ARMY does things a different way to exploit the enemy and capture them and win.
    <<<>>>
    “FRIENDSHIPS”, any and all, must be 100% free of “guile”, or else it is not friendship.
    “THEREFORE”, wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, and effective reasoning must be fully applied to the “discernment” of “human friendships” to ascertain whether one
    can associate with whomever might want to or claim to be a friend.

    SEVEN HYPOTHETICAL RULES of PEOPLE… – “flawed and temporary”.
    THE 7 described rules above, seem like a good human secular analysis, which “may or might” help reduce some harm to people and “bridge” some “temporal diplomacy” to obtain or sustain friendships between people.
    BUT?
    It is always temporary self-control, for it is built upon “human self will”, and human self will is guile. It is the guile of tolerance, will help us be friends, but, only for a while, until a human scheme or scam can be portrayed and performed to “get even or retaliate”.
    MUCH OF TODAY, imposes the idea that all people can be friends, or have friendships if they “simply tolerate the diversity’s” of other peoples conducts and actions and seek to impose people to “associate” with them, in spite of their actions and practices.
    MUCH OF TODAY, seeks to “force and impose” everyone to “accept” all peoples cultural practices of behaviors, regardless of the harms hurt or offenses it causes to many people. We see today that, nothing is wrong and all people must accept a claim of other people to accept them as friends or else be attacked by the same person with “societal coercion” that slanders and defames, which is coming from the person who wants to be your friend, Hmm?

    So then, certain people find it hard to be friends with others who live differently.
    AND, certain people who claim to be a friend, are intolerant and to make another person be their friend, they do so by “harming” the other person with acts that are far from conduct that displays “friendship”!

    *** LOVE *** a very multi defined and multi confused word about “a conduct”.
    > SOME, people say love means sensual erotic pleasures.
    > SOME, people say love means never criticize my lifestyle or culture, even if it hurts you or causes any mental anguish, pain or suffering.
    > SOME, people define love as making “deals, agreements, or contracts” with each other to achieve some benefit or to balance a exchange.
    Then if all these “love ideas” are successful then that is considered “a friendship”.
    TOO OFTEN ,,,, what we do see, is not lovers and friends, but we see VICTIMS and
    ABUSED and HUMAN EXPLOITATION.

    GUILE,,, is not new and has and still is harming many people and as long as Guile is in the character and conduct of people then the most that one can obtain is a friendship designed from feign ideas.
    Hollywood is Guile, and Guile is Hollywood.
    …………………………………………………………
    ——————————————————-
    2019, JUNE 20.

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It happens everyday in America!

By Jeff Thomas

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 Racist Myth

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

RACE

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. 

PROXIMITY

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.

AGE

Young men engage in risky and violent behavior.  Most of the men dying on our streets are between the ages of 17-35. 

EDUCATION

Nearly 95% have not graduated from college and 65% have not completed high school.   

Socioeconomic Status

100% were not upper class in America. The links between poverty and crime are well documented.  And black men have lived in depression level economic conditions for the last 50 years.

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

Habitually Hostile Men

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.

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.

The Wannabe

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.

Self-Hate

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.

Given the opportunity to take back control of Orleans Parish schools and assume the lead in giving our kids the best education that’ll keep them out of prison, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) thought about it and said, nah I think we’re good.

Actually, they didn’t just say it. They held a meeting. They put it in a formal resolution. So when it came time for the Senate to finally hear Sen. Joe Bouie’s bill (SB404), it failed. By 6 votes. The dissenting Senators were like, if the OPSB doesn’t want the responsibility, then why would we force it on them?

That raises a question: why doesn’t the OPSB want the responsibility? Maybe it has something to do with the present setup.

Charter schools are the gentrification of education

As it stands now, the OPSB is a conduit for state education dollars. It’s a golden setup. Any aspiring charter organization wanting to access state money and open a school has to get the OPSB’s approval. Once that happens, the OPSB plays a minimal role.

Once established, the charter gets to set its own salaries, hire its own teachers and principals, and establish its own curriculum. The OPSB then relegates itself to monitoring their performance via test scores. It also decides if the school will be reapproved when the contract is up. That’s called eliminating mostly anything to do with the day-to-day responsibility of educating our kids while still getting paid. Charter schools are the gentrification of education.

