BUT IT MUST AVOID A DEFECT OF TOO MANY OTHER INDUSTRIES

(Feat.  A Formula to Calculate the P&L of a Legal Cannabis Dispensary or Store)

By Darryl K. Henderson, J.D., January 14, 2019

THE PURPOSE OF BUSINESS

The purpose of business is to create value for customers, employees, business partners, investors and communities.  Value is certainly being created within the U.S. legal cannabis industry:

  • The combination of hemp-derived CBD products and legal cannabis sales are projected to reach $45B by 2022.
  • It is a source of bona fide therapeutic relief and life-enjoyment for Customers.
  • It is a source of gainful employment for Employees.
  • It is a source of viable money-making opportunities for Business Partners.
  • It is a source of wealth creation for Investors.
  • It is a source of crime reduction and revenue for economic and social services development for Communities.

There is still time to avoid the defect of too many other industries, however:

  • The failure, too often, to leverage the value of diversity with equity and inclusion

How can that defect be avoided?

  • In a nutshell, minimize the natural tendencies and negative effects of ego, greed, power, isms and xenophobia.  More details are provided below.

At the outset, let’s be real, the U.S. illegal “black” market of cannabis is not dead.  That market is estimated to be 4 to 6-times the size of the current legal cannabis industry – around $60B – and which is still 36% larger than sales projections for the combination of hemp-derived CBD products and legal cannabis sales.  What are the drivers?  For black market producers and sellers, (i) expensive or inaccessible state and local legal cannabis business licensing, (ii) strict and sometimes cumbersome legal cannabis lab testing requirements, (iii) the IRC Section 280E federal income tax requirement, (iv) exorbitant state and local legal cannabis taxes make operating in the black market easier, quicker and less expensive, and (v) consumer demand is strong.  This translates to ginormous opportunities for the legal cannabis industry once all the factors to positively influence legal cannabis consumer demand are properly addressed.

Cannabis is illegal at the federal level under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (the “CSA”).  The CSA classifies cannabis as a Schedule I substance, placing it alongside heroin, LSD and ecstasy in a category reserved for drugs considered to have no medicinal value, have a high potential for abuse, and are unsafe to use without medical supervision. Cocaine, crystal meth and fentanyl are all listed in Schedule II of the CSA, which is reserved for less dangerous drugs.  There are five schedules in total.  Schedule V includes codeine, Epidiolex and Lyrica.

By contrast, “industrial hemp,” which is a form of cannabis, was legalized in 2018 under the 2018 Farm Bill, signed into law by President Trump on December 20th.  Industrial hemp is now legal in all U.S. territories. It has been removed from coverage under the CSA and is considered an agricultural commodity, like wheat, corn and tobacco. Hemp businesses will no longer face the business and regulatory obstacles associated with handling a Schedule I illegal substance under the CSA – like banking barriers, business insurance barriers, the IRC Section 280E requirements, being barred from advertising on Facebook and Instagram, etc.       

Industrial hemp has less than 0.3% THC – which is the psychoactive chemical compound in cannabis that causes a person to get “high.”  It does, however, have a high concentration of CBD – which is the non-psychoactive chemical compound that does not get a person high and is linked to several health benefits.  Industrial hemp is used to make CBD-oil based health products, food products, rope, clothing, paper, building supplies, fuel, etc. 

The FDA retains regulatory authority over foods, drugs, dietary supplements and cosmetics.  So the recent FDA Statement regarding hemp legalization requires businesses that sell hemp-derived products in interstate commerce – as is already occurring – to avoid stating that those products will yield therapeutic, dietary, nutritional or cosmetic benefits without prior FDA approval.  An exception to this FDA parameter is GRAS products (i.e., hemp seeds).

I am personally intrigued with the medicinal value of cannabis.  To think that we can provide therapeutic relief to patients and their families for traumatic brain injury, cancer, sickle cell, Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain, epilepsy in children, PTSD, psoriasis, etc. simply through the use of Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa plants (including non-hemp and hemp cannabis) – those are “life-quality” enhancements worth supporting. 

For example, in desperation, one of my relatives decided to try a CBD-oil salve for his chronic swelling and painful knees. The warning on his doctor prescribed Pharma cream indicates that overuse could cause heart problems. So he stopped using the Pharma cream and tried to endure the knee swelling and pain.  But the CBD-oil salve has no troubling warnings and after applying it to his knees he felt relief within 2 minutes.  No more swelling.  No more pain.  And that has remained constant over six weeks and counting.  This gentleman is a church deacon, marine veteran, and the model of an upstanding citizen.  A CBD product, derived from industrial hemp, has changed his life.

