Discrimination may contribute to decline of ‘birthweight advantage’ in black immigrants

Striking and disturbing findings from Florida. Contrast between Blacks and Latinos also striking:

Black women have the highest prevalence of low birthweight babies compared to other racial and ethnic groups, but black immigrants typically have much better outcomes than their U.S.-born counterparts. Yet, little has been known about whether this “healthy immigrant” effect persists across generations.

According to a new study published by Princeton University researchers, the substantial “birthweight advantage” experienced by the foreign-born black population is lost within a single generation. In contrast, a modest advantage among foreign-born Hispanics persists across generations.

The authors suspect discrimination and inequality in the U.S. may be a contributing factor to this decline. Experiences of interpersonal discrimination, both before and during pregnancy, are likely to trigger physiological stress responses that negatively affect birth outcomes, they said.

The study, published in Epidemiology, has important public health implications given that low birthweight is a significant predictor of a broad range of health and socioeconomic outcomes throughout one’s life. The findings also underscore the potential role of discrimination in producing racial and intergenerational disparities in birth outcomes.

The research was conducted by Noreen Goldman, the Hughes-Rogers Professor of Demography and Public Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and first author Theresa Andrasfay, who received her Ph.D. from Princeton’s Program in Population Studies.

Motivated by an earlier study of a small number of black immigrants in Illinois in the 1950-1970s, the researchers felt that conclusions regarding intergenerational changes in birthweight warranted a larger sample based on recent data in a popular immigrant destination state.

The authors analyzed administrative records from 1971 to 2015 in Florida, which receives a large number of black immigrants from the Caribbean. They linked several hundred thousand birth records of daughters to those of their mothers. This allowed them to compare birthweights of daughters born to foreign-born and U.S.-born mothers with the birthweights of their granddaughters. The study provides estimates of these intergenerational changes in birthweight for white, Hispanic, and black women.

The results point to what the researchers call a large foreign-born advantage among blacks: 7.8% of daughters born to foreign-born black women are low birthweight (under 2,500 grams or 5.5 pounds) compared to 11.8% among U.S.-born black women. But, whereas foreign-born Hispanic women maintain a birthweight advantage in the next generation, black women see this advantage essentially eliminated with the birth of their granddaughters. These granddaughters are more than 50% more likely than their mothers to be low birthweight. In contrast, the increase in low birthweight prevalence between daughters and granddaughters of U.S.-born black women is only about 10%, which is more in line with national increases in low birthweight over the same time period.

Andrasfay and Goldman were surprised by the rapidity with which the foreign-born advantage among black women was lost. After only one generation spent in the U.S., the prevalence of low birthweight is almost as high among the granddaughters of foreign-born black women as among the granddaughters of U.S.-born black women (12.2% vs. 13.1%) and is considerably higher for both groups of black infants than for white and Hispanic babies.

The authors identified an equally striking finding with regard to differences in low birthweight by level of schooling. Contrary to the pattern found among all other racial and ethnic groups, foreign-born black women are about as likely to have a low birthweight daughter if they have low or high levels of schooling. However, in the next generation, the prevalence of low birthweight declines as maternal education increases. This likely reflects a difference in the context in which mothers received their education.

In the U.S., mothers with less than high school education are disadvantaged in multiple ways, but women who obtained this same level of schooling before immigrating to the U.S. were likely relatively advantaged in their origin countries.”

Theresa Andrasfay, First Author

The authors controlled for socioeconomic and health-related risk factors, including characteristics of women’s neighborhoods that varied among racial, ethnic, and nativity groups, but these factors did not account for their findings. They concluded that the high frequency of low birthweight babies among blacks, and the increase from daughters to granddaughters among black immigrants, were likely both due to exposure to discrimination and inequality. “Unfortunately,” said Goldman, “high quality measures of discrimination are notoriously difficult to obtain.”

The researchers note several limitations of the study. The study is based on birth records from only one state, Florida, and in order to observe multiple generations within the same family, the study was restricted to families in which both daughters and granddaughters were born in Florida. Though the main analysis used only female births, there is evidence that the findings extend to male births. Nevertheless, their study has important implications.

