Race and Recovery After Hurricane Harvey

We are comforted by the images of the unity and resilience of the people of Houston, Texas after Hurricane Harvey. It will be those traits that will be so important in the recovery from the torrential rains and flooding that devastated Houston and other Texas and regional communities. Here, in an article by Oliver McAteer (Metro.co.uk Wednesday 30 Aug 2017 5:17 pm), we see the discussion of another issue.
Understanding who is most affected by natural disaster and what this teaches us is of great importance in our attempt to achieve and maintain social justice both in the face of natural disaster and in the everyday lives of all people. Black Americans and poor people will be hit the hardest by Hurricane Harvey, a UK researcher has said.
Mainstream media is painting a picture of unity and resilience in the face of adversity, but it is race and social class, which will determine the impact of the storm—just like they did during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, says Dr. Anna Hartnell.
The Birkbeck, University of London lecturer, and author of After Katrina: Race, Neoliberalism and the End of the American Century said a number of factors put black Americans at risk of suffering greater repercussions from Harvey.
She told Metro US: ‘Although Texas itself is more central to the American imagination than Louisiana–New Orleans in particular has been constructed as a kind of pariah–it is nonetheless home to pockets of extreme poverty. In Houston 30 percent of residents live below the poverty line. And, like New Orleans and indeed most other urban centers in the US, poverty in Houston is overwhelmingly and disproportionately racialized.
‘Race and social class will determine the impact of storm’
‘Cheaper land tends to also be floodplains in flood-prone areas. Car and home ownership are measures of short term and long term resilience with respect to disasters like Hurricane Harvey, and just as with Hurricane Katrina, people of color in Texas are far less likely to own cars that might enable them to evacuate or homes on which they can claim insurance and rebuild later on.
‘Black Americans are also much more likely to live in undervalued neighborhoods which will secure fewer recovery dollars down the line, which are then in turn less likely to be able to return and regroup, and so are vulnerable to gentrification—as was the case in New Orleans after Katrina.’
Dr. Hartnell said it is a ‘great myth that disasters are social levelers’ and Donald Trump is only perpetuating this stereotype. She explained that waving around the Lone Star State flag and shouting, ‘it happened to Texas and Texas can handle anything’, obscures the fact that ‘resilience is not created equal but rather something that is built into people and communities according to relative wealth and status’.
Almost as soon as the New Orleans metro area began to fill with water in the late summer of 2005, following the catastrophic breaching of the levees by Hurricane Katrina, the story was one about race and class. What is striking about the mainstream coverage of Hurricane Harvey, by contrast, is that it is largely being presented as illustrative of the great myth that disasters are social levelers.
Houston is also home to a number of oil refineries, some of which have been damaged by the storm or have had to be shut down, leading to the emission of potentially hazardous and carcinogenic pollutants. Again, just like Louisiana’s petrochemical corridor, which has been dubbed “cancer alley,” the communities living closest to these sites are low-income communities of color. They are exposed to these pollutants on a daily basis, an injustice that some commentators describe as ‘environmental racism’, but the risks have been enormously exacerbated by the storm.

Dr. Hartnell added: ‘So beneath the narrative of resilience and unity that the mainstream media and the US government and authorities have done their best to circulate, the reality is that race and class disparities will determine the impact of the storm just as dramatically and unjustly as they did in 2005.’