The enjoyment, rest and relaxation that can also be derived from responsibly using legal cannabis as an adult-use product – similar to consuming wine, beer or liquor – is merely added value.

As of today, the legalization of cannabis in U.S. territories – including Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico – for medical use (MMJ), recreational or adult-use (RMJ), CBD-oil, and industrial hemp is as follows:

  • MMJ = 36 territories (29 active)
  • RMJ = 11 territories (7 active)
  • CBD-oil only = 14 territories (14 active)
  • Industrial hemp = 53 territories under the 2018 Farm Bill (42 state-pilot programs)
  • Idaho and South Dakota have not legalized cannabis in any way, so outside of the federal legalization of industrial hemp, cannabis is illegal in those two states.

In 2017 legal cannabis sales in the U.S. totaled $8.3B.  Sales are projected to reach $10B in 2018.  There are over 121,000 people employed in the legal cannabis industry today.  Analysts predict that the industry will grow to $23B in sales by 2021, with over 290,000 employees.

A couple of years ago, one acre of industrial hemp sold for $30,000.  In 2018, one acre of industrial hemp sold for up to $50,000.  Analysts predict that in 2019 one acre of industrial hemp will likely sell for up to $100,000.  One acre of hemp yields 1,200 to 1,500 plants, and each plant yields about 1 pound of product. Hemp-derived CBD products will have sales of $570m in 2018 and are predicted to reach $22B by 2020.  Currently, retailers that sell hemp-derived CBD products include Estee Lauder, GNC, Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot.

How much money do cannabis retailers make – i.e., medical dispensaries or adult-use and CBD product stores?  The answer varies.  But here is a formula and some conservative P&L estimates:

Hours of Operation =

Mon-Sat = 10 am – 8 pm; Sun = 11 am – 7 pm = 69 hours per week

Transactions =

15 per hour; 150 per day; 1,050 per week; 4,200 per month; 50,400 per year; $80 per transaction

Revenue (including state/local sales and excise tax) =

100% = $4,032,000

COGS =

42% = $1,693,440

Gross Profit =

58% = $2,338,560

Federal Income Tax =

Corporate Rate of 21% (and per IRC Section 280E) = $491,097.60

Operating Expenses =

40% = $1,612,800

Operating Profit =

6% = $234,662.40

ITDA =

5% = $201,600

Net Income =

1% = $33,062.40

The calculations above are impacted by several variables, including geographic location; state and local tax, license and other fees; size and foot traffic of a dispensary or store; and whether the retailer sells medical or adult-use, flower or non-flower, CBD products, and apparel and other ancillary products.  Some dispensaries report annual revenue of more than $20m.

New Frontier Data, a research firm that analyzes the legal cannabis industry, estimated that in 2017 states collected $655m in tax revenue on the $8.3B legal cannabis sales (i.e., sales tax, excise tax, cultivation tax and product tax), of which $559m came solely from cannabis, not vaporizers, grinders and other ancillary products.

New Frontier Data projects that if cannabis were federally legalized in all 50 states the U.S. government would collect at least $132B in tax revenue over the next eight years.  And federal legalization would create 782,000 jobs immediately, growing to 1.1 million by 2025, including jobs with cultivation, production, retail and ancillary businesses.

Major corporations are closely watching the value being created within the legal cannabis industry.  And some of those major players have jumped into the water:

  • Constellation Brands, the maker of Corona beer, invested $2.4B in a cannabis firm. 
  • Heineken, the beer maker, recently acquired a firm that is producing a new IPA beer made with cannabis.  Another Heineken subsidiary has made a THC-infused sparkling water. 
  • Molson Coors Brewing has formed a joint venture with a cannabis firm. 
  • Coca-Cola has announced that it is having conversations with a cannabis firm about making cannabis-infused beverages. 
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev is partnering with Tilray to spend $100m to research cannabis-infused beverages, infused with THC and CBD, and the research is said to “guide future decisions about potential commercial opportunities.” 
  • Altria Group, the owner of Marlboro brand cigarettes and an investor in Anheuser-Busch InBev, has invested $1.8B in a cannabis firm.  (Altria is also buying a 35% share of the vaping company JUUL for nearly $13B.) 
  • Scotts Miracle-Gro, the lawn and garden company, has invested over $140m in cannabis firms involved in plant nutrient and hydroponic technology.