“Though black immigrants currently make up a small share of the population, their numbers are growing,” said Andrasfay. “This growth emphasizes the importance of understanding how their health evolves with time in the U.S. to better understand future disparities.”

“Foreign-born blacks may experience less prejudice than their U.S.-born peers because they have spent part of their lives in majority black countries where discrimination may be less severe than in the U.S.,” said Goldman. “In contrast, their children spend their entire lives in a more racialized social environment than found in the Caribbean, which could explain the worsening of birth outcomes between generations.”

“This study also underscores the need for more research,” said Goldman, “both to develop better measures of interpersonal discrimination and to identify epigenetic mechanisms that link social stressors to birth outcomes among black women.”

The paper, “Intergenerational change in birthweight: effects of foreign-born status and race/ethnicity,” was published online in Epidemiology on June 1 and will be featured in the September print edition.

Source: Discrimination may contribute to decline of ‘birthweight advantage’ in black immigrants

The ‘Ferociously Contested’ Story of How Blackness Became a Legal Identity

Interesting historical account:

How did Africans become “blacks” in the Americas?

Those who were forced into the ships of the infamous slave trade probably thought of themselves using ethnic and territorial terms that have been lost to us. But across the ocean, enslavers and local elites lumped Africans of many different backgrounds into a single category of debasement, “n—–s,” and sustained this category through laws that regulated freedom.

But the creation of racial identity through legal means took some surprising turns.

From the beginning, enslaved people and free people of African ancestry used those same laws to claim freedom and citizenship for themselves and their loved ones. They created spaces for communities where “blackness” and freedom were not only possible, but foundational.

Although free people of color were few in number compared to enslaved people, and lived on the margins of plantation societies in many ways, the contests over their identities, status, and rights were the terrain on which race was made. Legal contests over freedom determined whether and how it was possible to move from slave to free status, and whether claims of citizenship would be tied to racial identity.

By the early 18th century, Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana (all colonies themselves, of the Spanish, British, and French Empires, respectively), had legal regimes that constituted blackness as a debased category equivalent to enslavement. But 150 years later, by the mid-19th century, the social implications of blackness in each of these regions were fundamentally different.

In Cuba in the 1850s, a free man of color could marry a white woman, attend public school, and participate in a religious association that gave him opportunities to be part of public life. But, in 1850s Louisiana or Virginia, a free man of color saw his churches and schools being shut down, faced prosecution for marrying across the color line, and ran the risk of being kidnapped, imprisoned, and even re-enslaved for remaining in the state in which he was born.

In Louisiana or Virginia, when a person sought to prove in court that he was not a person of color, he would bring evidence of civic acts, because citizenship and whiteness were so closely linked in political thought and legal doctrine that a citizen must be a white man, and only a white man could be a citizen. In Cuba, similar conduct was not necessarily incompatible with blackness.

The key to understanding these divergent trajectories lies in the law of freedom. Different approaches to freedom were rooted in various legal traditions. The right to manumission, for example, was firmly entrenched in the Spanish law of slavery, and so in Cuba manumission, or release from slavery, was not tied to race, a crucial difference from both Louisiana and Virginia.

One turning point in this story was the Age of Revolution. The populations of free people of color, who claimed freedom in rising numbers, exploded in all three jurisdictions, and the example of the Haitian Revolution inspired the enslaved as it struck fear in the hearts of enslavers.

In Cuba in the 1850s, a free man of color could marry a white woman, attend public school, and participate in a religious association that gave him opportunities to be part of public life. But, in 1850s Louisiana or Virginia, a free man of color saw his churches and schools being shut down, faced prosecution for marrying across the color line, and ran the risk of being kidnapped, imprisoned, and even re-enslaved for remaining in the state in which he was born.

But the expansion of freedom meant different things in the Spanish empire and in the U.S. republic. Communities of people of color in Cuba and Spanish Louisiana owed their existence to legal understandings and customary practices anchored in traditions of the ancien regime. Enslaved people who managed to purchase their freedom or, more rarely, obtained manumission through other means, became members of highly stratified societies. Black freedom did not imply social equality and republican rights.

