What the Woyingi Blogger stumbled upon over the last week
I read two interesting stories related to African-American Health.
In “The Racial Politics of Asthma“, former Home & Garden editor Dominque Browning, shares facts about the disproportionate impact of air pollution on African-American communities. But what is really interesting about the article is that it is clearly an attack on recent testimony given by a representative of the National Black Chamber of Commerce dismissing the problem. Browning writes in TIME:
Here is the reality: African American children are far more likely to develop asthma than get a bullet to their heads. In 2008, African Americans had a 35 percent higher rate of asthma than Caucasians. A study revealed that one-quarter of the children in New York City’s Harlem have asthma. The following national statistics are even more jarring:
African American children have a:
• 260% higher emergency room visit rate.
• 250% higher hospitalization rate.
• 500% higher death rate from asthma, as compared with white children.
Why? One likely reason is that 68% of African-Americans (compared to 56% of whites) live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant—the distance within which the maximum ill effects of the emissions from smokestacks occur.
Reducing air pollution is a social justice issue of profound significance. But the National Black Chamber of Commerce has been playing politics with children’s health. It has received $525,000 from ExxonMobil—no champion of reducing fossil fuel pollution—since 1998. This is something that all parents—black or white—should be furious about.
From the Association Press, there is an article entitled “Blacks have trouble clearing cervical cancer virus“. One of the points I appreciate about the article is that it informs us that one of study leaders is being paid by an HPV vaccine manufacturer!
At any checkup, blacks were 1.5 times more likely to test positive for infection with one of the HPV strains that raise cancer risk, said study leader Kim Creek.
“The African-American women weren’t clearing the virus as fast. They were actually holding onto it about six months longer,” for 18 months versus 12 months for whites, he said.
Ten percent of blacks had abnormal Pap tests versus 6 percent of whites.
Two years after initial infections were found, 56 percent of black women were still infected but only 24 percent of whites remained infected.
The government’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities sponsored the study. Creek is a paid speaker for Merck & Co., one of the makers of HPV vaccines.
The tragic murder of Trayvon Martin at the end of February is still making headlines and striking nerves. But clearly it is also galvanizing a nation and creating an opportunity to build solidarity between various racialized groups. Edward, a blogger with 8 Asians, wrote “An Asian American’s Thoughts On The Killing Of Trayvon Martin“, in the post he says:
It is important that when injustice happens, it is not enough to just share a story on Facebook or twitter but to actually get out of your chair, get out, and show your support in person. I know I am far too guilty of “slacktivism” and with cases like this, it reminds me that I have a lot of learning to do from folks who work tirelessly to make a difference in this world.
Controversial Irish singer Sinead O’Conner also wrote a letter expression her outrage at Trayvon’s murder but also lambasting the majority of popular music Black youth listen to and encouraging them to return to the more conscious Black music of the 60’s and 70s which was informed by the Civil Rights Movement. She quotes from Curtis Mayfield’s song, This is My Country. I had never heard of this song and really appreciated learning about it. Here are some lyrics:
Some people think we don’t have the right
to say it’s my country
before they give in
they’d rather fuss and fight
than say its my country
I’ve paid three hundred years or more
of slave-driving sweat and welts on my back
This is my country
Too many have died in protecting my pride
for me to go second class
We’ve survived a hard blow and I want you to know
that you must face us at last
And I know you will give consideration
shall we perish unjust or live equal as a nation?
This is my country.
Actually, I was reminded of Sinead’s song “Black Boys on Mopeds” about the death of Black British youth Nicholas Bramble.
The fundamental question raised by the column was whether or not subtle racism is actually far worse, and more dangerous, for that very reason. As I noted, in my parents’ generation (they both grew up in the segregated South) a store simply hung a sign that said “No Coloreds” allowed. Today a store wouldn’t dream of doing that and yet most black people I know, and most black celebrities have a story (often more than one) about being blatantly denied service at a store due to race. In the case of Oprah Winfrey on two separate occasions at two different stores the stores in question locked the doors and claimed to be closed when she attempted to enter. In the case of Condoleezza Rice, a sales clerk questioned whether she could actually afford the jewelry she was eyeing. To those who have never endured such experiences, they may sound like minor indignities. But the Trayvon Martin case illustrates how easily subtle racism — which usually involves racial profiling — can escalate from indignity to death.
The Hunger Games premiered last week and it appears that for a while fans of the books were not happy that Black people were cast to play…Black people! Ann Holmes discusses this in her piece “White Until Proven Black: Imagining Race in Hunger Games” published in The New Yorker. She writes:
In addition to offering object lessons in bad reading comprehension, Hunger Games Tweets—there are now more than two hundred up on the blog—illuminated long-standing racial biases and anxieties. The a-hundred-and-forty-character-long outbursts were microcosms of the ways in which the humanity of minorities is often denied and thwarted, and they underscored how infuriatingly conditional empathy can be. (“Kk call me racist but when I found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad,” wrote @JashperParas, who amended his tweet with the hashtag #ihatemyself.) They also beg the question: If the stories we tell ourselves about the future, however disturbing, don’t include black people; if readers of “The Hunger Games” are so blind as to skip over the author’s specific details and themes of appearance, race, and class, then what does it say about the stories we tell ourselves regarding the present?