In 2003, U.S. Patent No. 6,603,507 was granted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  That patent covers the potential use of non-psychoactive cannabinoids — the chemical compounds in cannabis that do not cause a person to get “high,” – to protect the brain from damage or degeneration caused by certain diseases, like cirrhosis.  Yes, that is contrary to the assertion under the 1970 CSA that cannabis has no medicinal value. 

Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, recently made the following statement during an event at Harvard University on drug addiction, as reported by the State House Wire Service: “Just as we need to look at criminal justice laws, rules and regulations, we need to look at health laws, rules and regulations, and that includes the scheduling system.  I’ll take it somewhere else: marijuana. We need to look at the way we schedule different medications across the board, because one of the concerns that I have with marijuana is the difficulty that the folks have to do research on it, because of the scheduling system.”

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “THC can increase appetite and reduce nausea” and “may also decrease pain, inflammation (swelling and redness), and muscle control problems.”  NIH also recognizes CBD as a chemical compound with potential medical use in “reducing pain and inflammation, controlling epileptic seizures, and possibly even treating mental illness and addictions.”  Again, yes, that is contrary to the assertion under the 1970 CSA that cannabis has no medicinal value. 

So where are we?  Let the evolution of the U.S. legal cannabis industry continue – guided by medical research, public education, product quality and safety, protection of community standards, environmental protection, legal compliance, and equitable and inclusive opportunities for diverse segments of communities to contribute to and enjoy the economic value of the industry.  According to the Pew Research Center and Gallup, the majority of U.S. adults feel the same way:  62% of U.S. adults (Pew) and 66% of Americans (Gallup) support regulated cannabis legalization, according to surveys conducted in October 2018.

KEY MILESTONES IN THE LEGALIZATION JOURNEY OF CANNABIS IN THE U.S.

Pre-1930s:

  • It was a source of textile products, medicines and food products, as well as rest, relaxation and enjoyment for a few hundred years prior to the 1930s (i.e., both hemp and non-hemp cannabis)

1930s:

  • It became demonized as an illicit drug in the 1930s without any medical, scientific, criminology or social data and analysis; the only basis was racist and xenophobic views about Mexican and Filipino immigrants and African American jazz musicians and artists.  Harry Anslinger was the single most influential public figure to create the negative stigma surrounding cannabis.  He testified before Congress and said the following:  “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind… There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”  Anslinger also led the institutionalization of the derogatory slang term “marijuana,” instead of the proper term “cannabis,” referring to the Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica plants.

1930s to 1970s:

  • During the late 1930s through the 1970s, anti-cannabis legislation was put in place both domestically and internationally.  Remember that the CSA was signed in 1970.  Also, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended (the “Single Convention”), is an international treaty that was signed in 1961.  It has 186 nation parties, including the U.S., as of February 2018.  The Single Convention is designed by international cooperation to (1) to combat narcotic drug abuse by limiting the cultivation, manufacture, production, distribution, import, export, trade, possession and use of specific drugs, defined to be narcotics, and (2) to deter and discourage drug trafficking of specific narcotic drugs.  Cannabis is listed as a Schedule I and Schedule IV drug under the Single Convention.  The one exception to the treaty would be if such drugs were used for medical treatment and scientific research.

1996:

  • It was legalized by the state of California in 1996 for medical use (now medical cannabis is legal in 36 U.S. territories, of which 29 are active).

2003:

  • In 2003, U.S. Patent No. 6,603,507 was granted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, covering the potential use of non-psychoactive cannabinoids to protect the brain from damage or degeneration caused by certain diseases.

2012:

  • In 2012, it was legalized by the states of Colorado and Washington for adult-use or recreational use (now adult-use cannabis is legal in 11 U.S. territories, of which 7 are active).

2013:

  • In 2013, it was the subject of a CNN documentary entitled, “Weed 1: A Special Report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta.”

2018:

  • In 2018, the FDA-approved the CBD-based drug Epidiolex to accompany three other cannabis-based drugs – i.e., Marinol, Syndros and Cesamet, and the DEA accepted those drugs and classified them as Schedule V substances under the CSA.  (Epidiolex is derived from non-hemp cannabis with less than 0.1% THC.)
  • Also, in 2018 hemp became legalized as an agricultural commodity by the Farm Bill of 2018 and was completely removed from coverage under the CSA (i.e., the hemp cannabis plants with less than 0.3% THC), and hemp-derived CBD products are being purchased both online and over-the-counter nationally, no matter whether the products have been approved by the FDA.

