Weathering Is Killing Black People

The stress of racism is killing Black people, writes Tanya Russell in Self.

Viral footage of Black people dying at the hands of police officers and vigilantes shows the worst-case scenario of racial profiling. And yet, as jaded and traumatized as we are, we are taking to the streets and social media, continuing what seems like a never-ending quest for racial equality, equity, and justice. And we’re tired of constantly dealing with the physiological effects of this trauma.

The effects of this can actually be measured through allostatic load, which is a metric used to quantify the accumulation of chronic stress-related health effects in the body. “The body is always trying to maintain balance, and the term allostasis is used to describe this process for buffering the stress response, which may be activated by [something] psychological, like discrimination, or environmental, like light exposure during the sleep cycle,” Olivia Affuso, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, tells SELF. As SELF previously reported, experts can calculate a person’s allostatic load with various lab tests.

Stress can affect anyone’s body, but Black people have a higher allostatic load score than white people, according to research published in the Journal of National Medical Association. Research also points to racism as a culprit, and this has been problematic long before social media amplified racial trauma to a viral level. This concept is also known as weathering.

Russell, Tanya. (2020, July 1). Let’s Not Forget, Weathering Is Also Killing Black People. Self. https://www.self.com/story/weathering

How Long You Live Depends On Your Race

The New York Times keeps getting better at these interactive pieces.

As hospital beds filled up this spring, health departments in cities like Milwaukee and Charlotte, N.C., began to report an alarming trend: A disproportionate number of their patients were Black.

Data eventually revealed that the pattern was nationwide. Black people were three times more likely than white people to contract the coronavirus, six times more likely to be hospitalized as a result and twice as likely to die of Covid-19.

The gap in Black and white infections has become part of a conversation this year about how deeply racism is embedded in the day-to-day lives of Black people.

Wezerek, Gus. (2020, Aug 11). Racism’s Hidden Toll. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/08/11/opinion/us-coronavirus-black-mortality.html

Racism As a Public Health Crisis

Colorado plans on becoming the latest in a slew of places labelling racism a public health crisis.

Colorado is planning to take a big step toward tackling systemic racism in healthcare.

The state will declare racism as a public health crisis, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told the Denver Post this week.

Hunsaker Ryan said the agency’s immediate goals are to partner with local community organizations to provide services to people of color, increasing the diversity of her department’s workforce (which is nearly four-fifths white), and hiring an equity and inclusion officer for the department.

Blest, Paul. (2020, July 31). More Than 80 Cities and Counties Have Now Declared Racism a Public Health Crisis. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/wxq4v5/more-than-80-cities-and-counties-have-now-declared-racism-a-public-health-crisis

Systemic Racism By the Numbers

A fantastic interactive piece by Reuters outlining how systemic racism has widened the gap between Black and white Americans.

Inequality between white and Black Americans persists in almost every aspect of society and the economy. Such disadvantages have proven immune to decades of laws and policies meant to address them, leaving Black people with less education, less wealth, poorer health and shorter lifespans. Together, the disparities reflect what many have labeled system racism amid the mass protests that followed the killing of George Floyed, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police office in May.

There has been progress in recent decades. But white gaps – rooted in the legacy of slavery, segregation and discrimination – have endured or widened in the years since the civil rights victories of the 1960s. Born from the enslavement of Africans in British colonies since the early 1600s, American inequality plays out over the course of a lifetime.

The Race Gap: From Birth to Death. Black people face systemic disadvantages in American life more than 150 years after slavery was abolished.

James Baldwin Was Right All Along

Raoul Peck, quoting James Baldwin in his piece for The Atlantic.

“There are days—this is one of them—when you wonder what your role is in this country and what your future is in it. How, precisely, are you going to reconcile yourself to your situation here and how you are going to communicate to the vast, heedless, unthinking, cruel white majority that you are here. I’m terrified at the moral apathy, the death of the heart, which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves for so long that they really don’t think I’m human. And I base this on their conduct, not on what they say. And this means that they have become in themselves moral monsters.”

James Baldwin made this somber observation more than 50 years ago. I included these words in my film I Am Not Your Negro, which explored Baldwin’s searing assessment of American society through the lens of the assassination of three of his friends: Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X. It is a film that cruelly shortens time and space between acts of police brutality in Birmingham in 1963 and images of the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the killing of Michael Brown; recent images of protests over the death of George Floyd extend that tragic connection to the present-day.

It took me 10 years to make this film, but Baldwin put his whole life and body weight into these words, which, today more than ever, reverberate like a never-ending nightmare. With them, Baldwin dissected a story whose roots are deep. He exposed the underlying causes of violence in this country, and he would have continued to do so, year after year, one uprising after another, were he still alive today. And we still don’t get it.

Peck, Raoul. (2020, July 3). James Baldwin Was Right All Along. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/07/raoul-peck-james-baldwin-i-am-not-your-negro/613708/

Advising White Evangelicals

Emma Green for The Atlantic on how Black pastors are advising their white evangelical brethren on how to deal with racism.

In the weeks since george floyd’s death, Philip Pinckney has been inundated with messages from white evangelical pastors who want to take a stand against racism: 40 to 60 phone calls a day, dozens of texts and email chains, endless drafts of sermons and articles. The 34-year-old Black pastor has spent his life in spaces where his race is a point of contradiction. He trained as a cadet at the Citadel, the South Carolina military college whose officers helped orchestrate the attack on Fort Sumter that started the Civil War. He planted a church with the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination founded to defend slaveholding. Now, as the country reckons with more Black deaths at the hands of police, he has taken up a role he often gets drafted to: an unofficial racism consultant to the white evangelical world.