How much you might ask. Like $300,000 a year if you happen to be the incoming superintendent of the OPSB. That’s a raise of almost a $100,000 over the outgoing superintendent.  And $15,000 more than the Dept of Education superintendent who oversees the whole state. There’s also a $20,000 a year bonus if certain incentives are met. The OPSB cited cost of living increases to justify the salary.

Sen. Bouie has been trying to break up this arrangement for years. The central theme of his many bills has been holding the elected school board members accountable for the schools in their districts. As it stands now, the public can’t really hold them accountable for our failing schools because the charters set and run their own shows.

Many people would probably say what difference would it make. When the OPSB ran the schools, they were just as bad, in general, as they are now. But the whole charter reform movement was supposed to be about improving schools.  This ain’t that!

Going forward, the goal shouldn’t just be returning the schools to the OPSB. There should also be public involvement to hold the OPSB accountable once that does happen. Our schools won’t improve with a management change alone. It needs an engaged public to go along with it.

Of course, this will all have to wait until next legislative session. With this session ending in about 2 weeks, there will probably be little support for reconsidering Sen. Bouie’s bills. Until then, watch the OPSB members of your districts. Attend a meeting. Let your voice be heard. That’s the first step towards invoking true reform. Because now, charter schools are the gentrification of education.

From preschoolers to high school, schools discipline Black children at extremely high rates. Discipline means lost instruction time. Children are frustrated because they don’t understand. So instead of providing a nurturing environment, schools create children who do not like school. We know that children who do well in school often do well at life. For black kids this is especially true. Educational success can lift families out of poverty. But schools today are putting black kids out of school. In fact, schools use discipline to discourage black children.

Have an open discussion about race and achievement gaps and disparities in America. Invariably the discussion will consolidate around two key generally accepted factors – parental involvement and education.  Most people say parents have to be parents and influence their children. And an emphasis on education can transform the life of children.

Despite the best efforts of parents, schools use discipline to discourage black kids.  The Civil Rights division of the Department of Education released the latest results of its data collection of nearly every public school in the country.  And the results were disturbing nationally and alarming in Louisiana.

See how schools use discipline to discourage blacks.

We expect schools to be vessels for success. So they must be nurturing supportive places that welcome children and educate them.  Schools have always dealt with learning differences amongst students.  Little Tyronne is better in math than little Johnny, but Johnny reads at a higher level.  The best schools are adept at developing the strengths and weaknesses of each student.

 Schools must see African American children as valuable and teachable. But teachers are humans with biases and preconceived notions. Teachers with different socioeconomic backgrounds from their students must be able to overcome their own limitations. One stereotype is that African Americans are less intelligent than other students. Another stereotype is that Black boys don’t care about education. Another is that black children are just bad. Inexperienced and culturally bereft teachers might see black children as unworthy. How else can you explain black preschool children being suspended from school? How else can you explain the widespread expulsion of black children. Let’s look at some facts. This is how schools use discipline to discourage blacks.

Related: NOLA Charter Schools are the gentrification of education

Some of the most glaring disparities are differences in discipline:

In Louisiana the stats are even more disturbing.

In New Orleans, many point to the charter movement as progress.  But most of the charter schools operators in New Orleans are run by out of state companies. And they operate the same across the country.  Most have inexperienced, Teach for America teachers who have no cultural familiarity with the students they must teach.  Hence we have high expulsions and constant teacher turnover.  Our children are left in the lurch.

The children who drug the old white lady are teenage high school students. The boy was suspended from school.


by Preeti Vani

Your answer may depend on how we ask the question.

KEY POINTS

Gladson Xavier/Pexels

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:

Why are date nights so important?

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.

RELATED: HOW TO STAY HAPPY

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:

13th Amendment

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:

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.

Past Mass Incarceration Causes Crime Today

Where are the fathers?  In Jail.

Why are families not intact?  Father in jail.

Why did the family breakdown? Father in jail.

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

HB248removing Robert E. Lee Day and Confederate Memorial Day from the state roll.

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.

A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Lee Circle in New Orleans.

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.

The post ‘We need an updated green book’: Black truck driver shares his harrowing experience in Texas sundown town appeared first on The Daily Dot.


by Gary Wenk Ph.D.

What you should eat, and stop eating, to avoid cognitive decline.

KEY POINTS

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.

vegetables and fruits

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.

WATCH: What a Supreme Court ruling ending Roe v. Wade would mean for reproductive rights

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.”

READ MORE: What is Roe v. Wade?

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.

READ MORE: How Congress could wield its power to affect abortion law nationally

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.

DATA CENTER

             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.