2019:

  • Today it is the fuel of a U.S. industry with most recent annual sales of $10B, and projected growth to $23B and 290,000 employees by 2022 – and the combination of hemp-derived CBD products and legal cannabis sales are projected to grow to $45B with over 300,000 employees by 2022.

BUT PEOPLE OF COLOR ARE TOO OFTEN EXCLUDED FROM THE VALUE DERIVED FROM OWNING, OPERATING AND WORKING WITHIN THE U.S. LEGAL CANNABIS INDUSTRY

Every human being has a God-given equal (“same”) right to be treated equitably (“fairly”) so as to leverage his or her unique abilities and skills.

More so than beer, wine and liquor, for years, cannabis has been a unifying “social element” for people of different personalities, characteristics, backgrounds and affiliations. 

For example, at colleges and universities across the nation you can find the equivalent of a white dude from Orange County, CA + a white babe from West Virginia + an Asian dude from New York + an African American dude from the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans + an African American babe from Atlanta + and a Hawaiian babe from Honolulu socializing and passing cannabis joints, vaporizers, bongs, infused beverages, etc.  The U.S. legal cannabis industry should reflect that degree of diversity and inclusion at every level and in every aspect.

Unfortunately, the U.S. legal cannabis industry struggles with diversity and inclusion, particularly the inclusion of people of color (PoC).

Marijuana Business Daily, a leading cannabis industry publication, has reported that white men own and operate 81% of U.S. legal cannabis businesses, while PoC own and operate just 19% of those businesses.  By comparison, white men own 57% of total privately-held businesses in the U.S. and make-up 40% of the U.S. labor force. 

The primary challenges to involving PoC in the legal cannabis industry are as follows:

  • Fear = the fear amongst PoC to get involved in the industry, driven by their awareness of the disproportionate number of convictions for PoC for drug crimes (e.g., 57% of people in state prisons for drug offenses are black and Latinx, but they only make-up 32% of the U.S. population), and the lack of education about both the benefits of cannabis use and the status of cannabis legalization.
  • Money = the huge disproportionate lack of capital and access to capital for PoC to afford the thousands-to-millions of dollars in application fees, license fees, permits and capital outlays needed to launch and operate a legal cannabis business.
  • Exclusion = the failure, too often, to include qualified PoC in the different ownership, governance, leadership and staff opportunities within the industry, as well as the inability of too many PoC to participate in the industry because of criminal drug convictions.

The solutions to the exclusion of PoC in the legal cannabis industry may include the following:

  • Federal Legalization = remove cannabis from Schedule I of the CSA.
  • Scientific Support = build more medical research and documentation of the benefits and risks of cannabis use.
  • Education = establish community education initiatives about the benefits and risks of responsibly using cannabis, the existence of community services for any form of substance addiction, and the status of cannabis legalization – i.e., education to offset the 80-plus years of negative stigma pinned upon the cannabis plant.
  • Inclusion = implement well-executed state-regulated legal cannabis social equity programs, as well as comprehensive diversity and inclusion initiatives within legal cannabis businesses and trade associations.  And create tax credits, favorable loans and grants for DBE-owned legal cannabis start-ups.

Inclusion is the unfinished business of diversity.  That fact has too often been a defect of several U.S. industries.  But the U.S. legal cannabis industry is new-enough to avoid widespread infection by that defect if the right preventative steps are taken immediately.

PROGRAM MANAGEMENT PARTNERSHIPS CAN BE SOLUTIONS TO THE ISSUES WITH STATE-REGULATED LEGAL CANNABIS SOCIAL EQUITY PROGRAMS

In an effort to correct the ill-effects of the war on drugs on PoC and the poor, a few states, like California, are taking deliberate steps to involve more PoC and economically disadvantaged individuals in the legal cannabis industry through social equity programs. California has allocated $10m towards its social equity programs, and in some instances local municipalities are supplementing those funds.

However, many legal cannabis industry insiders believe these programs create or fail to address more issues than create remedies to the exclusion of PoC.  The issues cited include:

  • State and local staffing and funding shortfalls within agencies charged to operate social equity programs.
  • Complex cannabis business license application processes, driven by heavily matted regulations, which benefit applicants with more capital and experience.  Large companies can use teams of attorneys and business proposal-writing specialists to complete cannabis business license applications and wade through layers of state and local government bureaucracy.  PoC too often do not have the luxury of those resources.
  • The exorbitant costs – cannabis business license “application fees” range from $250 to $25,000 and cannabis business “licenses” range from $1,000 to $200,000 annually, depending upon the state and whether the fee is for cultivation, production, lab testing, distribution, or retail businesses.
  • Long waits to acquire cannabis business licensing for those applicants who do qualify for the social equity programs.
  • Limited oversight of business partnership arrangements between social equity applicants and outside investors, which has led, in too many instances, to the outside investors hijacking the ownership and operations of the social equity applicants’ businesses through tricky partnership agreement terms and conditions.