Fondly submitted,
For the Diversity Committee

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How Repealing the ACA Will Affect Minorities

Heights-Hillcrest-Lyndhurst AAUW, May 2017
As the current administration attempts to end the Affordable Care Act, the ultimate impact of such an act remains unclear. Here is a piece that describes the possible negative impact on minorities and the most vulnerable in our nation. Is this what our nation wants? I hope not.
How Repealing the ACA Will Affect Minorities                                                                                        Fortune Magazine, January 10, 2017
Jeremy Quittner, a writer for Fortune.com’s Venture channel.
“The new Republican Congress will soon attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
While their replacement plan is currently unknown—possible ideas include a system of tax credits or refunds and health savings accounts linked to high-deductible health care plans—broadly speaking, rolling back President Obama’s signature law is likely to cause confusion and chaos for the health care market.
Lacking a replacement strategy by Congress, an estimated 18 million people who obtained coverage since 2013 via new state and federally administered exchanges are likely to have their coverage thrown into limbo.
Certainly whites made up the biggest group of newly insured Americans under the ACA, with 9 million new people gaining coverage. But poorer minorities also benefited dramatically from provisions in the ACA, including an expansion of Medicaid that provided health care subsidies for many low-income people.
Three million African Americans and 4 million Hispanics–the minority group most likely to lack health insurance–accessed coverage through the ACA. As a result, these groups saw uninsured rates drop 11.8 percentage points and 11.3 percentage points, respectively. That’s according to a 2016 report from the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, the principal advisor to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Other minorities, such as LGBT people, benefited in different ways. The health care act forbids health care providers who take funding from the HHS from discriminating on the basis of sexual or gender orientation. It allowed same-sex families to apply for joint coverage. It also removed lifetime caps on care for chronic conditions, such as HIV, where the annual cost of treatment can be very high.
These groups will continue to be vulnerable without the ACA or something like it, particularly because of its anti-discrimination provisions.
As it is, there are major disparities in the mortality and morbidity rates of black and white Americans. A report published in October by the centrist Brookings Institution highlights some of the statistics: black infants die at twice the rate of their white counterparts—a gap that increases, rather than decreases, as black families become more affluent and educated; black men have the shortest life expectancy of any group; and college-educated whites outlive both black men and women with a high school education or less by a decade or more.
The reasons are varied, and not all a direct result of explicit discrimination — broader economic problems, such as housing inequality and access to healthy food, contribute as well. But unconscious bias has been shown to influence the care black patients receive.
“When compared to whites, black patients are referred to see specialists less often, receive less appropriate preventive care such as mammography and flu vaccines, receive fewer kidney and bone marrow transplants, receive fewer anti-retroviral drugs for HIV, receive fewer antidepressants for diagnosed depression, and are admitted less often than whites for similar complaints of chest pain,” the report finds.
A recent Kaiser Permanente report shows that other minorities, including Hispanics and Native Americans, also have disproportionately bigger challenges accessing and using health care than whites.
If the ACA is repealed, it will cost the economy about $350 billion over the next 10 years, according to a recent Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget report, and it would leave no revenue left over for a replacement plan.
While the ACA was not a perfect solution, it laid the groundwork not only for opening up access to health care, but for tackling ways to make health care more equitable for everyone. Without it, and with no revenue for a new plan, the health care environment is likely to revert to the way it was prior to 2010. And in that environment, minorities will continue to suffer most.”
Fondly Submitted by the Diversity Committee

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We Need To Learn History More Than Ever

With growing concern about social manipulation in our society there is a great need to teach history in a way that sensitizes us to differentiating propaganda from information that can be verified and reflected upon in a mature and discerning manner. Here in a piece by Marie Myung-OkLee, published in Quartz, we read her well considered views on the need to study history and develop the skills of critical and informed thinking.

