Backing up what I said today in the broadcast “Brooklyn Centre and (un) equal protection under the law”

Welcome to the blog !

  1. Here is a link to the ‘working discussion’ paper I referenced today -describing the research findings of a connection between the formation of police unions in various counties across the US, and a ‘significant increase in non-white civilian deaths at the hands of police during the late twentieth century’.

Click to access dp14208.pdf

And here is a more ‘official’ looking link to an NPR article featuring the principal author of the paper, discussing the findings and the implications for policing in the US. You might feel safer clicking on this one.

2. This is the article I referenced relating to the disproportionate risk of exposure to lead, if you are a poor Black child in the United States, relative to the risk of lead exposure if you are a poor white or a poor Hispanic child. As I said, we need to know these things, to give us the energy and resolve to make progress on these important fronts. And it’s not just about justice for the victims of entrenched, pervasive racism. Societies that allow systematic persecution of a subset of the population are societies with unhealthy levels of wilful blindness, and self-serving rationalisations.

When fake narratives exist, to prop up ‘rationalisations’ for past and persisting injustice, this create susceptibilities to emotionally manipulative tyrants.

Tyrants who exploit every opportunity they see…. to validate the confected prejudices of racist population subsets.

3. And here is the BBC article I referenced today – which lays out some of the evidence for a delayed causal role of lead in violent crime levels.

Nations have legislated for the removal of lead from petrol at different times. But without fail, 20 years later, a drop in crime rates occurs. This indicates that lead exposure during childhood plays a role in number of people with a predisposition towards committing violent crimes. Have a look for yourself at the arguments for and against the significance of lead as a factor in crime.

4. Today Duante Wright was killed during the course of a police stop in Minneapolis, not far from the town where George Floyd was murdered. Footage of the stop has not yet been released, but obviously, tensions are high, over what would seem to be yet another instance of police using deadly force disproportionately against Black citizens. It is alleged that police were trying to take Wright into custody after finding he had an outstanding warrant. It has been alleged that Wright got into his car to flee the scene and avoid arrest.

Here is a link to one article reporting these details:

There is a problem with the over-application of deadly force in response to suspect flight.

We can surmise that officers who have been conditioned to place a lower value on the lives of Black Americans are more likely to make the split second calculation that it is worthwhile firing a deadly weapon into a moving vehicle. What have they been conditioned by?

Conditioned? What might I mean by that? Trained, groomed, exposed to formative influences etc. One whistleblower former officer used a Medium article to allege that police training videos are heavily weighted in favour of featuring Black suspects employing violence against officers.

The piece is called “Confessions of a former bastard cop” and here is the link.

The former officer wrote ” I believe that if everyone understood how we’re trained and brought up in the profession, it would inform the demands our communities should be making of a new way of community safety. If I tell you how we were made, I hope it will empower you to unmake us.”

I would also like to note that many people seek refuge in manufactured rationalizations and justifications, which helps them to avoid emotionally confronting possibilities that racism exists, persists, and is a prevalent and broadly destructive problem in various ‘respectable’ organizations.

This is how abuse was propped up in the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, within Orthodox Judaism, the Boy Scouts, the gymnastics program at the University of Michigan under Dr Larry Nassar etc etc etc etc. Where respectability becomes an opportunity and an invitation for predators to flourish unimpeded. Wherever the balance of power, of ‘respectability’ is too heavily weighted in favor of authority figures.

This is my argument: When we begin to overgeneralize too positively about an institution, people predisposed to predatory, abusive, exploitative behavior see their chance, test the waters. Have they become a symbol? Have people transferred their reverence for the good achieved within an ‘institution’ to those employed within it in positions of authority? Then they have a cover. They have the protection of something bigger than themselves.

If they get away with something, they attempt bigger and bolder and worse crimes against their less powerful, less ‘respected’ victims. And those who don’t pay close attention to what’s going on become complicit, become ‘enablers’.

Although most Americans will firmly respect the outcomes of having a police force, and an organization to (ostensibly) protect members of the public from crime, we have to be vigilant, and avoid remaining ‘enablers’ of harmful levels of abuse, brutality, and violence.

