Racism–is it over?

I’ve been away: downed by the November election and the deaths of unarmed black men; lifted by Obama’s new mojo. Down and up.

People claim racism must be over because—look—we elected a black president. My father would have agreed—he turned off the television when Ed Sullivan shook hands with Nat King Cole.

Here are a few examples of what skin color can do to you in America.

white face,black face

  1. Identical resumes were sent out for job openings, half with stereotypical black names, half using white names. The white names received 50% more callbacks.
  2. Actual people, with identical resumes and interview training, were sent to apply for low-wage jobs. African-Americans with no criminal record were offered jobs at a rate as low as white applicants with criminal records.
  3. Doctors, shown statistically identical patient records, were asked to make judgments about heart disease. They were much less likely to recommend a helpful procedure to black patients.
  4. Whites and blacks were sent to bargain for a used car. Blacks were offered prices $700 higher.
  5. Emails using black names sent to apartment-rental ads on Craigslist got fewer responses than white names.
  6. White state legislators (of either party) were less likely to respond to constituents with African-American-sounding names
  7. Emails to faculty at universities asking for research possibilities were more likely to be answered if the names sounded white.
  8. On eBay, a photo of an iPhone being auctioned held by a white hand received 21% more offers than the same phone held by a black hand.
  9. In a video game simulation, players were asked to shoot at people carrying a gun. African-Americans were shot at more, even when they were not holding a gun. Man-Holding-Gun-1

Most of us would claim we are not biased. Our racism is insidious. Psychologiest Daniel Kahneman says we think both fast and slow. In our slow thinking, we try to avoid discrimination, but it creeps into our quick, unconscious decisions.

See the full New York Times essay.  

thinking fast and slow

If one dollar would get you six…

One of the best ways to beat poverty is to reach children early (See Nicholas Kristof’s article in the Sept 14 New York Times).

cryingWhen babies are stressed—hunger, loud noises, soiled diaper—their brains flood with cortisol. When they are comforted—picked up and hugged—the stress hormone disappears.

The hormone can be measured in a baby’s saliva. Stressed babies grow into suspicious, frightened, aggressive children and adults.

poor children

Toxic stress is one way poverty regenerates. Poor mothers live in stressed homes, dealing with multiple challenges, often without a partner, and too often as teenagers.

A scholar named David Olds has shown a way to break this poverty cycle.

The Nurse-Family partnership sends nurses into these homes, from pregnancy to age two, giving low income mothers coping strategies. Random controlled studies show the visits to be stunningly effective. Each dollar invested gives back $5.70 in reduced costs later on.

One Dollar BillIt is critical to intervene early while the baby’s brain is developing, and it’s far less expensive to teach parents to support children than to maintain prisons years later.

Right now, there are enough funds to visit only 2-3 percent of needy families.

Let’s name chairs at Nursery Schools instead of universities.

nurse family partnershipc7

f you want to help, here are a few organizations whose work on early childhood has impressed Kristof.

NURSE-FAMILY PARTNERSHIP is a proven home-visitation program that gives at-risk kids a shot at reaching the starting line. nursefamilypartnership.org

REACH OUT AND READ supports pediatricians who hand out books to low-income children during doctor visits, with instructions about bedtime reading. Careful studies show that the parents read to the children more often and the children end up with larger vocabularies — all for just $20 per child per year. reachoutandread.org

SPRINGBOARD COLLABORATIVE provides intensive summer school for disadvantaged children, so that a three-month loss in reading level turns into a 3.3-month gain. A donor can sponsor a child for a summer for $350.

springboardcollaborative.org

SAVE THE CHILDREN provides home visitation, screening and literacy programs for young children. A sponsorship is $28 a month. savethechildren.org

