A duel between conflicting theories of how to cultivate friendships.
by Cody Kommers
There is a quote from the Stoic philosopher Seneca which frames this debate: “When a person spends all of her time in foreign travel, she ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends. And the same must hold true of people who seek intimate acquaintance with no single author, but visit them all in a hasty and hurried manner.”
It’s clear that Seneca believes two things here. First, Seneca believes that having lots of friends is anti-correlated with having close friends. This assumption makes sense if you think that social resources are finite. For example, if you have 10 hours to spend time with friends this week, you can either allocate those 10 hours among 10 different friends or spend it all with one single friend. Assuming that friendship is a function of the amount of time spent with someone, you’re going to cultivate a closer relationship with the one person than you would with any of the 10. Seneca’s second belief is that it is more valuable to have friends that are close rather than numerous.
Seneca has his opinion. But which is really better: more friends or closer friends?
In the corner opposite Seneca, supporting “more friends” is a theory from sociologist Mark Grannovetter. In his landmark paper on The Strength of Weak Ties, Grannovetter makes the claim that the economic value of one’s social network is not in the number of close friends you have, but in the number of arms-length acquaintances you have. It’s the weak-ties that matter, not the strong-ties. Grannovetter’s argument centers around the idea that people who you are really close to—your strong ties—share much of the same social and professional sphere that you do. They are unlikely to introduce you to new ideas or new job opportunities or any sort of information that you wouldn’t already be likely to come across without their help. Weak-ties, on the other hand, are not generally part of the same world. They have different jobs, specializations, college majors, friend groups of their own, and they are a part of environments from which you can potentially learn. Strong-ties make the world smaller, weak-ties make it bigger.
A bigger world may mean a world with more opportunities, but it goes without saying that economic gain is not the only standard by which to judge a potential relationship. Backing up Seneca, coming down squarely on the side of “closer friends,” is a theory by anthropologist Robin Dunbar, commonly known by the shorthand of “Dunbar’s number.”
Dunbar’s theory, argued in his 1991 paper on Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates, is that there are fundamental limits to the number of people that a human (or a chimp, for that matter) can know well. These limits are cognitive. Our social minds can only handle so much social information before getting overloaded. Dunbar’s number is most often quoted at 150, specifying, in Dunbar’s words, “the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar.” This is supposed to be the optimal group size if you want everyone to know everyone else pretty well. And it can be extrapolated to suggest that this is also pretty close to the limit of one’s social groups—that is, only about 150 of your Facebook friends are people you really care about.
There is a corollary of sorts to Dunbar’s number. You can think of it as Dunbar’s concentric circles. Not all close friends are created equal: Some of those 150 friends you care about are going to be closer than others. There are also loose cognitive limits on these various inner circles of friends as well. Jesus’ disciples are a good example of this. In the first circle were his three closest confidants: Peter, James, and John—his best friends, so to speak. Then there was his inner circle of 12 disciples. These were people with whom he was certainly close, but each one to a greater or lesser degree (Judas betrayed him, after all). Then there is a passage in Luke 10 where he sends out 72 disciples to go ahead of him to places he planned to visit. These were presumably people he knew and trusted, though not as well as the 12 (note the number is within Dunbar’s 150). Then there’s the story of Jesus feeding the multitude with loaves of bread and fish—supposed to have numbered 5000, well beyond the number that he would’ve known personally.
So what should you do with your 10 hours of social time? It is better to divide it among 10 friends as Grannovetter suggests or allocate it to a single one in alignment with Dunbar? On the one hand, it does seem to be the case that the economic value of a social network increases with more friends. On the other hand, perhaps this brings down the likelihood that you’ll be especially close to any of those friends, with each of them vying for the resources of your social attention. What is more certain than the definitive answer is that any particular individual will have a sense about how they personally cultivate friendships.
But as the quote above suggests, Seneca isn’t actually making a point about friendships. He is using friendships as a metaphor to drive his argument about the authors you should read. It is essentially the same problem: Should you read more authors or focus on developing better knowledge of a few? He claims that it is more important to digest the works of a selective few master thinkers, affording yourself the ability to see the world the same way they see it, rather than reading many different authors and not knowing any single one of them intimately.
In this Seneca is likely correct, as Granovetter’s weak-ties argument about economic viability doesn’t apply to authors. They don’t become a part of your social network after you’ve read their work. However, you can incorporate a deep understanding of their worldview into your own—a process compatible with Dunbar’s concentric circles. There are, like Jesus’ disciples, the ones with whom you’re closest and know all their work intimately, followed by another circle of close familiarity, all the way up to those you don’t know and are willing to read little more than an Internet article by them. But whether or not you agree with Seneca’s contention, it follows that we should be as deliberate about choosing the authors we engage as the friendships we cultivate.
Black men kill each other at alarming rates all across America every day. Nearly every city’s daily news casts reports, “Today in our city three (or thirty depending on the size of your city) men were shot and killed in three (or thirty) separate shootings. Police have no suspects in any of the cases.” And immediately and innately you know that the people killed were black and the killers were black. This has been going on for the last 30-40 years and no end is in sight. New Orleans has one of the highest murder rates nationally. Why do black men kill each other?
First Let’s Dispel a
First thing you have to know is that 99.999% of black men do
not commit murder ever in their lives.
That is a fact! This is not a
black man issue. There is nothing
genetically or intrinsically wrong with black men. But the fact remains that
daily hundreds of black men across this country are murdered everyday by
another black man. Why does this happen
with this subset?
Common factors to Black
men murdering other black men
The first thing about murder is that people usually kill
people who are similar to them in many ways, particularly race. White men normally murder other white men and
black men normally murder other black men.
In the black community, these killings are normally city events. Rarely do you hear of a drive by in the country. Most of these daily killings occur on the city streets. People kill others who they interact with.
Young men engage in risky and violent behavior. Most of the men dying on our streets are
between the ages of 17-35.