By contrast, in Virginia during the Age of Revolution, the expansion of manumission, and the increase in freedom lawsuits, were tied to questions of citizenship, and of black participation in the new political order under conditions of equality. Enslaved and free people of color alike infused these questions with a sense of urgency, as they made use of every available legal loophole to purchase or make claims for their own freedom. Their actions produced dramatic results: by the early 19th century, the proportion of free people of color in Virginia had increased significantly.

Virginia’s white citizens witnessed these trends with horror and petitioned to outlaw manumissions. It was, literally, a reactionary request: to restore the colonial law of freedom. The 1806 law requiring freed slaves to leave the state fell short of that goal, but marked the first step towards a social order in which blacks could only exist as slaves.

After Nat Turner’s rebellion in 1831, whites’ political will to exclude free blacks intensified. Slaveholding states in the U.S. South responded to threats of rebellion, and to Northern abolitionists’ demands for immediate emancipation, with a defense of slavery as a positive good: the best possible condition for debased “Negroes.” To galvanize the support of non-slaveholding whites, Southerners cemented white solidarity by defining citizenship and voting rights along racial lines.

This movement created a paradox: egalitarian democracy would go hand-in-hand with the expansion of racist practices and ideologies. As slaveholders appealed to non-slaveholders with the promise of broad citizenship rights for all white men, free people of color became increasingly anomalous, and even dangerous to the polity. That is why colonization efforts that sought to remove free blacks to a distant location in Africa prospered in 19th-century Virginia and Louisiana (which changed hands to the United States in 1803), but not in Cuba.

That is also why Virginia and Louisiana acted in the 19th century, especially in the 1850s, to end the possibility of manumission, self-purchase, or freedom suits. By 1860, free people of color in Virginia and Louisiana were increasingly forced to leave the state upon emancipation or to live under threat of prosecution. A few even chose “voluntary” re-enslavement in order to remain with their families.

Free people of color continued to claim freedom in court, and fought tenaciously for the basic rights to a homeland, to remain close to friends and kin, and to live in their communities of origin. Yet they saw their militia and schools shut down, and their churches survived only under white leadership. Increasingly contested battles in court over racial identity attested to the growing anxiety over black citizenship and the need to prove whiteness in order to claim basic rights.

By 1860, Cuba had diverged significantly from Louisiana and Virginia—not in its legal regime of slavery, but rather in its regime of race. Enslaved people in Cuba took advantage of legal reforms that were not intended for their benefit to carve out greater freedoms for themselves. But in Virginia and Louisiana, where the status of communities of color was reduced to something closer to slavery. Race rather than enslavement became the true “impassable barrier,” in the words of Justice Roger B. Taney. In Cuba, where free people of color could be rights-bearing subjects, enslavement was the dividing line.

Laws regulating free people of color also served as a template for post-emancipation societies seeking ways to keep black people in their place. Slavery laws did not translate forward in the same way that regulations based on race did. When Southerners sought to restore the antebellum order after the Civil War, they could not re-impose slavery, but they passed Black Codes whose language echoed the laws regarding free people of color almost exactly. Under the Black Codes, freedmen could enter into contracts, own property, and appear in court on their own behalf. But in myriad other ways, their lives were constricted, just as they would have been if emancipated before 1861.

In the U.S., laws limiting the immigration of free people of color from one state into the other were the first immigration restrictions. These statutes echo into the 20th century—and to the present day—in limitations on the right to immigrate into the U.S. based on racial and national identity. In Cuba, on the other hand, legal racial barriers came under increasing attack even before final emancipation in 1886. In the 1880s, limitations on interracial marriages were eliminated and racial segregation in public services and education was outlawed. These changes were an imperial imperative. As the colonial state of Spain sought to retain control over its restive colony of Cuba, it had to cultivate the political support of the free black population. By 1898, the island’s short-lived political regime of “autonomy” recognized black males as voting subjects with equal rights.

