Stress From Racism May Be Causing African-American Babies To Die More Often : Shots – Health News : NPR

Ongoing impact from micro-agressions or other factors?

“Black babies in the United States die at just over two times the rate of white babies in the first year of their life,” says Arthur James, an OB-GYN at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University in Columbus. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every 1,000 live births, 4.8 white infants die in the first year of life. For black babies, that number is 11.7.

The majority of those black infants that die are born premature, says James, because black mothers like Pierce have a higher risk of going into early labor.

Scientists and doctors have spent decades trying to understand what makes African-American women so vulnerable to losing their babies. Now, there is growing consensus that racial discrimination experienced by black mothers during their lifetime makes them less likely to carry their babies to full term.

James, 65, has seen far too many black babies who didn’t survive.

It just doesn’t seem right, says James, who is also African-American. “You ask yourself the question: What is it about being black that places us at an increased risk for that kind of experience?”

A decades-long quest

Richard David, a neonatologist at the University of Illinois of Chicago, has been studying this for decades. When he first began looking into the problem in the 1980s, he says scientists thought the two main culprits were poverty and lack of education.

“We knew African-American women were more likely to be poor,” says David. “We knew that fewer of them had completed their education by the time they were bearing children.”

But David, who at the time was at the Cook County Hospital in Chicago, and his colleague James Collins at Northwestern University Medical School found that even educated, middle-class African-American women were at a higher risk of having smaller, premature babies with a lower chance of survival.

For example, David says, black and white teenage mothers growing up in poor neighborhoods both have a higher risk of having smaller, premature babies. “They both have something like a 13 percent chance of having a low birth weight baby,” he says.

But in higher-income neighborhoods where women are likely to be slightly older and more educated, “among white women, the risk of low birth weight drops dramatically to about half of that, whereas for African-American women, it only drops a little bit.”

In fact, today, a college-educated black woman like Samantha Pierce is more likely to give birth prematurely than a white woman with a high school degree.

“That’s exactly the kind of case that makes us ask the question: What else is there?” says David. “What are we missing?”

Some people suggested that the root cause may be genetics. But if genes are at play, then women from Africa would also have the same risks. So, David and his colleague, Collins, looked at the babies of immigrant women from West Africa. But as they reported in their 1997 study in The New England Journal of Medicine, those babies were more like white babies — they were bigger and more likely to be full term. So, it clearly isn’t genetics, says David.

Then, many years later, David and Collins noticed something startling. The grandchildren of African immigrant women were born smaller than their mothers had been at birth. In other words, the grandchildren were more likely than African-American babies — more likely to be premature.

This was also true of the grandchildren of black women who had emigrated from the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, the grandchildren of white European immigrant women were bigger than their mothers when they were born. David and Collins published their results in 2002 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“So, there was something about growing up black in the United States and then bearing a child that was associated with lower birth weight,” says David.

Growing up black and female in America

What is different about growing up black in America is discrimination, says David. “It’s hard to find any aspect of life that’s not impacted by racial discrimination,” he says. “Whether you’re talking about applying for a job, or purchasing a new car, finding housing, getting education … even given equal education, earning the same amount of money, that doesn’t happen. If you’re black, you tend to get less pay.”

As a recent poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found, 92 percent of African-Americans believe that discrimination against African-Americans exists in America today. Higher education and income did not necessarily mean people experienced less discrimination, the poll found.

In 2004, David and Collins published a study in the American Journal of Public Health in which they reported the connection between a mother’s experience of racism and preterm birth. They asked women about their housing, income, health habits and discrimination. “It turned out that as a predictor of a very low birth weight outcome, these racial discrimination questions were more powerful than asking a woman whether or not she smoked cigarettes,” David says.