As reported by Marijuana Business Daily, “Many social equity applicants typically lack access to bank loans or venture capital and/or have no knowledge of how to apply for those resources to get their cannabis companies off the ground. So, partnerships between applicants and investors are often necessary.  While partnerships are intended to financially benefit both parties, critics contend the practice can give rise to opportunities for investors to divest social equity applicants of their share in the business.”

On the other hand, some states just do it and do it right.  One example is Louisiana.  The first of ten dispensary license awarded in the state of Louisiana went to a half-century-old African American-owned and operated pharmacy named H&W Drug Store.  And one of the two cannabis cultivation and processing operations is Southern University, a historically black university.  That level of diversity, equity and inclusion must exist at every level and in every aspect of the Louisiana legal medical cannabis program – across a variety of diversity dimensions.

Nevertheless, states should establish “program management partnerships” with community organizations to provide business expert oversight and supportive services to social equity applicants.  The National Urban League (NUL) and business management consulting firms – just two examples – can provide social equity program participants with necessary oversight and business support. 

The expert oversight and supportive services can include advisory, program management and staff augmentation services delivery in the areas of business partnerships, contracting, organization development, HR, accounting, finance, IT, marketing, operations management, legal compliance, etc.  Those oversight and supportive services can be paid for with the state and local revenue from legal cannabis taxes and licensing fees collected from cultivation, production, lab testing, distribution, and retail operators.

But the federal government holds the real key to addressing issues with legal cannabis social equity programs.  Removing cannabis from the CSA would provide a clearer and more comfortable path for states to attract and engage outside business experts to help with social equity programs – especially to engage 501(c) (3) organizations like NUL. 

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights recently sent a letter to the 116th Congress that included the following recommendation:  “Pass legislation de-scheduling marijuana with racial equity and justice reform components.”  The letter stresses that bills to federally legalize cannabis should “include reparative justice/reinvestment language for communities most impacted” by directing legal cannabis tax revenue towards those communities.  The letter further states:  “End federal prohibition in a way that acknowledges decades of harm faced by communities of color and low-income communities.”

On December 18th, congressional democrats on the Joint Economic Committee published a report championing the “economic benefits of legalized cannabis at the state and national levels.”  Named, “The National Cannabis Economy,” the report finds that the marijuana industry brought in more than $8 billion in sales in 2017, with sales estimated to reach $10 billion this year and expected to soar to $22 billion by 2022.  “The growth of the cannabis economy presents opportunities for greater job creation, more tax revenue, and better patient care,” the report states, while also summarizing the banking and tax issues that current federal policy causes for state-regulated cannabis businesses.  “It’s time we legalize marijuana, but at the minimum, we must reduce the conflicts between federal and state laws so that the industry can continue to create jobs and bolster state economies,” said Senator Martin Heinrich, (D-NM), the ranking member of the committee.  “This conflict hurts small businesses and constrains the economic benefits of legal cannabis.  But in order to realize the benefits, we must act on legislation ….”

Three separate bills to end federal cannabis prohibition have been introduced in the 116th Congress.  Seven such bills were introduced in the 115th Congress.  As young athletes say today, “Let’s go!”  And as we move forward, let’s make sure that we foster equity and inclusion to leverage the value of diversity at every level and in every aspect of the U.S. legal cannabis industry.

About the Author:

At his core, Darryl is motivated to help, teach and lead people (his “life mission”).  He has amassed a broad range of knowledge and skills in a variety of roles, including HR executive, chief diversity officer, chief employment compliance officer, operations executive, business management consultant, executive coach, entrepreneur, and employment and commercial lawyer.  Darryl earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Georgia School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics degree from Emory University.  His LinkedIn Profile:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/darryl-k-henderson-b87521134

2 thoughts on “THE U.S. LEGAL CANNABIS INDUSTRY IS CREATING VALUE”
  1. WOW,,,, this is a long article. Not to easy to follow.

    BUT,,, if cannabis is good, if the Saints players use some, will that help them to perform better and win?

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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.