The transition from black slavery to black citizenship was neither linear nor preordained. It was as contentious and ferociously contested a process in Cuba as it was in Virginia and Louisiana. But the new struggles for standing and citizenship took place against the backdrop of significantly different legal regimes of race. From being enslaved to being a citizen, the connecting tissue before and after emancipation for black people was not “from slave to citizen,” but from black to black.

Source: The ‘Ferociously Contested’ Story of How Blackness Became a Legal Identity

Racial divide of COVID-19 patients in U.S. grows even starker as new data suggests disproportionate black patients

Yet more evidence and advocacy:

As a clearer picture emerges of COVID-19’s decidedly deadly toll on black Americans, leaders are demanding a reckoning of the systemic policies they say have made many African Americans far more vulnerable to the virus, including inequity in access to health care and economic opportunity.

A growing chorus of medical professionals, activists and political figures are pressuring the federal government to not just release comprehensive racial demographic data of the country’s coronavirus victims, but also to outline clear strategies to blunt the devastation on African Americans and other communities of colour.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its first breakdown of COVID-19 case data by race, showing that 30% of patients whose race was known were black. The federal data was missing racial information for 75% of all cases, however, and did not include any demographic breakdown of deaths.

The latest Associated Press analysis of available state and local data shows that nearly one-third of those who have died are African American, with black people representing about 14% of the population in the areas covered in the analysis.

Roughly half the states, representing less than a fifth of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths, have yet to release demographic data on fatalities. In states that have, about a quarter of the death records are missing racial details.

Health conditions that exist at higher rates in the black community – obesity, diabetes and asthma – make African Americans more susceptible to the virus. They also are more likely to be uninsured, and often report that medical professionals take their ailments less seriously when they seek treatment.

“It’s America’s unfinished business – we’re free, but not equal,” civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson told the AP. “There’s a reality check that has been brought by the coronavirus, that exposes the weakness and the opportunity.”

This week, Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the National Medical Association, a group representing African American physicians and patients, released a joint public health strategy calling for better COVID-19 testing and treatment data. The groups also urged officials to provide better protections for incarcerated populations and to recruit more African Americans to the medical field.

Jackson also expressed support for a national commission to study the black COVID-19 toll modelled after the Kerner Commission, which studied the root causes of race riots in African American communities in the 1960s and made policy recommendations to prevent future unrest.

Daniel Dawes, director of Morehouse College’s School of Medicine’s Satcher Health Leadership Institute, said America’s history of segregation and policies led to the racial health disparities that exist today.

“If we do not take an appreciation for the historical context and the political determinants, then we’re only merely going to nibble around the edges of the problem of inequities,” he said.

The release of demographic data for the country’s coronavirus victims remains a priority for many civil rights and public health advocates, who say the numbers are needed to address disparities in the national response to the pandemic.

The AP analysis, based on data through Thursday, found that of the more than 21,500 victims whose demographic data was known and disclosed by officials, more than 6,350 were black, a rate of nearly 30%. African Americans account for 14.2% of the 241 million people who live in the areas covered by the analysis, which encompasses 24 states and the cities of Washington D.C., Houston, Memphis, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia – places where statewide data was unavailable.

The nation had recorded more than 33,000 deaths as of Thursday.

In some areas, Native American communities also have been hit hard. In New Mexico, Native Americans account for nearly 37% of the state’s 1,484 cases and about 11% of the state’s population. Of the 112 deaths where race is known in Arizona, 30 were Native Americans.

After Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation this week to try to compel federal health officials to post daily data breaking down cases and deaths by race, ethnicity and other demographics, the CDC released only caseload data that – similar to the AP’s analysis of deaths – show 30 per cent of 111,633 infected patients whose race is known were black. African American patients in the 45-to-64 and 65-to-74 age groups represented an even larger share of the national caseload.

The lawmakers sent a letter last month to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar urging federal release of the demographic data. And Joe Biden, the former vice-president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, also called for its release.

Meanwhile, some black leaders have described the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19 as inadequate, after what they said was a hastily organized call with Vice-President Mike Pence and CDC Director Robert Redfield last week.