Other studies have shown the same results.

via Stress From Racism May Be Causing African-American Babies To Die More Often : Shots – Health News : NPR


Poll: 6 In 10 Black Americans Say Police Unfairly Stopped Them Or A Relative : NPR

More interesting polling data confirming what we already know or suspect. Will be interesting to compare these findings with those of other groups that NPR will report on in coming weeks:

A new poll out this week from NPR finds that 60 percent of black Americans say they or a family member have been stopped or treated unfairly by police because they are black. In addition, 45 percent say they or a family member have been treated unfairly by the courts because they are black. The poll is a collaboration between NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The poll reveals the consequences of these stops for black Americans personally and across society — 31 percent of poll respondents say that fear of discrimination has led them to avoid calling the police when in need. And 61 percent say that where they live, police are more likely to use unnecessary force on a person who is black than on a white person in the same situation.

Previous polls have asked similar questions, but ours is unique in that it’s the first to ask about lifetime experiences with policing. It’s part of NPR’s ongoing series “You, Me and Them: Experiencing Discrimination in America.”

A Pew Research poll in 2016 asked whether people had been unfairly stopped by police because of race or ethnicity in the previous 12 months and found that 18 percent of black people said yes. A 2015 CBS News/New York Times poll asked whether this had ever happened and found 41 percent of black people said yes.

Our poll differs from Pew in that we asked not only about a much longer period but also whether people had been unfairly stopped or treated because of their race or ethnicity. We differ from CBS in that we included the word “unfairly.” We also differ from both the Pew and CBS polls because we asked whether a person or a family member had had this experience, which gives us a better sense of the presence of these experiences in respondents’ life and surroundings.

The black American data from our poll, released Tuesday, were compiled from 802 black Americans as part of a large national representative probability survey of 3,453 adults from Jan. 26 to April 9. The margin of error for the full black American sample is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

NPR will be reporting and releasing the results of the poll over the next several weeks for several groups, including Latinos, whites, Native Americans, Asian-Americans and LGBTQ adults.

Source: Poll: 6 In 10 Black Americans Say Police Unfairly Stopped Them Or A Relative : Code Switch : NPR

Killings of Blacks by Whites Are Far More Likely to Be Ruled ‘Justifiable’ – The New York Times

Impressive large scale study with disturbing conclusions:

When a white person kills a black man in America, the killer often faces no legal consequences.

In one in six of these killings, there is no criminal sanction, according to a new Marshall Project examination of 400,000 homicides committed by civilians between 1980 and 2014. That rate is far higher than ones for homicides involving other combinations of races.

In almost 17 percent of cases when a black man was killed by a non-Hispanic white civilian over the last three decades, the killing was categorized as justifiable, which is the term used when a police officer or a civilian kills someone committing a crime or in self-defense. Over all, the police classify fewer than 2 percent of homicides committed by civilians as justifiable.

The disparity persists across different cities, ages, weapons and relationships between killer and victim.

To understand the gaps, The Marshall Project obtained dozens of data sets from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and examined various combinations of killer and victim. Two types of “justifiable homicide” are noted: “felon killed by private citizen” or “felon killed by police officer.” (In a bit of circular logic, the person killed is presumptively classified as a felon, since the homicide could be justified only if a life was threatened, which is a crime.)

The data were processed to standardize key variables and exclude more than 200,000 cases that lacked essential information or were homicides by the police. The resulting data detail the circumstances of each death: any weapons used; information on the killer’s and victim’s race, age, ethnicity and sex; and how police investigators classify each type of killing (“brawl due to the influence of alcohol,” “sniper attack” or “lover’s triangle,” for example).

Little large-scale research has examined the role of race in “justifiable” homicides that do not involve the police. The data examined by The Marshall Project are more comprehensive and cover a longer time period than other research into the question, much of which has focused oncontroversial Stand Your Ground laws.

In the United States, the law of self-defense allows civilians to use deadly force in cases where they have a reasonable belief force is necessary to defend themselves or others. How that is construed varies from state to state, but the question often depends on what the killer believed when pulling the trigger.

“If there are factors — even if they’re stereotypes — that lead the defender to believe he’s in danger, that factors in, whether it’s a righteous cause or not,” said Mitch Vilos, a Utah defense lawyer, gun rights advocate and the author of “Self-Defense Laws of All 50 States.”

Self-defense decisions by regular people, much like those involving the police, are made quickly and with imperfect information. As a result, a homicide can be ruled self-defense when the killer faced no actual threat but had a reasonable belief he or she did.