But these are often cited, unsurprising factors. More salient is what goes into the psyche of a guy who can look into the eyes of another man and pull the trigger at close range or jab a knife with the intent to murder another man? What are the other factors that contribute to becoming a murderer? Why do Black men kill each other
The guy who ain’t never scared and always looking to
escalate a situation. Down for whatever. Nothing to live for and anticipating the day
he will either kill or be killed. This
mindset is cultivated in a limited option, few chances, success deprived
life. This guy has had a number of
arguments and fist fights throughout his life.
He hates authority and frequently feels angry or resentful towards
people. He often seeks to overcome a
feeling of powerlessness. This guy is a
walking heap of rage. He is always nothing
but a gun and an argument away from murder.
The Disrespected Man
A man who feels like everybody but him gets respect.
Unemployed or stuck in a low wage hard work job
where his contributions are unrecognized
Lives with his mother and has little control over
his home environment
Has a child but no custody and a bad relationship
with his baby mama
Been profiled and harassed by the police
Observes community members driving nice cars
Rejected for better jobs
Feels unable to change his life status and is
insignificant in the world
Seeks to overcome feelings of impotence
For this guy, respect is everything and options to express
anger or refutation are often limited. He
often seeks to overcome a feeling of impotence. If another who seems unworthy
of disseminating criticism or scorn or generally crosses the line of imagined
respect, then a high level of response will be meted out.
Little life happiness
Thrill seeker often brags and talks about his toughness and ‘hood status.
Wants to make a real name for himself
Will recklessly escalate a situation or
When challenged by a non-believing skeptic, this man often
acts in unnecessarily violent ways in unnecessarily violent situations. Often seeks to overcome a feeling of powerlessness.
Too often black men suffer an inferiority
vilifies and criminalizes black men on a daily basis.
American culture is based upon the notion that
black people and specifically black men are less intelligent, completely
unpredictable, beast like, lazy etc., etc.
Black men internalize this notion and are
conditioned to see little value when they look in the mirror.
Beset by internal angst and torment.
Unresolved pain combined with poverty,
ignorance, oppression, violent police, violent neighborhoods, etc.
symptoms of an inferiority complex include a high sensitivity to criticism, perceiving
others as a threat, jealousy, a lack of dreams.
The daily feeling of isolation, powerlessness and impotence is like being a prisoner of war. One reason black men grab their genitals is to stress their vitality. Men who have been literally stripped of the ability to display their manhood – great jobs, big houses, educational attainment and all the other accoutrements of modern society- are literally killing to express their power in life. Twisted but true.
Currently New Orleans has a major teenage crime problem. Far too many teenagers are committing crimes. Car jackings, murders, shoplifting – nothing seems shocking anymore. Many assume because they are black, they are prone to crime. Others think young minds are undeveloped and do not understand the reality of their choices. Listen to WBOK 1230am radio, the voice of the black community, and invariably a caller of three will call in blaming bad parenting. Some cite a complete breakdown of the family unit. A bunch of callers will blame absent fathers. Rarely do you hear about the effects of past mass incarceration. Yet past mass incarceration causes crime today.
If you just believe black people are naturally bad, then you are a real part of the problem. I mean if your heart skips a beat when a group of young black boys turn the corner and face you, then you are just being cautious. But if you automatically feel like your life is threatened then you are a brainwashed fool. This limited and stupid thinking is racism based and rooted in greed and corruption. And it produced centuries of bad policy.
The bad policy? Mass Incarceration. How did we get it there? Blacks and whites commit crimes at about the same rate. Yet black men fill jails and prisons across the country. Why?
Mass incarceration was the backlash to freeing the slaves. The 13th Amendment has a unique exception for those interested in the continued exploitation of black labor. Read it:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Incarceration jumped a whopping 20000% after the amendment became law. In essence, black men went from being enslaved to incarcerated overnight. Today, Louisiana is still a worldwide leader in mass incarceration. Even after serious and significant reforms.
What are the effects of mass incarceration and how does it contribute to crime:
Lack of paternal influence and guidance in families
Sons and daughters feeling isolated and fearful
Gang and street stuff attraction
Poor educational outcomes for children in families of incarcerated families
Poverty from lack of paternal income
Breakdown of the family unit
More than normal female led single parent families
Mass incarceration, born just after slavery and continuing today has a direct impact on the crimes we see now. This year violence is at levels not seen since 2005. And children who are 15-18 today were born in, just before or right after 2005. Two things about the year 2005. Louisiana was the mass incarceration capital of the world by far. Oh and this storm tore through the city. The federal levees failed. And today we see the double whammy of our state’s bad policy and poor planning.
Why are kids in gangs and don’t have fatherly influence? Father in jail.
Why are so many black families in poverty? Father in jail.
On and on and on and……
Storms are bigger and more frequent. Crimes are more brazen and frequent. Only smart policy can fix both.
Crunch Time At The Legislature
Let’s talk bills. Not the money kind, but the ones our state legislators are proposing and pouring over. Previously, we covered 3 in particular. Here’s what has happened to them since. We are tracking the Louisiana legislature
Now is not a good time to be Robert E. Lee. Yes, he’s dead, I know. But his legacy is alive and taking some serious Ls. Actually, it’s been on a slow burning descent since 2017.
First, his statue was plucked from his very own Circle. Then he lost his Boulevard. After that, the aforementioned Circle was renamed. Now, he’s on the verge of losing one of his last remaining signs of relevancy – his state recognized holiday. Yes, there’s a Robert E Lee Day in Louisiana [insert face palm]. It’s January 19th. Sorry if you missed it. Because if Rep. Matthew Willard’s bill passes, this year could be the last year the state recognizes Lee Day.
As of now, Rep. Willard’s bill is still alive and kicking its way through the Senate. Surprisingly, it coasted out of the House with a 62-20 vote. And that was after a 12-0 romp through the House Judiciary Committee. It did all this with minimal headlines and fanfare.
You would’ve thought the bill would spark hyperbole of the highest order. But the knives stayed in. And the red meat was left out. Instead of claims of attacking heritage and trying to erase history, members of the House treated us to efficiency and silence. Now it’s up to the Senate.