According to a recording of the call obtained by the AP, Redfield said the CDC has been collecting demographic data from death certificates but that the comprehensiveness of the data depends on state and local health departments, many of which are overburdened by virus response. No plan was offered to help health officials in hard-hit communities collect the data, leaders who were on the call said.

Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which took part in the call, said African Americans “have every reason to be alarmed at the administration’s anemic response to the disproportionate impact that this crisis is having on communities of colour.”

Mistrust runs deep among residents in many communities.

St. Louis resident Randy Barnes is grappling not just with the emotional toll of losing his brother to the coronavirus, but also with the feeling that his brother’s case was not taken seriously.

Barnes said the hospital where his brother sought treatment initially sent him home without testing him and suggested he self-quarantine for 14 days. Five days later, his brother was back in hospital, where he was placed on a ventilator for two weeks. He died April 13. Barnes’ brother and his wife also were caring for an 88-year-old man in the same apartment, who died from the virus around the same time.

“Those people are not being tested. They’re not being cared for,” Barnes said.

Eugene Rush lives in one of the areas outside large urban cities that have been hit hard with coronavirus cases. He is a sergeant for the sheriff’s department in Michigan’s Washtenaw County, west of Detroit, where black residents account for 46% of the COVID-19 cases but represent only 12% of the county’s population.

Rush, whose job includes community engagement, was diagnosed with COVID-19 near the end of March after what he initially thought was just a sinus infection. He had to be hospitalized twice, but is now on the mend at home, along with his 16-year-old son, who also was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“I had a former lieutenant for the city of Ypsilanti who passed while I was in the hospital and I had some fraternity brothers who caught the virus and were sick at the hospital,” Rush said. “At that point, I said, ‘Well, this is really, really affecting a lot of people’ and they were mostly African American. That’s how I knew that it was really taking a toll a little bit deeper in the African American community than I realized.”

Source: Racial divide of COVID-19 patients in U.S. grows even starker as new data suggests disproportionate black patients

How afrofuturism gives Black people the confidence to survive doubt and anti-Blackness

New term to me. Not sure whether fantasy or escapism is more effective than real people and role models although greater diversity in all forms of entertainment and culture important:

In 2018, Black people globally got a signal of hope when director Ryan Coogler and Marvel Studios released the critically acclaimed movie, Black Panther. While few knew of the Black Panther as a superhero despite the comic being released in the 1960s, millions now know of him because of the film’s overwhelming success.

Its success can be due, in part, because of what it tells us about Black people’s futures. Many Black people — seeking belonging and better outcomes for their lives — have turned to afrofuturism as the source of optimism. According to afrofuturist expert and author Ytasha Womack, afrofuturism refers to “an intersection of imagination, technology, the future and liberation … Afrofuturists redefine culture and notions of Blackness for today and the future by combining elements of science fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, afrocentricity and magic realism with non-western beliefs.”

Black Panther had Black people chanting “Wakanda Forever,” while many imagined that they too could put on the Black Panther suit to gain a sense of belonging. Black people, including Canadians, believed that Wakanda, the utopian city where the Black Panther resides, is a real place. For Black Canadians, Wakanda offers a place that exists outside the harsh reality of an anti-Black white settler narrative that is anti-Black.

Black legal scholar Lolita Buckner Inniss says anti-Black racism is deeply enmeshed in the Canadian social fabric. Anti-Black racism cuts deep enough so that many, if not all, Black Canadians feel there is no hope for a better future.

Afrofuturism in cinema is but one source. Writer Nnedi Okorafor’s 2015 science fiction novella, Binti, features a Black woman protagonist named Binti Ekeopara Zuzu Dambu Kaipka. Binti is an intelligent woman leader of the Himba tribe whose genius gets her into to the prestigious Oomza University, which floats about the galaxy. Binti is the first member of the Himba ethnic people to attend the school. Her decision to attend is met with ridicule, laughter and threats to her life due to the fear and insecurities of her people.

Her people have never been allowed to imagine futures beyond their traditional way of life and identification with the land. Binti states:

We Himba don’t travel. We stay put. Our ancestral land is life; move away from it and you diminish. We even cover our bodies with it. Otjize is red land. Here in the launch port, most were Khoush and a few other non-Himba. Here, I was an outsider; I was outside.