The below passage is also from the Duante Wright article published by Yahoo. I am including it here because it is clear about what is publicly known about the death. It is not hesitant to describe what happened. We need more such reporting.

“During the police encounter, Floyd was restrained on the ground as Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. Despite pleas that he couldn’t breathe, Chauvin failed to remove his knee from Floyd’s neck as he slowly lost the breath from his body. He was later pronounced dead. His death was ruled a homicide by asphyxia or low oxygen.”

Thank you for reading!


Republicans Added 6 New States in 1889 and 1890.

This Atlantic piece is an important article to read, in the context of Republican obstruction of governance in the U.S.

Here is the key paragraph for me:

“In 1889 and 1890, Congress added North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming—the largest admission of states since the original 13. This addition of 12 new senators and 18 new electors to the Electoral College was a deliberate strategy of late-19th-century Republicans to stay in power after their swing toward Big Business cost them a popular majority. The strategy paid dividends deep into the future; indeed, the admission of so many rural states back then helps to explain GOP control of the Senate today, 130 years later.”

Good Ideas to Gather Round:

Like a campfire, good ideas give light, and warmth and comfort.

Today’s good idea:

It’s a good idea to give Washington D.C statehood because: (points taken directly from )

  • Washington, DC is a historically Black city and Black people still make 47% of the population (41% White, 4% Asian and 11% are of Hispanic origins).
  • American democracy systematically overrepresents White voters at the expense of Black voters and other voters of color.
  • The District of Columbia is the only political and geographical entity within the United States of America whose citizens bear the responsibilities of citizenship, including taxation and Selective Service registration, without sharing in the full rights and privileges of citizenship.
  • Washington’s residents pay more taxes than residents in 22 states and pay more per capita to the federal government than any state—yet they have no votes in Congress.

Awful but very important to learn about:

Black babies are less likely to die when cared for by Black doctors… a finding arrived at by researchers who analysed  1.8 million hospital births in Florida from 1992 to 2015.

The study highlights that ‘caring’ is an important feature of medical care, and provides data to support an assertion that to ‘caring’ levels are collectively lower when there is a potential ‘tribe disparity’ between a white doctor and a vulnerable Black patient.

Here is the link to the peer reviewed study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) last year (2020).

If you visit the link, you will be able to see the study I am referencing exists, but you will not be able to access the full published article. You can see only a couple of important details, including this quote:

“..] found that deaths were fewer by 257 in 100 000 among black newborns under the care of black doctors, when compared with care by white doctors.

Here is a link to a media story on the report which you *will* actually be able to read all the way through.

And here is a key quote from that story: “Now a study suggests that when Black newborns are treated by Black physicians after birth, the mortality disparity between Black and white babies shrinks.”

I imagine that most (white) people’s brains will recoil from the potential implications of the report. That subconsciously, at least some white doctors invest less care in patients they feel less ‘tribal’ empathy with, presumably as a consequence of exposure to / and adoption of stratified ideas of worth along racial lines.

If your brain is still fighting .. and you want to find an explanation that would rule out subconscious or conscious racial bias on the part of doctors in the US, here is another article to help you accept this credible finding of systematic discrimination.

How the headline looks if you visit the link:

Black newborns more likely to die when looked after by White doctors

Updated 0840 GMT (1640 HKT) August 20, 2020

So, good luck to all of us in relation to coming to terms with that! “Normalacy bias” is a phenomenon that makes people want to see systems as inherently “not that bad”… but normalcy bias isn’t an ok thing to hold on tight to, when evidence like this is presented to us.

I’m sure it’s disappointing but not altogether surprising for many of the people who have fought for equal protection under the law for their whole lives..for themselves and their communities.

Many have argued for a long time that systemic anti-Black bias exists across all institutions in the U.S, which is an argument for broad alliances advocating for, and achieving needed reforms.

As 12 step programs typically argue, awareness of a problem is a key step to remediating problems.

I’m just going to conclude this blog with a second medical journal publication. This time, relating to hair modification chemicals. When beauty standards undervalue natural Black hair, and women feel pressured to straighten their hair for a ‘professional’ look, then the health of Black women is potentially compromised. Use of chemical hair ‘relaxers’ is linked to increased incidence of uterine leiomyomatas.