Over at the Senate, the bill is still waiting to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republicans hold a 4-3 advantage in that Committee. If it passes there, it’s on to the full Senate, then the governor’s desk.
HB209 – allowing Orleans Parish to go beyond state regulation of guns.
Just because you’re a chartered city it doesn’t mean you can chart your own path, at least when it comes to guns. That’s what the House Criminal Justice Committee concluded when they heard Rep Mandie Landry’s bill. 9 of the 10 members fired off nays and shot the bill down. That means in the midst of a carjacking, murder, and violent crime spree, a city like New Orleans can’t pass regulations to protect its citizens from people with guns.
If it’s not a good time to be Robert E. Lee, it is definitely a good time to be a gun owner. With this bill dead, it’s still legal for guns to be brought almost anywhere, like church, a kids soccer game, or a restaurant. And if you happen to lose your gun at one of these places or have it stolen, you don’t even have to report it to the police. That was another stipulation that went down with this bill.
The 9 -1 vote was a testament of principle over priorities. Or maybe it was a testament to Louisiana’s priorities. The state dubbed the sportsman’s paradise continues to support gun laws that make its citizens easy prey. And we will keep tracking bills in the Louisiana legislature.
HB798 – ensuring that neither BESE nor school boards can water down present social study standards for African American history. THIS IS NOT A CRITCAL RACE THEORY BILL.
This is also a bill that hasn’t been heard yet. The House Education Committee has left Rep. Royce Duplessis’ bill sitting on the shelf since early March when it was submitted. This is a bill you would expect to not be controversial. It simply says BESE and local school boards must abide by the social study standards BESE just approved for African American history.
The point is to prevent some rogue teacher or school board or even BESE itself from disregarding state law. If the law says such and such aspect of African American history has to be taught, then that’s what has to be done. Boom. That’s it.
You’d think this bill would already be bouncing from the Senate to the governor’s desk. But instead, it’s just languishing on the calendar as the legislative session counts down.
June 6th – legislative session adjourns
Speaking of counting down, there’s a little over 3 weeks to go before the session ends on June 6th. There’s much for legislators to go over, including the remaining 2 of these 3 bills. We will keep tracking these bills in the Louisiana legislature. And we’ll keep you informed on how it goes.
A Black truck driver on TikTok known as Gideon reveals in a viral video what he witnessed last week while traveling through a “sundown town.”
The video, which has been viewed nearly 800,000 times since posting, details the man’s experience while visiting the notorious town of Vidor, Texas.
Vidor was once considered a haven for the Ku Klux Klan and has long been seen as a “sundown town,” a predominately white area that is considered unsafe for Black people after sunset due to racial violence. Although city officials have claimed that the town has undergone significant changes in recent decades, Gideon’s experience reveals that some things still haven’t changed.
“Pretty much everybody I know in Texas that’s Black tells me, ‘Do not go to Vidor, Texas,'” Gideon says. “I’m like ‘OK’ but here I was in Vidor, Texas.”
The TikToker goes on to state that while driving to his destination to drop off his load, he came across numerous trailer parks with Confederate flags and even a doll of a Black man hanging from a tree by its neck.
Upon reaching his destination, Gideon says that he was approached by a security guard who immediately alerted his fellow workers that they were experiencing a “code red.” The security guard expressed that he did not want to be responsible for the truck driver’s safety by allowing him to drive further into the business to drop off his delivery.
Gideon says another man eventually appeared about 15 minutes later to quickly help him unload his truck before urging him to leave the area.
“He said, ‘Dude, you might want to get up out of here as soon as possible. We’re at sundown. You want to leave now.'”
After asking the man if he could rely on the police, Gideon was allegedly told that local law enforcement would “turn a blind eye” to any potential incident. The TikToker says he drove until he reached the next town over where he fell asleep in his truck with an AR-15 rifle. His account of the visit was made the following day after he felt he was safe.
The Daily Dot reached out to Gideon to inquire further about the video but did not immediately receive a reply.
Comments under the video were filled with remarks from other residents of Texas who were similarly aware of the town’s reputation.
“POV: You’re from TX and knew he was talking about Vidor before he said it,” one user wrote.
“I’ve always been told don’t even stop for gas in Vidor, Tx,” another added.
Some users even argued that a new “Green Book” was needed, a reference to the annual guidebook designated safe destinations across the country for Black Americans between 1936 and 1966.
“We need an updated Green Book,” one viewer commented.
Many were simply shocked to hear that such areas still existed in the country.
“Wow,” one commenter added. “I hate that there are places in our nation that are still this racist.”
At least one alleged resident of Vidor even left a comment regarding the town’s poor image.
“Not everyone in the town is like that… but it is the ones who are like that that ruin everyone else’s reputation… I live in Vidor myself,” the user wrote.
The experience came as an unpleasant surprise to many, but countless others have long been aware that such dangers remain ever present.
What you should eat, and stop eating, to avoid cognitive decline.
People generally have poor diets by almost any definition of the term.
Eating lots of leafy greens today for lunch sounds comforting but will not negate a decade of poor diet choices.
The most important question is: “What should I stop eating to avoid becoming unhealthy and demented?”
The New York Times recently published an interesting article by Amelia Nierenberg that asked about the effects of specific foods on the mental decline that comes with aging. Since publishing my book Your Brain on Food, I have been asked that question more often than any other: What can I eat to make myself mentally healthy and become smarter? The Times article was accurate but missed two critical issues that contribute to determining whether our diet can cause cognitive decline. First, dementia is a lifestyle phenomenon. Eating lots of leafy greens today for lunch sounds comforting but will not negate a decade of poor diet choices. Second, obesity is a significant risk factor for dementia. No specific food item can make you lose weight.
People generally have poor diets by almost any definition of the term. We eat too much fat, salt, and sugar. We consume too much alcohol and nicotine and exercise too little. Most of America, regardless of age or socioeconomic status, is overweight or obese. Our bodies are storing too much fat; this fat produces a harmful environment of inflammation, oxidative stress, and physiological imbalance that often leads to metabolic syndrome. Simply stated, our lousy diet generates an environment in our body that ages us too quickly and impairs our thinking.