Marie Myung-OkLee, December 2, 2016
“As a novelist and creative-writing professor, I believe in the importance of teaching college students how to read and write fiction. But the undergraduate course I myself found the most formative—the one that maps my daily intellectual path decades later—was not a writing or English class, but a seemingly quotidian course at Brown University called “History 52: The survey of American history from Reconstruction to Nixon.”
On the first day of class, the white-haired professor blasted Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA as we walked in. He asked us point-blank, “What does it mean to be an American?” I had come armed with a notebook and pen, ready to passively receive information. Instead, we were being prompted to really engage with history—a first for many of us in the classroom.
The history class gave me the tools that would help me make sense of the worlds I was trying to write about, both in fiction and nonfiction. I worry that too many young people today are not being equipped with these tools—ones that will be of the utmost importance as they come of age under the presidency of Donald Trump.
Between the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 academic school years, undergraduate enrollment in history classes fell by 7.6%, according to a survey this year from the American Historical Association. The field has also seen a decline in history majors in the past few years. Historian Sheyda Jahanbani has been monitoring the enrollments crisis closely at her institution, the University of Kansas. “Our enrollments are down 59% from 10 years ago,” she said.
James Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Society, confirmed via email that broadly, “History enrollments are indeed declining.” This leads me to wonder about the relationship between a culture that places less value on history and that of an electorate that embraced a nativist, white-supremacist platform that played on false nostalgia and longing for a “better” past.
History classes matter because they help students learn to question the stories that are handed down to us. History classes matter because they help students learn to question the
stories that are handed down to us. In that survey class I took decades ago, through textbooks, archival materials, and even novels, we reexamined the history I thought I knew—from the post-bellum Reconstruction era to “separate but equal,” World War II, Vietnam, and the cultural upheaval of the 1960s. As we went beyond the usual primary versus secondary sources, we looked critically at how historical narratives are constructed, probing them for weaknesses and false assumptions. We learned to ask whose interest a given narrative served, and what tools different historians had used to come to their conclusions. It was entirely different than the write-down-and-memorize-the-dates learning we’d done in high-school history class. It soon dawned on me that the “good old days” that older people were always talking about had never really existed. Their nostalgia was real, for sure, but each period had its injustices and complexities.
For my final paper, I decided to use my parents’ experience in 1950s Birmingham under anti-Asian immigration laws and Jim Crow to discuss the rise of the Civil Rights movement. I’d never thought of myself and my family as being a part of history, but the teaching assistant in my class liked the idea and pushed me to think more deeply about my subject. I learned to become comfortable with the idea that history is the story of everyday people—not just US presidents and generals, but the individuals who comprise movements and eras. And so I began to examine all the history that had shaped my parents’ immigrant “success” story: how a fresh outburst of racism and xenophobic fervor in the 1920s had led to a second rise of the Ku Klux Klan and anti-immigration laws that led, decades later, to the deportation orders my parents received the day I was born.
Today, in a time of economic uncertainty, many students are being encouraged to skip history and other liberal arts classes in favor of a practical STEM focus. But this election has shown that nothing could be more practical for Americans than a deep immersion in our country’s history.
As The New York Times reported, our president-elect demonstrates a “willful lack of interest in history.” For example, he credulously and bombastically stated on the campaign trail that “our African American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever.” (Those familiar with Jim Crow, the Birmingham bombings—oh, and slavery—would beg to differ.)
Despite Trump’s ignorance of history—or perhaps because of his willingness to manipulate it to suit his own purposes—he won. Pundits were quick to heap the responsibility for his win on the “less educated,” resorting to the well-worn trope of the gullible working-class rube easily swayed by the false populist; a narrative that “seems” right. But a closer look at the voter breakdown, as
easily swayed by the false populist; a narrative that “seems” right. But a closer look at the voter breakdown, as our History 52 professor would have had us do, uncovers contradictory evidence.
It’s true that Trump was favored by voters without college degrees. But he also won among voters with some college or an associate’s degree. Even more strikingly, college graduates voted for him almost as often as they did Clinton: 45% to her 49%, according to The New York Times exit polls, while white college graduates actually preferred Trump. These demographic breakdowns suggest the issue may be less about a lack of higher education and more about the direction in which higher education has been heading over recent decades.
Perhaps it was no coincidence that Trump made his historical pronouncements about African Americans while in North Carolina, a state whose governor, Pat McCrory, is famously leading a charge to incentivize enrollments in “job-friendly” classes and majors, with a focus in STEM. In a 2013 radio interview, McCrory averred humanities classes were fine in principle, “but I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”
Do we want higher education merely to produce workers, or do we want students equipped with the skills to understand, question, create? Do we want higher education merely to produce workers, or do we want students equipped with the skills to understand, question, create? History does much more than prepare people to become professional historians. It teaches us how to think—that is, how to do the high-level analysis that is essential for an informed society. It requires analysis of data and deep research, as well as the use of archival and primary sources. Such skills are absolutely critical in an era that is increasingly characterized by the relentless bombardment of information.
This election in particular has been plagued by misinformation. First, there is the preponderance of fake news that “seems” true. Our professor helped us realize that just because an article is published doesn’t necessarily mean it’s legitimate. Yet many fake stories this election cycle—including ones intended as over-the-top satire—were quickly shared on social platforms, their virality creating an aura of legitimacy. Anyone could download a GIF of a red banner with BREAKING NEWS! on it and engineer her own news story.
Legitimate news sources can also go astray. The Washington Post recently began an article about FBI director James Comey with this lead: “From Elliot Ness to Clarice Starling, the image of the FBI—unflappable, smart and relentlessly fair—has been sterling.” This statement omits years of troubled history at the federal agency, especially of former director J. Edgar Hoover. (And Ness actually wasn’t even an FBI agent: He was employed by the US Treasury.)
Nor can Americans afford to treat the words of public figures uncritically. Former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani declared
Trump’s win “one of the greatest victories for the people of America since Andrew Jackson,” a reference that takes on new meaning if one is aware of Jackson’s history as a slave trader and a proponent of Indian genocide.
Perhaps it is time to take some of our obsession with STEM and redirect a portion of that enthusiasm to the old-fashioned study of history. As Grossman of the AHA points out, “One of the many lessons that the current campaign has been teaching us is that historical thinking and historical understanding is imperative to civic culture.”
Expanding the study of history could be an essential bulwark against the rising tide of misinformation, manipulation, and lies. A frustrated President Obama said November 17 of the preponderance of fake news and misleading rhetoric on social media and TV news, “If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we don’t know what to protect. We won’t know what to fight for.” In the post-factual fight, understanding history is our most important weapon”.
Fondly submitted,
For the Diversity Committee