That is where irrational fear can come into play. The police, prosecutors and juries may be apt to give killers the benefit of the doubt in situations when they were faced with someone who seemed “dangerous.”

“Tell me that it doesn’t factor in if the person is black when they’re approaching the suspect,” Mr. Vilos said. “It contributes to the decision to pull the trigger because of the fear associated with the stereotype.

“Right or wrong, that’s what’s happening, in my opinion.”

The vast majority of killings of whites are committed by other whites, contrary to some folk wisdom, and the overwhelming majority of killings of blacks is by other blacks.

The mystery of high unemployment rates for black Americans – The Economist

Further to earlier posts on blind cvs and discrimination:

Lower levels of education cannot account for the size of the racial gap. The real cause may be discrimination

Using American census data from 1976 to 2016, the authors built a statistical model using four factors they expected to account for variations in unemployment between racial minorities and whites: education, age, marital status and the state a person lives in. Among men, these variables collectively explained around three-quarters of the difference in joblessness rates between Hispanics and whites—but only about one-fifth of the gap between blacks and whites.

The authors put forward three possible reasons for this stubborn discrepancy. First, they suggest that nominal educational attainment could be a poor measure of labour-market skills: schools vary widely in quality, and those in majority-black districts tend to underperform on standardised tests. A second potential reason is mass incarceration. Around one in three black men spend time behind bars during their lives, which severely hampers their employment prospects upon release.

The third possible explanation is outright discrimination. One study in 2004 provided strong evidence that racism among employers is at least partly to blame. The authors responded to “help wanted” advertisements in newspapers in Boston and Chicago with fake resumes. They gave names common to black Americans to some fictitious applicants, and names common to whites to the rest. Every other detail was identical. Sure enough, the candidates with stereotypically white names received 50% more job interviews.

Source: The mystery of high unemployment rates for black Americans

White Economic Privilege Is Alive and Well – The New York Times

Good analysis:

Is the white working class losing economic ground because of policies intended to improve the lives of black people? Anxiety and resentment among some white voters about those policies certainly seemed to benefit Donald Trump’s campaign last year, with its populist, ethno-nationalist message.

The problem with this belief is that it is false. The income gap between black and white working-class Americans, like the gap between black and white Americans at every income level, remains every bit as extreme as it was five decades ago. (This is also true of the income gap between Hispanic and white Americans.)

In 2015 — the most recent year for which data are available — black households at the 20th and 40th percentiles of household income earned an average of 55 percent as much as white households at those same percentiles. This is exactly the same figure as in 1967.

Indeed, five decades of household income data reveal a yawning and uncannily consistent income gap between black and white Americans across the economic spectrum. Fifty years ago, black upper-class Americans had incomes about two-thirds those of white upper-class Americans, while the black middle class — those in the 60th percentile — earned about two-thirds as much as its white counterpart. Those ratios remain the same today.

The Income Gap That Won’t Close

These numbers should shock us. Consider that in the mid-1960s, Jim Crow practices were still being dismantled and affirmative action hardly existed. Yet a half-century of initiatives intended to combat the effects of centuries of virulent racism appear to have done nothing to ameliorate inequality between white and black America.

Conservatives like Charles Murray tend to blame either social welfare programs for sapping initiative and keeping black people poor, or black people themselves for being less intelligent than whites, or a “pathological” culture that now manifests itself in the white working class as well.

But the historical pervasiveness and contemporary persistence of racism in America offer more than adequate explanations for what should be considered a scandalous state of affairs in regard to race-based economic inequality.

Many black children, for example, attend schools that once again are as segregated as they were in the 1960s, and they are far more likely to become trapped in a prison-industrial complex that the scholar Michelle Alexander has called “the new Jim Crow.”

Research by the sociologist Devah Pager in 2009 also found that black job applicants for low-wage jobs receive callback interviews or job offers at half the rate of equally well-qualified white applicants and that black and Latino applicants with clean records “fare no better” than white applicants just released from prison.