Thus, your question should be the following…
What should I stop eating to avoid becoming unhealthy and demented?
A diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, combined with reduced caloric intake, is ideal (and the one universally recommended) because it compensates for the numerous negative effects of your current diet. Dieticians, physicians, and all other health care providers beg their patients to change their diet; patients rarely do.
Poor diets cause some mental health disorders. The most common mental health disorder is depression. Obesity and the presence of too much body fat underlie our vulnerability to depression. People who lose body fat, via exercise or liposuction, experience improved mood and cognitive function. Thus, excessive body fat can make you both depressed and stupid and also make it less likely that you will respond to anti-depressant therapy. Today, an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence obtained across a wide spectrum of medical disciplines strongly argues that obesity accelerates brain aging, impairs overall cognitive function, and, ultimately, is responsible for the numerous processes that kill us.
A little sugar is not harmful to your brain or body. From your brain’s perspective, dietary sugar is indispensable. Without a constant uninterrupted supply, you will quickly lose the ability to think and slip into a coma. However, diets high in sugar lead to metabolic diseases which have significant negative effects on cognition. Diabetes is a significant risk factor for dementia.
A small percentage of the general population is vulnerable to the lack of specific nutrients in their poor diet. This category of nutrients often includes vitamins and some minerals. Adding those nutrients back to their diet is often beneficial. However, numerous studies have now conclusively shown that for the overwhelming majority of us, supplements with vitamins and nutrients are a waste of money.
In contrast, a small percentage of the general population is vulnerable to the presence of specific nutrients in their poor diets. A good example of such a nutrient is gluten. If you are sensitive to gluten, do not eat it. If you are not gluten-sensitive, then avoiding gluten is a bad idea, according to the results of a study involving over 15,000 participants who were followed for 30 years. The American College of Cardiology now strongly recommends against the adoption of gluten-free diets for people without a medical necessity.
We are often told that our diet affects our health and mood.
That’s not quite the way it works: In reality, a healthier diet can only compensate for your current lousy diet. Fruits and vegetables and whole grains cannot help to boost mental health; they can only undo the damage that you are already causing.
No diet, no nutrients, and no drugs (do not believe the nonsense you have read about nootropics, a 21st-century brain placebo) have ever been proven scientifically to enhance health or brain function. The advice you hear about so often is designed to convince you to stop your poor diet in order to avoid becoming unhealthier and cognitively impaired. Therefore, choose your diet wisely—your longevity and memories depend upon it.
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — If you are Black or Hispanic in a conservative state that already limits access to abortions, you are far more likely than a white person to have one.
And if the U.S. Supreme court allows states to further restrict or even ban abortions, minorities will bear the brunt of it, according to statistics analyzed by The Associated Press.
The potential impact on minorities became all the more clear on Monday with the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion suggesting the court’s conservative majority is poised to overturn the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion. The draft decision is not yet final but it sent shockwaves through the country. Overturning the Roe v. Wade decision would give states authority to decide abortion’s legality. Roughly half, largely in the South and Midwest, are likely to quickly ban abortion.
When it comes to the effect on minorities, the numbers are unambiguous. In Mississippi, people of color comprise 44 percent of the population but 81 percent of women receiving abortions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks health statistics.
In Texas, they’re 59 percent of the population and 74 percent of those receiving abortions. The numbers in Alabama are 35 percent and 69 percent. In Louisiana, minorities represent 42 percent of the population, according to the state Health Department, and about 72 percent of those receiving abortions.
“Abortion restrictions are racist,” said Cathy Torres, an organizing manager with Frontera Fund, a Texas organization that helps pay for abortions. “They directly impact people of color, Black, brown, Indigenous people … people who are trying to make ends meet.”
Why the great disparities? Laurie Bertram Roberts, executive director of the Alabama-based Yellowhammer Fund, which provides financial support for abortions, said women of color in states with restrictive abortion laws often have limited access to health care and a lack of choices for effective birth control. Schools often have ineffective or inadequate sex education.
If abortions are outlawed, those same women — often poor — will likely have the hardest time traveling to distant parts of the country to terminate pregnancies or raising children they might struggle to afford, said Roberts, who is Black and once volunteered at Mississippi’s only abortion clinic.
“We’re talking about folks who are already marginalized,” Roberts said.
Amanda Furdge, who is Black, was one of those women. She was a single, unemployed college student already raising one baby in 2014 when she found out she was pregnant with another. She said she didn’t know how she could afford another child.
She’d had two abortions in Chicago. Getting access to an abortion provider there was no problem, Furdge said. But now she was in Mississippi, having moved home to escape an abusive relationship. Misled by advertising, she first went to a crisis pregnancy center that tried to talk her out of an abortion. By the time she found the abortion clinic, she was too far along to have the procedure.
She’s not surprised by the latest news on the Supreme Court’s likely decision. Most people who aren’t affected don’t consider the stakes.
“People are going to have to vote,” said Furdge, 34, who is happily raising her now 7-year-old son but continues to advocate for women having the right to choose. “People are going to have to put the people in place to make the decisions that align with their values. When they don’t, things like this happen.”
Torres said historically, anti-abortion laws have been crafted in ways that hurt low-income women. She pointed to the Hyde Amendment, a 1980 law that prevents the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in rare cases.
She also cited the 2021 Texas law that bans abortion after around six weeks of pregnancy. Where she lives, near the U.S.-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley, women are forced to travel to obtain abortions and must pass in-state border patrol checkpoints where they have to disclose their citizenship status, she said.
Regardless of what legislators say, Torres insisted, the intent is to target women of color, to control their bodies: “They know who these restrictions are going to affect. They know that, but they don’t care.”
But Andy Gipson, a former member of the Mississippi Legislature who is now the state’s agriculture and commerce commissioner, said race had nothing to do with passage of Mississippi’s law against abortion after the 15th week. That law is the one now before the Supreme Court in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.