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“Ignorance as a Tool of Slavery”

Recent events have made us sensitive to the absolute need to make available high quality public education to all our children. This is not a new theme but it is essential to remember that ignorance is the tool that has been used, perhaps through all of history, to control those that some wish to deprive of power in society. An example would be the use of “Ignorance as a tool of slavery (from a summary).” Below we continue on this theme. We read from:
“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”
” Ignorance as a Tool of Slavery”
“Douglass’s Narrative shows how white slave holders perpetuate slavery by keeping their slaves ignorant. At the time Douglass was writing, many people believed that slavery was a natural state of being. They believed that blacks were inherently incapable of participating in civil society and thus should be kept as workers for whites. The Narrative explains the strategies and procedures by which whites gain and keep power over blacks from their birth onward. Slave owners keep slaves ignorant of basic facts about themselves, such as their birth date or their paternity. This enforced ignorance robs children of their natural sense of individual identity. As slave children grow older, slave owners prevent them from learning how to read and write, as literacy would give them a sense of self-sufficiency and capability. Slaveholders understand that literacy would lead slaves to question the right of whites to keep slaves. Finally, by keeping slaves illiterate, Southern slave holders maintain control over what the rest of America knows about slavery. If slaves cannot write, their side of the slavery story cannot be told. Wendell Phillips makes this point in his prefatory letter to the Narrative.”
Knowledge as the Path to Freedom
“Just as slave owners keep men and women as slaves by depriving them of knowledge and education, slaves must seek knowledge and education in order to pursue freedom. It is from Hugh Auld that Douglass learns this notion that knowledge must be the way to freedom, as Auld forbids his wife to teach Douglass how to read and write because education ruins slaves. Douglass sees that Auld has unwittingly revealed the strategy by which whites manage to keep blacks as slaves and by which blacks might free themselves. Douglass presents his own self-education as the primary means by which he is able to free himself, and as his greatest tool to work for the freedom of all slaves.”
“Though Douglass himself gains his freedom in part by virtue of his self-education, he does not oversimplify this connection. Douglass has no illusions that knowledge automatically renders slaves free. Knowledge helps slaves to articulate the injustice of slavery to themselves and others, and helps them to recognize themselves as men rather than slaves. Rather than provide immediate freedom, this awakened consciousness brings suffering, as Hugh Auld predicts. Once slaves are able to articulate the injustice of slavery, they come to loathe their masters, but still cannot physically escape without meeting great danger.”
The above has great meaning today in a world where free and equal access to quality public education is under assault. It is not only in Frederick Douglass’ day and world that there had been an attempt to deprive citizens of the tools they need to reflect upon and evaluate the quality of their leaders and act accordingly with insight and courage.
(From SparkNotes Editors, (2002). SparkNote on Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http:/www.sparkotes.com/lit/narrative/.)
Fondly submitted,
For the Diversity Committee