“I don’t know any Black person who raised their hand and said, ‘Yup, I want to do this,’” he told me by phone, driving from Charleston to Columbia to talk with a group of pastors about race and Christianity. “We came into this to plant churches and to disciple people and to raise families and to proclaim, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ And yet, there is this blindness. There is this ignorance. There is hostility that we feel a unique compulsion to move towards.” As Pinckney recently scrolled through his text messages, he noticed that some white pastors reach out only when racial violence is in the news. “We may not have talked since the last Black murder,” he said.

Green, Emma. (2020, July 5). The Unofficial Racism Consultants to the White Evangelical World. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/07/white-evangelicals-black-lives-matter/613738/

The Growing White Supremacist Menace

Rebecca Ulam Weiner, writing for Foreign Affairs on the threat white supremacy poses to not just Black people, but to all people of color and other minorities.

Late in the evening on April 11, the Texarkana, Texas, Police Department started receiving 911 calls about an imminent attack on one of their own. A man in a black Chevy truck was crisscrossing the area looking for a lone police officer to “ambush and execute” and streaming his search to Facebook Live. Using the video, police were able to quickly locate the truck. After a high-speed chase, 36-year-old Aaron Swenson surrendered to police, a search of his truck turning up several loaded firearms.

The ensuing investigation revealed that Swenson had been deeply immersed in the online culture of the so-called boogaloo bois: heavily armed men, often clad in armored vests and incongruously festive Hawaiian shirts, who in recent months have appeared at protests around the country against both COVID-19 lockdowns and police brutality. Swenson isn’t the only member to have embraced violence: on May 30, in Las Vegas, three boogaloo bois on their way to a Black Lives Matter protest were arrested with numerous firearms and Molotov cocktail ingredients—the trio have military backgrounds, and according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, two had plotted to firebomb a power substation. Last week, two men associated with the movement were charged in the killing of a courthouse guard in Oakland, California.

Weiner, Rebecca Ulam. (2020, June 23). The Growing White Supremacist Menace. Foreign Affairs. https://reader.foreignaffairs.com/2020/06/23/the-growing-white-supremacist-menace/content.html

It’s also important to note that Rebecca Ulam Weiner is an Assistant Commissioner for Intelligence Analysis at the NYPD Intelligence Bureau.

The Face of Elite Panic in America

Rebecca Solnit, writing for Literary Hub, has a sharp critique of the McCloskeys, the white couple who brandished weapons at a peaceful march in St. Louis, Missouri, out of what can perhaps best be described as racist fear.

But the white people who saw this as their country—and only theirs—to run are right in one key way: their time is running out. They are not literally threatened by violence, much, but they are threatened by something much more powerful, a revision of who matters and who will run things in the future, which is why BLACK LIVES MATTER is the central affirmation. Even to admit that this change is underway is dangerous, because then you might have to admit that it’s just and fair that others share power and opportunity and privilege. It’s safer for the status quo to imagine that the protests and protestors and uprisings are just violent and criminal, and that’s exactly what the McCloskeys seem to have done—imagined that a march for justice was coming for them directly in their fortress-palazzo. Which was in its own way an admission that they embody injustice.

Solnit, Rebecca. (2020, July 1). Chrome-Plated Pistols and Pink Polos: The Face of Elite Panic in the USA. Literary Hub. https://lithub.com/chrome-plated-pistols-and-pink-polos-the-face-of-elite-panic-in-the-usa/

Parenting Black Teenagers

Carvell Wallace for The New York Times on what it’s like to be a black parent to teenages.

Her generation has known nothing but chaos and impending doom. She was in third grade the first time our minivan was diverted from the road on the way home from school by a phalanx of officers in riot gear. She was 6 the first time she asked me about climate change. Her white, male sixth-grade science teacher said the N-word with a hard “R.” Her seventh-grade science teacher gave their class the New Yorker article about the West Coast’s inevitable city-destroying earthquake. She was 12 when an 18-year-old black woman was murdered in what many feared was a racially motivated attack, on the same BART platform where she catches the train to school. She has lived through school-shooting drills, neo-Nazi rallies in the park where she used to play, police murders, car break-ins, sexual predators lingering outside her schoolyard and weeks of wildfires that turn the sky orange and make it impossible to breathe outdoors. A global pandemic that shuts down the world was not news to her. It was the opposite of news. It was something as old as her life.

Wallace, Carvell. (2020, June 15). Trying to Parent My Black Teenagers Through Protest and Pandemic. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/15/magazine/parenting-black-teens.html?referringSource=articleShare

The Three Degrees of Racism in America

Organizations cannot be meritocracies if their small number of black employees spend a third of their mental bandwidth in every meeting of every day distracted by questions of race and outcomes. Why are there not more people like me? Am I being treated differently? Do my white colleagues view me as less capable? Am I actually less capable? Will my mistakes reflect negatively on other black people in my firm? These questions detract from our energy to compete for promotions with white peers who have never spent a moment distracted in this way. I wager that 90 percent of the white executives who read these last sentences are now asking, particularly after recent events, “How did we miss that?” This dimension of racism is particularly hard to root out, because many of our most enlightened white leaders do not even realize what they are doing. This is racism in the third degree, akin to involuntary manslaughter: We are not trying to hurt anyone, but we create the conditions that shatter somebody else’s future aspirations. Eliminating third-degree racism is the catalyst to expanding economic power for people of color, so it merits focus at the most senior levels of education, government, and business.

Rice, John. (2020, June 21). The Difference Between First-Degree Racism and Third-Degree Racism. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2020/06/three-degrees-racism-america/613333/

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