It is important to remember the extent to which the civil rights movement led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was focused on economic injustice. Indeed, A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, who planned the March on Washington that culminated with Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, organized the event primarily to highlight and protest what they called “the economic subordination of the American Negro.”

And Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign, which he was organizing at the time of his murder, was an even more explicit argument that racial and economic justice are inextricably linked.

None of this is intended to minimize the legitimate anxiety felt by white families at a time when wages for low-wage workers have declined and middle-class incomes have stagnated, even as the economy has boomed and upper-class incomes have soared. Between 1980 and 2014, the post-tax income of the bottom 50 percent of the population grew by 21 percent, while that of the top .01 percent grew by 424 percent.

But over that same time, black working- and middle-class households have seen their incomes stagnate in exactly the same fashion as those of their white neighbors — and from a base that was and thus remains little more than half as large.

A genuine populist movement would unite working- and middle-class Americans of all backgrounds, rather than dividing them by exploiting false beliefs about the supposed loss of white economic privilege.

High Alzheimer’s Rates Among African-Americans May Be Tied To Poverty : NPR

Social factors matter:

Harsh life experiences appear to leave African-Americans vulnerable to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, researchers reported Sunday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London.

Several teams presented evidence that poverty, disadvantage and stressful life events are strongly associated with cognitive problems in middle age and dementia later in life among African-Americans.

The findings could help explain why African-Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to develop dementia. And the research suggests genetic factors are not a major contributor.

“The increased risk seems to be a matter of experience rather than ancestry,” says Megan Zuelsdorff, a postdoctoral fellow in the Health Disparities Research Scholars Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Scientists have struggled to understand why African-Americans are so likely to develop dementia. They are more likely to have conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, which can affect the brain. And previous research has found some evidence that African-Americans are more likely to carry genes that raise the risk.

But more recent studies suggest those explanations are incomplete, says Rachel Whitmer, an epidemiologist with Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research in Northern California.

Whitmer has been involved in several studies that accounted for genetic and disease risks when comparing dementia in white and black Americans. “And we still saw these [racial] differences,” she says. “So there is still something there that we are trying to get at.”

The research presented at the Alzheimer’s conference suggests the missing factors involve adverse life experiences beginning in childhood. These experiences have already been linked to a range of diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

“We’re starting to understand how early life stress and early life deprivation can increase your risk of a number of health outcomes in late life,” Whitmer says. “And the latest thing is understanding how and why that might affect the brain.”

Whitmer was part of a team that presented results of a study of more than 6,000 Kaiser Permanente health plan members, most born in the 1920s.

The team wanted to know whether people who grew up in harsher conditions were more likely to develop dementia. So they looked at people who’d been born in states with high infant mortality rates — an indicator of social problems like poverty and limited access to medical care.

White people’s risk of dementia wasn’t affected by their place of birth. But black people were 40 percent more likely to develop dementia if they’d been born in a state with high infant mortality.

“These people left the state and subsequently moved to northern California, yet there was still this very robust association between being born in a state with high infant mortality and increased risk of dementia,” Whitmer says.

Scientists from the University of Wisconsin presented results of a study of the link between stressful life events and mental function in middle age. They studied more than 1,300 people in their 50s and 60s, including 82 African-Americans.

Stressful experiences included having a parent with a drinking problem, financial insecurity, legal issues, divorce, being fired from a job, and the death of a child.

African-Americans reported 60 percent more of these stressful events than white Americans. But that was only part of the difference, Zuelsdorff says.

“The impact of these stressful events was stronger in African-Americans than it was in non-Hispanic white participants,” she says.

The researchers discovered this by administering tests that reveal the brain’s speed and flexibility in doing certain tasks. These abilities normally decline with age. So the team looked for evidence that stressful events were accelerating this decline.

And they found that in white participants, each stressful event added about a year and a half to normal brain aging. But in African-Americans, each event aged the brain an extra four years.

The next challenge for researchers is to figure out precisely how adverse life experiences are changing the brain, Zuelsdorff says. That will mean looking at the effects of stress hormones and seeing whether stress leads to inflammation in the brain, something that has been associated with Alzheimer’s.