Save your life . . . and the planet’s

proud to be a veganTwo years ago I became a vegan*. When people ask why, I say for my health. It worked. The change erased my allergies, allowed me to cut my asthma medications in half, and gave me a working digestive system. I was hoping it would make me skinny. My husband Les (who is disgustingly skinny) says: “You have to give up sugar for that.” I snarl: “My last pleasure?” What I should say when people ask why I’m a vegan is the larger truth: moving to a plant-based diet could save us—our lives and the planet’s. First—our personal health. cookies-in-processing-factory_500x300 The American diet is 94% animal (eggs, cheese, meat, poultry, fish) and processed foods (sugar, white flour, fat and salt), and only 6% fresh fruits and vegetables. Seventy per cent of us are overweight or obese and, by 2030, 50% of us will have pre or full-blown diabetes. Meat-processing-factory-001   This diet causes the four chronic diseases (heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes) that consume 75% of our present health costs. If we turned the statistics upside down (6% animal-based and 94% plant), with the exception of certain kinds of cancer, 90% of Western disease would not exist. which will it be Second—the planet’s health I get up early to write. While brushing my teeth at 5 a.m., I listen to the Thom Hartmann show. I was astonished to hear him say we can grow 100 to 200 pounds of vegetables for the resources it takes to grow a pound of beef. I can’t find that statistic online, but I did find a chart that shows the inefficiency of producing milk, chicken, pork, and beef. Here in California, we’re in a severe drought. Miami, my other home, is listed second among large cities facing water scarcity. Agriculture in this country uses 85% of our fresh water. Producing a pound of animal protein takes 100 times as much water as growing a pound of grain. I’m just saying . . . *Vegan joke: How do you know when someone’s a vegan? Answer: They tell you.  What is a vegan? A vegan is a type of vegetarian who excludes meat, eggs, dairy products, and other animal-derived ingredients from her diet. What do vegans eat? The most common question. A vegan diet includes all grains, beans, legumes, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits and the nearly infinite number of foods made by combining them. Vegan versions of familiar foods are available, so you can eat vegan hot dogs,ice cream, cheese, and vegan mayonnaise. vegan0

Be our guest. . .or not

women & minorities-a50d-4f01ac1113f1Researchers wondered why women and minorities who climb the career ladder don’t pull others up after them. Here’s what they found:

1) White male executives who advocate hiring and promoting women and minorities are considered warm and competent by other managers.

2) Females who promote diversity are seen as selfish, devious and cold.

3) Minorities who do it are seen as incompetent.

The attitude among white male executives appears to be: This is our house. You are a guest and we control the guest list.

Women-in-science-300x300

Which reminds me of a story I read recently. A woman scientist goes to a conference, where her findings are questioned. The next year she returns as a transgendered male. One of her belittlers from the year before confides: “Your work is much better than your sister’s.”

 

I’m cheered by the words of Michele Roberts, the new leader of the N.B.A. players union.

“The past is littered with the bones of men who underestimated me.”

Michele A. Roberts-2014-08-17-at-9.20.25-PM

A reminder: It isn’t too late to ratify ERA.

erabuttonEquality is only three states away.

Here are the15 States that have not ratified the 27th Amendment: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia*

The Illinois Senate has passed it. The House votes in November. In case you have any influence.

*See a pattern?

Last: Women earn 88 cents for every $1.00 earned by a man. Some people say–well, 88 cents is almost a dollar. Considering the choices women make, the difference is negligible. Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Go8tnl21MU to see what happens when two monkeys are paid unequally.

 

We say, "Phooey"

We say, “Phooey”

A small, wary moment of triumph

 

Jackson Women's Health Orangization

Jackson Women’s Health Organization

In 2112, many blogs ago, I wrote about the Mississippi legislature trying to close the state’s only abortion clinic by passing a law that the clinic doctors must have hospital privileges at a local hospital.

 

The hospitals refused the doctors admission* and lawmakers claimed closing the clinic it wouldn’t hurt: women who needed abortions could drive to New Orleans or Memphis.

new-orleans---memphis-map

One legislator bragged: “We have literally stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi,” and “the other side [is] like, ‘Well, the poor pitiful women that can’t afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.’ That’s what we’ve heard over and over and over. But hey, you have to have moral values.”

coathanger The Mississippi clinic sued to block the law and last week the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled. To quote from The New York Times: “A state cannot lean on its sovereign neighbors to provide protection of its citizens’ federal constitutional rights.” You cannot have a law that closes the State’s only clinic.

It’s not victory. The law still stands and similar laws have been upheld in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. Laws can close clinics, but they can’t close the last one.

States' Rights stop at the border.

States’ Rights stop at the border.