She echoes the social challenges that Black people face when embarking upon new ways of living after leaving traditional family and cultural contexts. Often, their families and cultures pressure them to remain entrenched within the known confines of family, culture and community, rather than explore the new and unknown.

One of us, Anthony, was the first member of his immediate family to attend post-secondary education and graduate school. He wanted to apply to graduate school but had to fight internalized feelings of low self-worth that insisted he did not belong in academia. Indeed, a lack of self-confidence influenced the choice to avoid applying to programs that required a high grade-point average with a full scholarship because he did not believe he would be accepted.

Blazing a trail to a Black future

In her village, Binti had been one of the few who used knowledge to create peace in her tribe, so she had to overcome pressure to remain in the village in order to embrace new learning. On a spaceship, travelling from her village to the Oomza University, Binti as the only Himba at the university encounters another obstacle: the false assumption that people from her land are evil, dirty and primitive.

In one moment, one of the Khoush (a different lighter-skinned tribe) students touches Binti’s braids out of curiosity and without consent. Her hair is mixed with sweet smelling red clay and perfume called Otijze, which is connected to her cultural heritage. One of the Khoush students responds that it has a horrible smell, suggesting a passive discriminatory logic of sanitation.

One can observe strong echoes of the attitudes of privileged whites towards high-priority Black neighbourhoods whose inhabitants are stereotyped as criminal, irrational, impoverished and unintelligent. The book suggests that there is no such thing as neutral space and that structural inequities and racial inequalities make space and place difficult to navigate, especially in elitist environments.

But Binti is gripped by the challenge of the new. Her journey of self-discovery begins when she decides to leave village life, defying her ancestors’ dedication to their land and cultural identity. Binti explains that tribal knowledge was handed down orally as her father had taught her 300 years of oral lessons “about astrolabes including how they worked, the art of them, the true negotiation of them, the lineage … circuits, wire, metals, oils, heat, electricity, math current and sand bar.” Her mother had also transmitted mathematical insights and gifts, but never in formal educational settings. Family unity and protection were paramount.

Binti symbolizes the trailblazer who encounters politics, racism, stereotypes, ignorance, systemic inequalities, gender inequities, classism and so on. Additionally, she faces the strong pull of past traditions since she is the first member of her family and tribe to attend a formal educational institute.

Afrofuturism offers a way for Black people to envision their futures, as Missy Elliot’s futuristic music videos exemplify.

Some Black individuals living such stories will inevitably encounter feelings of isolation, lack of belonging and self-doubt. Their internal battles will pit self-trust and the drive towards the new against the safety and security of the past. They will have to develop a secure sense of self and an understanding that it does not matter how far they travel among the galaxies because everyone has unique gifts they can contribute to the universe.

Against the pull of anxieties and insecurities, Anthony graduated with a master’s degree and a PhD; he currently has a post-doctoral fellowship — yet is in another galaxy of his own among the stars.

Afro-Caribbean Black people living in white settler, colonized nations such as Canada face discrimination and negative stereotypes. Afrofuturism can enable Black communities to reimagine new possibilities, especially when the future trajectory for Black Canadians is at times uncertain.

Source: How afrofuturism gives Black people the confidence to survive doubt and anti-Blackness

The Case for a More Negative Black History Month

Canadian media coverage overwhelmingly celebrates the positive as well:

Black History Month is traditionally a time to honor black Americans and, theoretically, accord them their proper place in American history. Every February we re-examine the exemplary lives of Harriet Tubman, Charles Drew, Frederick Douglass and those of lesser known but truly significant leaders, artists, scientists, thinkers and others.

The occasion has always felt too narrow to me. We are eager to celebrate our favorite figures and their trailblazing achievements — Obama is the latest — but less eager to examine the fact that their heroism was based more often than not in fighting an American system that fought — and still fights — against their status as full Americans. Perhaps it’s because black people don’t want to ruin the Black History Month party and white people would rather not examine their role in the racism that made the month necessary in the first place. I’ve grumbled for years about the shortcomings I see but have always come down on the side of celebration. We deserve it.