Source: High Alzheimer’s Rates Among African-Americans May Be Tied To Poverty : Shots – Health News : NPR

Drivers are less likely to brake for black pedestrians, study finds | Toronto Star

Interesting and revealing study that is careful to include the needed caveats to its results:

A new study appears to offer additional evidence that drivers are less likely to brake for African-American pedestrians trying to cross the street, a phenomenon known as “walking while black.”

Researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas also found that the disparity is greater depending on whether the pedestrian is in a high- or low-income neighbourhood: the average number of vehicles to pass by a black pedestrian who was already in the crosswalk was at least seven times higher compared with a white pedestrian in the wealthier neighbourhood, the study’s lead researcher said.

“Sadly, it wasn’t surprising,” said Courtney Coughenour, an assistant professor in the School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

But there are also several factors in the Las Vegas study that suggest the results should be interpreted with care.

In three scenarios that the researchers used, they found little statistically significant data to suggest a difference in the way motorists reacted to the pedestrian, whether black or white. In one of those, in fact, more cars passed the white pedestrian than the black pedestrian when they were waiting to step off the curb in the high-income neighbourhood.

What’s more, the roadways between the high- and low-income neighbourhoods differed in design, both in the number of lanes the pedestrian had to cross and the posted speed limit, as the study acknowledges. The researchers also noted, citing other research, that the disparity between yielding rates in the different neighbourhoods could be explained by several factors, such as people in high-income areas more often having private cars and driving more compared to people in low-income neighbourhoods, where there are also generally more pedestrians.

More than 4,700 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing the most recent figures available. The Las Vegas study, also citing CDC data, says fatality rates for black and Latino men are more than twice as high as for white men.

The Las Vegas study, which was published online in January in the journal of Accident Analysis and Prevention, involved observing what happens when two female students — one black, one white — cross a street where there is no traffic light.

The experiment was conducted in one neighbourhood located on the west side of Las Vegas where the median household income was $55,994, and in another in the east where the median was $32,884. (Coughenour declined to identify the two neighbourhoods further.)

Both pedestrians in the experiment were students and both were of similar height and build. Each wore similar clothing. They took turns crossing the street about 126 times, or approximately 34 times in the high-income neighbourhood and 30 times in the low-income neighbourhood. (Two crossings were spoiled by observer error.)

The researchers first counted how many cars passed while the pedestrian stood on the curb waiting to cross. After the first car stopped in the nearest lane and the pedestrian stepped into the street, observers continued to count vehicles that failed to stop in the remaining lanes on that half of the street. (The observers did not count traffic moving in the opposite direction on the other half of the roadway.)

What the researchers found was that drivers yielded to the pedestrian waiting at the curb to cross about 52 per cent of the time in the high-income neighbourhood and 71 per cent of the time in the low-income neighbourhood.

After factoring in race, the researchers found little statistical significance in whether drivers yielded for black or white pedestrians waiting at the curb in either neighbourhood — although drivers in the high-income area were less likely to yield for the white pedestrian. (And a higher percentage of drivers in the low-income neighbourhood stopped for the white pedestrian.)

But Coughenour said she was much more troubled by the what happened when the pedestrians stepped off the curb and began walking in the crosswalk — both because of the more dangerous circumstances and because the statistical significance was higher: The average number of drivers who continued moving with a black pedestrian already in the crosswalk was at least seven times higher than for the white pedestrian in the high-income neighbourhood, she said.

Among the several caveats worth noting are these, however:

Nevada law is ambiguous about when drivers are required to stop for pedestrians. Under state law, when there is no traffic light, for example, a driver is obliged to slow and yield the right of way “if need be” when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk on the same half of the highway, the study says. They are also required only to “exercise proper caution” when observing a pedestrian on or near the roadway.

The crosswalk in the high-income neighbourhood was on a street with six lanes and a speed limit of 45 mph (72 km/hr.); the street in the low-income neighbourhood had four lanes with a 35-mph speed limit.

The observers were aware of whether a black student or a white student was crossing. To control for possible observational bias, however, the observers followed a protocol for making observations and counting passing cars, Coughnenour said.