Gipson, a Baptist minister who is white, said he believes all people are created in the image of God and have an “innate value” that starts at conception. Mississippi legislators were trying to protect women and babies by putting limits on abortion, he said.
“I absolutely disagree with the concept that it’s racist or about anything other than saving babies’ lives,” said Gipson, a Republican. “It’s about saving lives of the unborn and the lives and health of the mother, regardless of what color they are.”
To those who say that forcing women to have babies will subject them to hardships, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, a white Republican, said it is “easier for working mothers to balance professional success and family life” than it was 49 years ago when Roe was decided.
Fitch, who is divorced, often points to her own experience of working outside the home while raising three children. But Fitch grew up in an affluent family and has worked in the legal profession — both factors that can give working women the means and the flexibility to get help raising children.
That’s not the case for many minority women in Mississippi or elsewhere. Advocates say in many places where abortion services are being curtailed, there’s little support for people who carry a baby to term.
Mississippi is one of the poorest states, and people in low-wage jobs often don’t receive health insurance. Women can enroll in Medicaid during pregnancy, but that coverage disappears soon after they give birth.
Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black infants were about twice as likely as white infants to die during the first year of life in Mississippi, according to the March of Dimes.
Across the country, U.S. Census Bureau information analyzed by The Associated Press shows fewer Black and Hispanic women have health insurance, especially in states with tight abortion restrictions. For example, in Texas, Mississippi and Georgia, at least 16 percent of Black women and 36 percent of Latinas were uninsured in 2019, some of the highest such rates in the country.
Problems are compounded in states without effective education programs about reproduction. Mississippi law says sex education in public schools must emphasize abstinence to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Discussion of abortion is forbidden, and instructors may not demonstrate how to use condoms or other contraception.
The Mississippi director for Planned Parenthood Southeast, Tyler Harden, is a 26-year-old Black woman who had an abortion about five years ago, an experience that drove her to a career supporting pregnant women and preserving abortion rights.
She said when she was attending public school in rural Mississippi, she didn’t learn about birth control. Instead, a teacher stuck clear tape on students’ arms. The girls were told to put it on another classmate’s arm, and another, and watch how it lost the ability to form a bond.
“They’d tell you, ‘If you have sex, this is who you are now: You’re just like this piece of tape — all used up and washed up and nobody would want it,’” Harden said.
When she became pregnant at 21, she knew she wanted an abortion. Her mother was battling cancer and Harden was in her last semester of college without a job or a place to live after graduation.
She said she was made to feel fear and shame, just as she had during sex ed classes. When she went to the clinic, she said protesters told her she was “‘killing the most precious gift’” from God and that she was ”‘killing a Black baby, playing into what white supremacists want.’”
Harden’s experience is not uncommon. The anti-abortion movement has often portrayed the abortion fight in racial terms.
Outside the only abortion clinic operating in Mississippi, protesters hand out brochures that refer to abortion as Black “genocide” and say the late Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and a proponent of eugenics, “desired to eradicate minorities.” The brochures compare Sanger to Adolf Hitler and proclaim: “Black lives did not matter to Margaret Sanger!”
The Mississippi clinic is not affiliated with Planned Parenthood, and Planned Parenthood itself denounces Sanger’s belief in eugenics.
White people are not alone in making this argument. Alveda King, an evangelist who is a niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is among the Black opponents of abortion who, for years, have been portraying abortion as a way to wipe out people of their race.
Tanya Britton, a former president of Pro-Life Mississippi, often drives three hours from her home in the northern part of the state to pray outside the abortion clinic in Jackson. Britton is Black, and she said it’s a tragedy that the number of Black babies aborted since Roe would equal the population of several large cities. She also said people are too casual about terminating pregnancies.
“You just can’t take the life of someone because this is not convenient — ‘I want to finish my education,’” Britton said. “You wouldn’t kill your 2-year-old because you were in graduate school.”
But state Rep. Zakiya Summers of Jackson, who is Black and a mother, suggested there’s nothing casual about what poor women are doing. Receiving little support in Mississippi — for example, the Legislature killed a proposal to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage in 2021 — they are sometimes forced to make hard decisions.
“Women are just out here trying to survive, you know?” she said. “And Mississippi doesn’t make it any easier.”
Associated Press reporters Noreen Nasir in Jackson, Mississippi, and Jasen Lo in Chicago contributed to this report.
by Orissa Arend
Historically, we have thought of reparations for African Americans in terms of land or money. But a recent forum of Justice and Beyond (J&B April 25) focused on energy reparations in New Orleans. “Petro-racial capitalism” is a term used by Nikki Luke and Nik Heymen in a scholarly paper. They were panelists on the J&B forum. Delving into the history of both reparations and the exploitative practices of the energy sector, they noted the “racialized accumulation [of wealth and property] enacted through processes of slavery, patriarchy, imperialism, and genocide.” For an in depth analysis, see “Community Solar as Energy Reparations: Abolishing Petro-Racial Capitalism in New Orleans,” American Quarterly, Volume 72, Number 3, September 2020.
Luke and Heyman hold out the real possibility of a renewable and reparative energy system. It would require changing the norms about property, profit, power, and privilege. Maybe the seeds of energy reparations were there all along. In 1865 the Union Major General William Tecumseh Sherman issued Special Order 15 on the recommendation of some Black clergymen. From this Order came the language of “40 acres and a mule.” It strikes me that the mule, that humble, over-worked beast of burden, was the energy part of the formula.
A LOOK AT THE HARMS
The energy sector in Louisiana has created ecological and economic vulnerability through generations of dispossession and reckless disregard for the damage that industries are causing to our climate. The agricultural plantation culture was replaced in the early twentieth century with the oil and gas plantation culture to make Louisiana “America’s very own petro-state,” in the words of Michael Watts, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. Vast profits by energy producers have been realized through regressive taxes and utility rates, regulatory benefits, state subsidies, and tax evasion for extractive industries. Taxpayer money is given as subsidies to the oil and gas companies thus depriving the state’s residents of much needed funds for social services.