[ Hair Relaxer Use and Risk of Uterine Leiomyomata in African-American Women, 2012

Here’s an introductory paragraph from the article to shed some light on what that means:

“Uterine leiomyomata are tumors of the myometrium that are responsive to estrogens and progesterone. Although benign, uterine leiomyomata are associated with significant gynecologic morbidity and are the leading indication for hysterectomy in the United States (12). The incidence of uterine leiomyomata is 2–3 times higher in US black women than in US white women (34), and the lifetime risk of uterine leiomyomata—based on ultrasound evidence of preclinical and clinical disease—is estimated to be as high as 80% in US black women (4). The black-white disparity in uterine leiomyomata risk is not explained by established risk factors (35).”

My attempt at translation : growths on the uterus are not immediately harmful, but their presence is associated with higher risk of dying in childbirth or pregnancy (‘gynecologic morbidity’) *and* is also a significant risk factor for needing a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus).

Black women are 2 to 3 times more likely to have these growths than white women in the US. As many as 80% of Black women are thought to experience these internal growths over their lifetime (an estimate derived from studies using ultrasound evidence). Researchers haven’t yet agreed on why there should be such high prevalence of the condition amongst Black US women as opposed to white (‘Black-white disparity’).

There. That’s my contribution today to understanding some of the current colour dynamics at play in the United States.

Thanks for reading!

Can you be brave in these moments of increasing political darkness? I’m here to tell you, “You can and you must”

Momentum is building. Our words are bricks in a bastion of defence against autocracy and war.

Quote from Irish poet William Butler Yeats, his poem “The Second Coming”  –

‘The best lack all conviction, the worst are full of passionate intensity’ 

Sometimes we may catch ourselves holding back . Perhaps our thought might not be original. Someone else may have expressed it better, someone with more knowledge or expertise.
Nevertheless, we must remember that quantity counts.  Each one of us standing tall with our assertions count, as part of the ramparts defending civilisation.
The existence of internet ‘bots’ proves that to us. Putin did not invest over a million dollars per month in a social media military budget program to attack America by stealth, if deluging the internet with bot opinions and bot shared memes was not an effective way to influence the critical mass of human thought.
To reference Yeats once more, the best (or not actively evil) of us, must grow in conviction. We must account ourselves to be good enough to defend that which we cherish. We must fashion ourselves to be bold enough and brave enough to admit that that which we love is under threat.  From my perspective it is a difficult threat to identify, because it is beyond Trump, even though ‘Trump’ is the name most people use to describe the threat. It is a nebulous threat, an ongoing threat, an unusual threat.
The threat? An informal alliance of unscrupulous moneyed interests at a domestic level, and some unscrupulous and outright murderous moneyed interests at an international level (Putin, Mohammed Bin Salman and more) as well as media magnates who knew how to manipulate public opinion and thereby make themselves billions of dollars in tax cuts under a conservative government. As well as the threat to our civilisation born out of our own collective passivity and cynicism. One need only look at the role of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica to see how our human tendencies to  naively share baby photos & holiday snaps on the internet have been converted into election perverting techniques and outcomes.
These are but some of the factors allowing our respective democracies to fall into disrepair and outright ruin.
And the resurgence of interest in acknowledging and opposing these influences is what is essentially driving the large increase in public support for an Trump impeachment inquiry.
Momentum is building. Our words are bricks in a bastion of defence 
against autocracy and war.
Instead of claiming that Trump is ‘not normal’ we are committing ourselves to announcing that Trump is unacceptable. His law breaking and oath breaking are jeopardising the integrity of the system of laws that protect us from harm.
Trump is not only profiting from his Presidency, he is protecting a party that has functioned as a front for a loose collection of lobbyists for gun manufacturers and fossil fuel executives, all determined to deceive the public and actively harm the public, instead of making any significant effort to adjust their profit pathways to accommodate any concept of public good.  That’s a long sentence, but it’s a large and longstanding collection of harmful practices.