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Frederick Douglass the Founder of the Civil Rights Movement

     At this time it is well to look back at the greats
in American history to understand and reflect on
the talents and challenges of the leaders of today.
It is said that Frederick Douglass was, by his actions and
writings, the founder of America’s civil rights movement. Here,
from an informative Wikipedia article, we read part of the story
of the great Frederick Douglass.
Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington
Bailey), (c. February 1818-February 20, 1895) was an African-
American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and
statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became
a national leader of the abolitionist movement in
Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his dazzling
oratory] and incisive antislavery writings. In his time, he was
described by abolitionists as a living counter-example to
slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual
capacity to function as independent American citizens.
Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a
great orator had once been a slave.
Douglass wrote several autobiographies. He described his
experiences as a slave in his 1845 autobiography, Narrative of
the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which
became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause
of abolition, as was his second book, My Bondage and My
Freedom (1855). After the Civil War, Douglass remained an
active campaigner against slavery and wrote his last
autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. First
published in 1881 and revised in 1892, three years before his
death, it covered events during and after the Civil War.
Douglass also actively supported women’s suffrage, and held
several public offices. Without his approval, Douglass became
the first African American nominated for Vice President of the
United States as the running mate and Vice Presidential
nominee of Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party ticket.
Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples,
whether black, female, Native American, or recent immigrant.
He was also a believer in dialogue and in making alliances
across racial and ideological divides and in the liberal values of
the American Constitution. When radical abolitionists, under
the motto “No Union With Slaveholders,” criticized Douglass’
willingness to dialogue with slave owners, he famously replied:
“I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do
One biographer argues:
“The most influential African American of the
nineteenth century, Douglass made a career of
agitating the American conscience. He spoke and
wrote on behalf of a variety of reform causes:
women’s rights, temperance, peace, land reform,
free public education, and the abolition of capital
punishment. But he devoted the bulk of his time,
immense talent, and boundless energy to ending
slavery and gaining equal rights for African
Americans. These were the central concerns of his
long reform career. Douglass understood that the
struggle for emancipation and equality demanded
forceful, persistent, and unyielding agitation. And
he recognized that African Americans must play a
conspicuous role in that struggle. Less than a
month before his death, when a young black man
solicited his advice to an African American just
starting out in the world, Douglass replied without
hesitation, “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!”