The sample size is relatively small.

Coughenour, while acknowledging the study’s limitations, said she believes the results confirm what researchers found in a study conducted by researchers at Portland State University in Oregon and the University of Arizona. She said the findings are also in line with a large body of literature that suggests people react differently to others based on “implicit bias” that may not be conscious. “We all have some sort of innate bias,” she said.

Source: Drivers are less likely to brake for black pedestrians, study finds | Toronto Star

U.S. owes black people reparations for a history of ‘racial terrorism,’ says U.N. panel – The Washington Post

Others have argued differently Black Lives Matter is ‘woke’ to old problems — but still sleeping on solutions – The Washington Post):

Reparations presents the most acute challenge. This sounds sensible enough, but a thoroughly “woke” person might say black America has already received reparations.

They’re not called “reparations,” of course, but that’s just an issue of terminology. Affirmative Action has been reparations; the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act battling redlining was reparations; the original intent of No Child Left Behind was to identify disparities between black and other children in scholarly achievement and therefore qualified by definition as reparations; in the late 1960s, nationwide, at the behest of the National Welfare Rights Organization and other movements, welfare programs were reformed to make payments easier to get. This, too, was a form of reparations.

The UN-affiliated group in contrast:

The history of slavery in the United States justifies reparations for African Americans, argues a recent report by a U.N.-affiliated group based in Geneva.

This conclusion was part of a study by the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, a body that reports to the international organization’s High Commissioner on Human Rights. The group of experts, which includes leading human rights lawyers from around the world, presented its findings to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday, pointing to the continuing link between present injustices and the dark chapters of American history.

“In particular, the legacy of colonial history, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality in the United States remains a serious challenge, as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent,” the report stated. “Contemporary police killings and the trauma that they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynching.”

Citing the past year’s spate of police officers killing unarmed African American men, the panel warned against “impunity for state violence,” which has created, in its words, a “human rights crisis” that “must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Source: U.S. owes black people reparations for a history of ‘racial terrorism,’ says U.N. panel – The Washington Post

Discrimination isn’t ancient history. A new museum shows the truth of that [Museum of African-American History]

The debate over group specific narratives and museums, versus a more horizontal approach. There is place for both:

“Perhaps,” said Barack Obama on the museum portico on opening day, “it can help a white visitor understand the pain and anger of demonstrators in places like Tulsa and Charlotte . . .  It reminds us that routine discrimination and Jim Crow aren’t ancient history, it’s just a blink in the eye of history. It was just yesterday. And so we should not be surprised that not all the healing is done. We shouldn’t despair that it’s not all solved.”

“A great nation does not hide its history,” said George W. Bush, under whose administration was raised the majority of the half-billion dollars that the new museum’s construction consumed. “It faces its flaws and corrects them. This museum tells the truth that a country founded on the promise of liberty held millions in chains.”

…“So much African-American history has been erased, stepped over, or labelled as not in the picture,” Gloria Powell told Maclean’s on opening weekend. She was 85, a retired nurse and nursing educator from Sacramento, Calif., who spent her working life in Harlem.

“Most of the Caucasian population, and a huge section of the African-American population, do not have any idea of our history,” Ms. Powell said. “We were people who were brought here. We didn’t come here to escape religious persecution, we were lifted from our land and our homes and our families. If you become educated about who we are, you will find that you guys no longer need to be afraid of us.”

But there is another dimension to the opening of the African-American museum, which, like the National Museum of the American Indian a few blocks closer to the U.S. Capitol, advances the fragmentation of the Smithsonian into an archipelago of separate-but-equal edifices a sort of institutional apartheid. Across 14th Street, the National Museum of American History retains only a handful of objects related to African-Americans, including jazzman Dizzy Gillespie’s cantilevered trumpet, a photo of hair-care entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, and—removed from all context and potency—a lunch counter from Greensboro, N.C., that once was at the nucleus of the integration struggle.