One result of these practices for African Americans in New Orleans is the fact that 30 percent more whites own homes in our city than do people of color. The gap has widened by 10 percent since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This gap is a result of racist policies in many sectors and state-supported asset stripping. In New Orleans Black households are six times more likely to live in poverty than white households. Lamar Gardere, Executive Director of the Data Center, was also a panelist. He provided much needed information from the Data Center’s “Prosperity Index” for Justice and Beyond’s call for a Reparations Task Force and Community Fund.
After Hurricane Katrina, substantial property credits were given to HOMEOWNERS for renovation and also for residential solar energy. Renters were left on their own. Six percent of household income is considered an affordable amount to spend on utilities. In New Orleans, low-income residents pay 10 percent. Luke and Heynen recommend “continued organizing against the corrupt practices of utilities like Entergy, which advance petro-racial capitalism without concern for the planet or people.” They stress “continued organizing” because they want New Orleanians to be aware of bold efforts yielding valuable lessons from the past.
A HISTORY OF RESISTANCE
New Orleans has a history of reparations organizing and politics. A few examples: On February 27, 1865 the New Orleans Freedman’s Aid Association bought land from the government to lease to collectively organized groups of Black farmers. The cooperative economic model included self-help banks. That endeavor came to a screeching halt when President Andrew Johnson decided to give the land back to the former Confederates and plantation owners.
Another example: Five days after Katrina, former Black Panthers Malik Rahim, Robert King, and a small band of revolutionaries, pooled their resources and started the Common Ground Collective. These revolutionaries resurrected the survival programs of the Black Panthers from the 1960s and early 1970s and taught their collective organizing principles to an immense cadre of young, mostly white volunteers from all over the country and around the world. They gutted houses, set up health clinics, planted trees and gardens, and showed what could be done with hardly any money and little or no government help. Malik was a Green Party candidate for New Orleans City Council in 2002 and for Congress in 2006. Environmental Justice was central to his platform.
Perhaps there is a historical thru-line and an opportunity to revisit some of the unfinished goals of emancipation. In 2018 New Orleans initiated the first community solar program in the southern U.S. The City Council advanced the Community Solar Rule. Council President Helena Moreno says that by making solar panels available by subscription in communal areas the new Rule would “allow individuals to benefit from the power and bill credits that independent solar projects produce without installing panels on their own homes. This helps all New Orleanians, especially low-income ratepayers, benefit from solar energy production without outsized installation costs.”
Logan Burke of the Alliance for Affordable Energy explained our energy situation at the Justice and Beyond forum in this way: “While Louisiana’s economic story is often told as ‘energy rich,’ the extractive nature of traditional energy economies have left most residents out of the riches. The power of renewable, distributed, and efficient energy is that it can be democratized, put in community hands, and benefit more than just corporations. The key will be whether policies are enabled that support individual rights, and whether the communities that have been so harmed by extractive practices, especially Black and Indigenous communities, will receive the first fruits of energy democracy.”
“The first fruits of energy democracy.” Wouldn’t it be glorious if the institutional innovations currently being undertaken by the New Orleans City Council bore just such a bounty? But we know from experience that vigilance and continued anti-racist organizing will be required to accomplish this kind of repair.
By Daniela Mansbach and Alisa Von Hagel
Anti-abortion organizations aim to make abortion illegal for all women – or, barring that, to make abortion as difficult as possible to access. The war on abortion access has many fronts, including mandated delays, special counseling rules, and rules limiting the reasons a woman can offer for wanting to end her pregnancy. At the end of 2017, for example, Ohio passed a law that bans abortion for women whose fetuses have been diagnosed with Downs Syndrome. Ten states bar women from ending pregnancies based on the sex of their fetus, and some state legislatures are currently considering similar bans for abortions based on race. Regardless of the intention of these laws, they create barriers to reproductive care and can also ignore the typical reasons women seek abortions – because the pregnancy was unintended and unwanted and they do not believe they can financially provide for a new child. Many barriers to abortion disproportionately affect Black women.
How the Anti-Abortion Movement Makes Racial Arguments
As part of their broader strategy to restrict access to abortion, many pro-life organizations claim that higher rates of abortion for Black women are evidence of racism on the part of abortion providers and advocates. Of the 160 pro-life websites we surveyed in the course of our research, almost 20% make this claim explicitly, arguing that abortion clinics and doctors target minority women in a systematic and purposeful way. The organizations that link abortion with race often compare abortion with the Holocaust, genocide, and slavery. For example, one such group, Abortion in the Hood, uses images of the Planned Parenthood symbol and the Confederate flag under the headline “which one kills 266 black lives everyday?” One of the most radical organizations we studied, Klan Parenthood, goes so far as to equate pro-choice advocates to Klan members, featuring an image of a doctor wearing a Klan outfit with the slogan: “Abortion, because Lynching is for Amateurs” on their website’s homepage.
Pro-life organizations deploy such messaging about increased abortion rates for Black women to argue that the fight against abortion is the civil-rights struggle of the day, co-opting the rhetoric of anti-racism movements. For example, the anti-abortion group Protecting Black Lives writes that “if the current trend [in abortion rates] continues, the black community may cease to make a significant positive contribution in society.” A similar organization, Black Genocide, emphasizes the political implications of abortion, falsely stating that African-Americans “are the only minority in America that is on the decline in population. If the current trend continues, by 2038 the black vote will be insignificant.” While some might assume these extreme comparisons and imagery would be relegated to the fringe of the abortion debate, they actually have a direct – and growing – effect on state-level policy. This is evident in the increase in laws that restrict access to abortion based on the race of the baby. One such example is the passage of an Arizona law in 2011 that banned abortions based on the race of the fetus, justifying it as a tool for addressing “race-related discrimination that exists in Arizona and throughout the nation.”