Fondly submitted for the Diversity Committee

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The Affordable Care Act and Its Impact on Women and Children–

From the beginning of the discussion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there was a good bit of talk in some circles, that it was for the “others.” Sadly we are drifting into a society where there is a focus on a “them versus us” mentality. Named “Obamacare” by detractors, there was an attempt to manipulate thinking in such a way that if you didn’t like the person for whom it was named, you didn’t like the plan. Not everyone knew about the plan itself. Here in an article by Ara Siegel, the plan is described. Note, as it is being attacked by detractors, how much the plan benefits women and children who, in fact, should be considered as “all of us.” There are no “others.”
7 Ways Obamacare Impacts Women and Families
You’ve heard about the Affordable Care Act, but what changes affect you, your family or your caregiver?
There’s been a lot of talk about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare.” But when it comes down to it, how many of us can get past the bureaucracy and legal jargon to truly understand if this law can help our families? The ACA provides benefits for women and families (maternity coverage!) that might help you. And considering women make about 80% of health care decisions for their families, we’re decoding Obamacare so you don’t have to. Here are seven things to consider:
1. Access–The ACA created a mandate that generally all employers with over 50 full-time employees (over 30 hours/week) provide health coverage for their workers. If you do not receive insurance though an employer then you can purchase it on the Health Insurance Marketplace, where you can choose a private health plan that fits your needs as well as learn if you qualify for certain subsidies.
The ACA also allows states to expand Medicaid eligibility, meaning more access to quality care for all kinds of families, such as those with disabled children, or who are low-income (one in five Americans gets their health care through Medicaid).
2. Affordability–Under the ACA’s new 80/20 rules, at least 80 cents of every dollar insurance companies spend must go towards your healthcare or improvements to care. Women and families who could not afford healthcare in the past have new access to affordable coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace which offers a range of plans in every state. And if insurance companies want to raise your premiums by more than 10 percent, they must publicly justify their actions.
3. Young Adults–Young adults can now stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until age 26.
4. Gender and Illness Up-Charges–Insurers can no longer put a lifetime cap on how much care they will pay if you get sick, and health insurers can no longer charge you more because you are a woman. Before the Affordable Care Act was law, a majority of states had best-selling plans that engaged in gender rating. For example, a 25-year-old woman could be expected to pay 81 percent more for health insurance than a man, even for a plan that did not include maternity coverage.
5. Pre-Existing Conditions–It is now illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, such as having had breast cancer or being pregnant. Previously, a woman without health insurance might get pregnant or find a lump and not be able to receive coverage because she had a “pre-existing condition.”
6. Preventive Health Benefits–Most health plans are now required to cover preventive services without making you pay a copay or deductible. Such services include things like: well-woman visits, mammograms, FDA-approved birth control, vaccinations for your child, domestic violence counseling, testing for gestational diabetes and breastfeeding supplies. And all plans offered through the Marketplace must cover a package of essential health benefits, which include maternity and newborn care.
7. Maternity Care–All insurance plans sold on the Insurance Marketplace cover maternity care. Just a few years ago, 68 percent of enrollees in individual market plans lacked maternity coverage, considering that in 2012, the average hospital bill–for each of the 3 million plus women who delivered babies without complications–was more than $23,000.
Navigating the healthcare system can be a challenge, but it’s extremely important to be educated about your rights when it comes to one of the most important things: your health and the health of your family.
Fondly submitted,
The Diversity Committee

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When You Read This America Will Have Been Changed

This is written before the November 2016 Presidential Election in a time of great uncertainty. In the face of this uncertainty it is well to remember the abiding principles that make America great and give us stability as a nation. In the Constitution Daily there is a wonderful article that speaks of the peaceful transfer of power in American government. I have quoted this article now for its learned and comforting message. “Nothing less than a miracle”: The Constitution and the peaceful transition of power, October 21, 2016 by Nicandro Iannacci (an excerpt)–
“Our grand experiment in republican self-government depends on good-faith cooperation. Under the First Amendment, we can protest the government and criticize the outcome of an election, but if we lose the argument, we must accept the results. And that’s what Americans have always done. In his first Inaugural address, President Ronald Reagan praised our collective achievement:
‘To a few of us here today this is a solemn and most momentous occasion, and yet in the history of our nation it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place, as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every 4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.”
Wishing you all a calm and peaceful holiday season.
Fondly submitted,
For the Diversity Committee

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