Backed by such celebrities as Eva Longoria and Emilio Estefan, a commission to study the potential creation of the National Museum of the American Latino has been endorsed by Congress, and a man named Sam Eskenazi, formerly of the (non-Smithsonian) United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, has been lobbying for a decade for a National Museum of the American People to celebrate waves of immigration.

“All the Smithsonian museums are artifact-driven,” Eskenazi told Maclean’s, brandishing endorsements from groups representing dozens of ethnic groups from the Albanians to the Welsh. “My model is story-driven. My museum covers everybody.”

Source: Discrimination isn’t ancient history. A new museum shows the truth of that. –

A New ‘Roots’ for a New American Era – The Daily Beast

Good piece on ‘Roots’ and how a reboot needs to reflect the current era:

As the great literary and cultural critic Leslie Fiedler noted time and again, Americans only valorize the Other when we know he or she is thoroughly vanquished; The Last of the Mohicans could only be written after the Indians were thoroughly contained in or effectively banished from upstate New York. At the same time that white ethnics were transforming their downscale heritages into sources of pride (Polish Power, anyone?), black Americans in the post-Civil Rights era were doing the same thing: finding a source of cultural power in a history of exclusion and oppression.

Prior to Roots, Haley was best-known as the amanuensis of Malcolm X, compiling an “autobiography” based on interviews conducted between 1963 and Malcolm’s assassination in 1965. In What Was Literature?: Class Culture and Mass Society (1982), Fiedler writes that Roots was for Haley a natural extension of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which combined elements of Booker T. Washington’s gospel of segregationist self-sufficiency and the confrontational politics of the Black Power movement into a message of militant uplift.

Yet Fiedler notes that Roots, despite Haley’s attempt to write a “final Happy Ending” in which African Americans become professors and government functionaries and world-famous authors, replicates the same irresolvable racial tensions that fueled earlier novels such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Thomas Dixon’s The Clansman (which became the basis on D.W. Griffith’s execrable The Birth of a Nation), and Gone With The Wind. “Scenes of rape and flagellation are as essential to [Haley’s] vision as to that of Mrs. Stowe or Thomas Dixon, or Margaret Mitchell, though his victims are, of course, always black,” writes Fiedler.

Though the brutalization of his ancestors, especially at the hands of slave owners, means that Haley is himself part white, he cannot acknowledge that part of his ancestry. Try as he might, Fiedler argues, Haley doesn’t offer a way out of an unbridgeable gap between the races. Instead, he describes the lurid, racist fantasies from the victims’ point of view.

Roots 2016

History Channel

That of course is no small accomplishment and the fact that Roots—the book and the miniseries—made black history visible to white America en masse explains its success. White ethnics especially, who often clashed with blacks in the restricted neighborhoods to which both were remanded by zoning and custom, could understand a far deeper and long-suffering oppression lived out in the golden streets of America.

So here we are now, in the 21st century, eight years into the presidency of a mixed-race president, in a country where the percentage of foreign-born residents is rapidly approaching figures last seen in the 1910s and ’20s. On a profound level, we are more at peace with one another than ever before. For 20 years, the Census has included a “multiracial” category to accommodate  basic reality and support for interracial marriage approaches 100 percent (even same-sex marriage, unthinkable even just a generation ago, pulls 60 percent or more approval, with the number bumping each year).

Yet in a commencement speech at Howard University, Barack Obama observed that even as things have markedly improved for African Americans since he himself graduated college, his “election did not create a post-racial society.” To be sure, there is much work to be done. Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as their white counterparts and the unemployment rate for blacks is twice that for whites. The rise of Donald Trump is fueled in no small part by grievances among poor whites who are the one group in America whose lifespans are actually shrinking. Black protestors, especially on college campuses, are at times more inflamed than the Black Panthers ever were — despite objectively better conditions compared to 45 years ago in terms of opportunities.

We have stuck in a dialectical conversation where the horrors of our racial past have been represented poignantly and memorably. What we need now is work that shows how most Americans—black, white, and every other type—have moved beyond to a world that, while replete with problems, allows us to be kinder and better to one another.

Source: A New ‘Roots’ for a New American Era – The Daily Beast