 

In case we’ve forgotten, or never knew, here is what’s it’s like to get an abortion in the face of efforts in parts of this country to make it as hard as possible. From a piece called “My Abortion” in New York magazine

Cherisse, 39. I looked in the Chicago Yellow Pages and made an appointment at what I thought was an abortion clinic. They sent a black woman in to talk to me. She told me she and her husband hadn’t want their child at first and tried to convince me to keep mine. They showed me a video of a D&E (dilation and evacuation). They assumed I was on food stamps—I was a 28-yea-old paralegal. They sent me home with a rattle and onesie. They sent me to another place to get a free ultrasound. The technician said, “if you have an abortion now, you’ll rupture your uterus and won’t be able to have children.” I had no idea what was true. I went ahead and had my son. Those people weren’t there after I lost my job and couldn’t afford insurance, utilities, rent, food.

Mira, 29. The day I got accepted to college, I had a positive pregnancy test. I went to a community health center. They told me to leave. The closest three clinics were all 300 miles away. I borrowed my mother’s car. My boyfriend came with me. I honestly don’t remember how we came up with the $700. We left after work and drove to Colorado. It was the dead of winter. We stayed in a hotel in Cheyenne, another $60, but we couldn’t sleep. When we got to the clinic, an escort met us at the car asked if we wanted a bulletproof vest. Inside, the doctor took my hand and apologized that I had to travel so far. Ten minutes later, it was done.

Roe vs. Wade poster

 

 

*Seven hospitals refused admission to the Jackson clinic’s doctors (who do not live in Mississippi full time), either to avoid controversy or because of money. Hospitals often provide admitting privileges only if doctors admit a minimum number of patients per year and—for abortion providers—serious medical crises are rare.

 

Haters…and the rest of us

Depression_man-with-hands-over-face-300x199

Whenever I get depressed about the state of the world—wars, looming environmental catastrophe, the rise of oligarchy, blaming poverty on the poor, racism (in all its new masks), I tell myself it’s okay.

The old white people who hate change and brown people and gays and women will die off

small RIP

A new day is coming.

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Today’s young people have grown up in a world of diversity. They know better than to deny science because they’re the ones who will inherit our over-heating planet. Things will be different.

And then I read about Stormfront.org, where haters go to hate.

hater

The site is visited by 200,000 to 400,000 Americans every month, most of them young. They rage about Black criminals and the Mexican invasion. They mock gays and feminists and have a lot of problems with Jews. The Holocaust is the “Holohoax”. Over 100 murders in the last 5 years have been linked to Stormfront members.

California (one of the most diverse states) has a Stormfront membership 25% higher than the national average.

The population of the U.S. is 317 million, so approximately 10 percent of us are haters.

10%Which means 90 percent of us are not.

90-percentI’m trying to stay hopeful.

Enter: Trojan Mammy

My father used to ask me at the dinner table when I argued for racial equality: “If they’re equal, where are their great civilization, their great philosophers, their artists? At 18, I didn’t have an answer, but now I do. For artistic genius, I give you Kara Walker.

Kara Walker-portrait

Walker, who received a Macarthur grant, is fearless in her condemnation of social and racial injustice. Her work has largely been two-dimensional, wall art, film or video—focusing on the cotton plantations of America’s romanticized antebellum south.

She addresses white fears of black potency, violence, shame, and resistance, and turns white Gone With the Wind fantasies on their heads and inside out. Her images are fierce, raunchy, defiant, grotesque, racially charged and satirical. She’s like an historian telling you a history you don’t want to hear.

Take a look.

Walker imagearar_walker_03_vWalker image2

 

Walker has a new piece, her largest. This time, she has gone three dimensional in a massive way, creating a Trojan Mammy for our time. “A Subtlety” is forty feet high and eighty feet long–eighty tons of white sugar.

subtlety5

Full title: A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant

“The image” Walker says, “is about slavery and industry and sugar and fat…. This desire for refined sugar and what it means to turn sugar from brown to white…. She’s basically a New World sphinx. A New World thinking of the sugar plantations, the Americas, the trans-Atlantic slave trade…. We’re literally sugarcoating history.”

subtlety2

“The plant is dark…decades of molasses cover the entire space… and I wanted her to be a testament and monument to the quest for whiteness…whatever that means. Authority…on its last legs—this ideal of mastery over continents, people, bodies, ecology.”

I am blown away by “A Subtlety”. Here are two interviews with Walker and a response from African American women who did not necessarily see a giant white mammy as a compliment.