The Real Link between Racism and Reproductive Health
Anti-abortion groups find it possible to make extreme racial claims
because statistics, such as data from the Guttmacher Institute, show that women of color have higher abortion rates than white women. Despite significant declines for all groups in the past decade, women of color still obtain abortions at a rate two to three times higher than the rate for white women. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, while non-Hispanic Black women account for only 13.3% of the U.S. population, they receive approximately 35% of all abortions.
Yet even though it is accurate to say that Black women have higher rates of abortions in proportion to their share of the general population, research shows that this is due to higher rates of unintended pregnancy among women of color in general, and Black women in particular. When researchers control for rates of unintended pregnancies, Black women do not have a higher percentage of abortions.
In 2008, 69% of all pregnancies among Black women were unintended, compared to 56% of pregnancies unintended for Hispanic women and 42% unintended for white women.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, from 2006 to 2010, 9% of births to non-Hispanic white women were defined as unwanted, compared to 18% for Hispanic women and 23% for Black women.
The percentage of unwanted pregnancies that end in birth rather than abortion suggests that Black women are actually more likely than women of other races to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. Further, given that many more of their pregnancies are unintended, it is not surprising that the abortion rates of Black women are higher than those of white and Hispanic women.
Why do minority women in the United States have higher rates of unintended pregnancies? There are many reasons, but limited access to affordable and effective contraception is among the most important causes. Limited access, in turn, is often attributed to funding cuts to programs that provide contraception to low-income and minority communities, plus the scarcity of reproductive healthcare providers in neighborhoods where high concentrations of minority women live and work. Other recent studies – such as the Turnaway Study of women who did and did not receive desired abortions – find that many women of all races cite economic reasons for terminating a pregnancy.
The overall picture is that Black women in the United States often face difficult socio-economic circumstances, which influence their reproductive access and choices. As long as pervasive racial disparities in health care and economic wellbeing persist, Black women will face disproportionate risks of unintentional pregnancy – and many of them, as well as many white women, will choose abortion.
Abortion providers are hardly the ones discriminating against Black women. Instead, they are trying to address their needs and choices. Abortion providers will continue to serve the unmet needs of Black women who are making the best parenting decisions they can for themselves and their families.
Read more in Alisa Von Hagel and Daniela Mansbach, Reproductive Rights in the Age of Human Rights (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).
by Herbert Lui
In our early careers, we’re taught to say yes to everything; but soon, as we gain more experience, we face the opposite problem—a stream of opportunities, with uncertainty about what to say no to. We each only have 168 hours in the week to take care of our personal and professional commitments.
That’s okay, though. Saying no is a skill, and it’s one that opens up new doors. Each time you say no, you take the first step to saying yes to something else. Here are three things you’ll need to learn to say no to if you want to experience success in the long run:
Say no existing commitments
Quitting sucks. The famous saying goes, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” It’s a great adage to hit home the value of perseverance and grit. However, at any point, each winner has—and needed to—quit. Every person who has done anything worth doing has made an important, and deliberate, decision to quit something, in order to make the space for it.
Seth Godin wrote a short book entitled The Dip about the topic of quitting, but it’s more than that. It’s a book about saying no, in order to focus, so that you are free to say yes to something else—whether you know it or not. As he writes, expanding on the topic, “The way you become the best in the world is by quitting the stuff where you can’t be the best. That leaves you the resources to invest in getting through the Dip.”
In this case, our resources are mainly our attention, our morale, and our motivation—valuable assets that we can’t outsource to anyone else. This level of focus is crucial even at the corporate scale. Former Apple designer Jony Ive put it eloquently: “What focus is, saying no to something that with every bone in your body you think is a phenomenal idea. And you wake up thinking about it, but you say no to it. Because you are focusing on something else.”
Because quitting is so frowned upon, we’ve publicly disguised what quitting looks like: this CEO is becoming a chairman, that creative director is becoming an adviser. Read between the lines. Someone is scaling back their commitment and preparing to quit. Know that you may need to do the same at some point, and prepare yourself.
Say no to other definitions of success
Saying no is the key to keep yourself from being spread too thin. Rather than splitting your attention to pursue a number of ideas adequately, commit to just doing just one thing really, really well. In a Hot Ones interview, Pusha T says:
“I am the Martin Scorsese of street raps. That’s how I want to be seen. Even just creatively, Scorsese gives you The Departed, Goodfellas, and a host of other joints. You never say, ‘Hey, I want him to make a love story.’ That’s how I want you to look at me rap-wise.”
You can also choose to serve a specific group of people, and to say no to the rest. And you don’t have to be the best to everybody. You just have to be the best to somebody that you know—or have decided to get to know—better than most other people. In order to do that, you have to define what you’re not going to do, and who you’re not serving or making things for.
When that happens, your brain naturally focuses, learns how to make better work, and opportunities start coming your way. You also draw in people who appreciate artistic integrity and count on you for your expertise. You feel energized, like you’re capable of setting an unrealistic goal, and you’re gaining momentum.
Eventually, as you put in the work, you start a self-fulfilling dynamic that is contagious. People believe in you because you believe in yourself, and you believe in yourself because you know what you’ve committed to doing and your vision isn’t blurred by mainstream symbols of success..
Don’t try to be the best for everyone. Aim instead to be the best for someone, and define who you won’t.
Say no to quick, easy opportunities
These days, there’s no shortage of shiny opportunities. Emerging markets include web3, mushrooms, and NFTs—among many others.
Rather than choosing to chase each of these—and incurring unnecessary financial risk which could hurt your focus—you can stay committed to making the thing you’re best at. You can say no to copying other people. Picking the low hanging fruit isn’t always worth putting down what you’re doing; plus it’s the fruit that everybody is chasing, which means it’s not scarce.
Let the other people chase the quick wins and glittering lures. Focus on your craft and your life’s task instead. If you don’t know what it is, focus on finding it.
Guess what? You can predict which little black boy is likely to be a criminal. There is a test to predict criminal activity. Carjackings, murder, shoplifting, fist fights and even just playground bullying. In fact, most any criminal activity is predictable in young black boys. So why don’t we? Cause we can predict criminal behavior.
When young black people commit these acts, we all claim to be shocked. But are we really? Or do you just believe the drivel of the past. These kids are just born bad. They come from bad families. They just want things the easy way. And you probably think the next joke is funny. What does a black person get for Christmas? Your bike.
Our confirmation bias kicks in. And we feel justified in just shaking our heads and saying oh well. There is something inherently wrong with young black boys. See a few together and fear the gang, Cross the street. Lock your car door. And don’t make eye contact. And seemingly every day a black person shoots and kills another black person. Something must be wrong with them. Right? I mean come on. You see the news. We see the horrific carjacking and subsequent arm severing murder. Part of us cringes. But mostly we just go on and assume the narrative bias – black people are just dangerous.
Can we really predict criminal behavior in our children?
What if you found out that you can predict which black people are in fact dangerous or at least prone to some criminal activity? What if there is a test to predict this behavior? Would you believe it? Is that really possible?
It’s called the Adverse Childhood Experiences test. And it not only can help us predict some criminal behavior, but it can also predict mental and physical health outcomes. And it’s only a short 10 question test. Now before you start thinking this is just some liberal gobbledygook, let me explain. This is not a 100% test that says lil Billy White will become a gang member who develops diabetes and dies unexpectedly on June 18, 2025. But we can predict criminal behavior.
Rather the test is a tool. It measures childhood trauma. The worse the trauma, the more likely unhealthy outcomes in adulthood. And more often, the test so far measures things like depression, financial hardships and obesity. But it also predicts stuff like social, emotional and cognitive impairment. And the children and young adults who commit crimes are likely to score high on the test.
If we start testing our children around 16 years old, then we can identify the potential problem children. Once identified, we must provide support services. Supporting our children is actually protecting ourselves. Instead of ignoring potential problems, we should address them immediately. If we help stop 10o murders and 100 carjackings and 1000 shoplifters, just think how much better our city will be.
Wanna see the test?
You can take it yourself. Give yourself 1 point for each yes answer.
For each “yes” answer, add 1. The total number at the end is your cumulative number of ACEs. Before your 18th birthday:
Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
Was your mother or stepmother: Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?
Source: NPR, ACEsTooHigh.com. This ACEs Quiz is a variation on the questions asked in the original ACEs study conducted by CDC researchers.
Stressors outside the household (e.g., violence, poverty, racism, other forms of discrimination, isolation, chaotic environment, lack of services)
Protective factors (e.g., supportive relationships, community services, skill-building opportunities)
Individual differences (i.e., not all children who experience multiple ACEs will have poor outcomes and not all children who experience no ACEs will avoid poor outcomes—a high ACEs score is simply an indicator of greater risk)
If you score above 5, then you are quite possibly prone to criminal behavior. The bottom line is if we test children early we can predict criminal behavior. Only then can work to prevent it.
#BLACK BOYS ARE NOT CRIMINALS
In the end, they almost made Chris Paul cry and caused Monty Williams to talk himself out of $15,000. Then at one point, they had over 16,000 people chanting the name Jose’. How bout them Pelicans? Yes, they lost. And yes, they’re out of the playoffs after 6 games. They did lose to the Phoenix Suns at home. But that week and a half was something, wasn’t it?
First off, no one expected this. When the playoffs started, we were like, it’s all gravy baby. We’re just happy to be here. Then when the Suns lost Devin Booker and the Pelicans won a game, we were like, hold up. Wait a minute! We just might win this thing. And now here we are, after 6 tough, competitive, and emotional games, pumped for next season. Even Zion, in his first interview since September, has said count me in. To quote Chris Paul, “there ain’t been this much energy here in a long time.” And now comes the part of capitalizing off of it.
The first thing the Pelicans need to do, besides getting Zion on the court, is find a starting point guard. They swung and missed widely with Devonte’ Graham during the offseason, like 4 years and $47 million widely. He started off fine. But by midseason his play had gotten so bad that Wille Green benched him. And by the end of the season, he was barely playing. During the series with the Suns, he scored 24 points. That’s 24 points total, in 6 games.
The second thing they need to do is find a dependable 6th man. Jose’ Alvarado is a nice hustle player. Trey Murphy can hit some threes when he gets hot. And Larry Nance Jr. is tough in the middle. But none of them consistently provide double digit points off the bench. NBA teams live and die off of bench scoring. The Pelicans never had enough of it this season.
But even if they don’t do either of those, the one thing they really, really can’t do is get off to a slow start to begin the season. All the emotion the fans poured into the Smoothie King Center these past two weeks, will be on tap when the new season begins. But another 1-12 start or a losing record for the first month will suck all that energy right out of the building. And that would be a shame. It should be an interesting off season.
Speaking of energy, the Saints might have finally brought some energy to the offense with their first pick in the NFL draft last week. The Saints traded up 5 spots to pick wide receiver Chris Olave from the Ohio State University in the first round. Olave is a 4-year senior and was Ohio State’s leading receiver last year. He also runs a 4.3, which means, yep, you guessed it, deep ball.
The Saints haven’t had a legit deep threat since 2018. Back then Ted Ginn Jr. was on the last legs of his prime. That was also the last time they legitimately threatened to make it to the Super Bowl. Now, getting a potential deep threat doesn’t automatically make them a Super Bowl contender. They have a lot of other unanswered questions. But it does, or could, provide other passing options besides the Michael Thomas show we saw when he last suited up for the Saints.
Eventually, the Saints will also need to find a running back to complement and step in for the soon to be suspended Alvin Kamara. Who knows what their plans are for Mark Ingram. But the Mark Ingram that was on the field last season was not the one who left here 3 years ago.
Both the Saints and the Pelicans have all kinds of intrigue leading into their upcoming seasons. How will Dennis Allen do as head coach? Will Willie Green do for the Pelicans what Sean Payton did for the Saints (make them a respected franchise)? Will the fan base have the energy to support both franchises? We’ll see. But right now, on paper, this coming fall should be something.