But the party (though God knows we could use one) can’t be the point this time. In 2020, at this very perilous moment in the history of us all, it’s urgent that we turn the lens around, take it off the worthy black individuals and put it on America as a whole. It’s time to acknowledge what black history really reveals — not individual heroism or the endurance of democratic ideals, but their opposites. Time to examine what black history has always shown us: how hundreds of years of codified oppression, groupthink, hypocrisy, lies and political cowardice have made possible, and palatable, the political oppression and moral corruption of the current moment that threatens to wipe out democracy for everybody.

I don’t exaggerate. We’ve already had lots of alarmed post-mortems about the recently concluded Senate impeachment trial in which the Republicans united to ensure no witnesses were called. The party is increasingly recognized as a cult that serves not people — after all, 75 percent of Americans wanted to see more evidence — but its own interests. It is flaunting this self-interest openly, à la Trump, even suggesting that racist, crude or unconstitutional acts by the president are simply idiosyncrasies — or executive privilege — that are ultimately good for democracy. America appears to be, as Susan Sontag might have said, at the end of seriousness.

But we have been at this end before. We have always been here. The institution of slavery meant that the Constitution, for all its worthy prescriptions that Representative Adam Schiff defended so eloquently during the House trial, was going to be a document undermined from the beginning by the founders’ tacit embrace of that institution. Black history rooted in slavery means that the country was always going to have to make ugly compromises with its own ideals, a process that became normalized. The longevity of slavery meant that business and the pursuit of profit, not justice, would be the dominant force in American life and the real energy driving even the most optimistic notions of American exceptionalism. Put in this context, the cult of Trump is not new, just another compromise with our ideals, albeit a far-reaching one that looks particularly bad in the allegedly enlightened post-civil rights era of the 21st century.

The good news may be that America is finally feeling the embarrassment about the flaws in its national character that it should have felt 400 years ago. Embarrassment is not moral outrage, but it’s a start. The civil rights revolt of the ’60s was greatly aided by the images on television of police dogs and white officers attacking black protesters who were only seeking the right to sit at lunch counters and shop at department stores. It was bad public relations for America, and in the end, bad for business.

That was then. Embarrassment — forget moral outrage — is totally lacking now among Republicans, who willingly take their cues from a man incapable of feeling remorse or regret for any reason. Far from being embarrassed, the cult now seems to be saying that racism and corporate supremacy are, if not actually good for business, conditions we all can and perhaps should live with. Again, not new — we all lived with the economics of Jim Crow for a hundred years. But in 2020 the consequences of clinging to the status quo are incredibly far-reaching.

What we must come to grips with is that the arrogance and myopia that made our race-based social caste system possible, that allowed us to dishonor our Constitution and delude ourselves on a regular basis, are the same arrogance and myopia that are now threatening the well-being of the entire planet. Denying climate change is part and parcel of denying the corrosive effects of segregation. The point is that America is very good at making its own reality, which is another way of saying it has always tolerated — even welcomed — fake news and alternative facts for the sake of power and political convenience.

All this month, I’ve wondered: Would Harriet Tubman, et al, have been surprised at this state of affairs? I think not. Disappointed for sure, but not surprised; I doubt any black freedom fighter expected a country so wedded to inequality to significantly change in his or her lifetime or ours. Yet if we as a country don’t significantly change our view of our own history, which is framed in black history, there will be precious little in the future to celebrate.

Source: The Case for a More Negative Black History Month

Race and Medicine: The Harm That Comes From Mistrust: Racial bias still affects many aspects of health care.

Good overview of the data and issues:

Racial discrimination has shaped so many American institutions that perhaps it should be no surprise that health care is among them. Put simply, people of color receive less care — and often worse care — than white Americans.

Reasons includes lower rates of health coverage; communication barriers; and racial stereotyping based on false beliefs.

Predictably, their health outcomes are worse than those of whites.

African-American patients tend to receive lower-quality health services, including for cancer, H.I.V., prenatal care and preventive care, vast research shows. They are also less likely to receive treatment for cardiovascular disease, and they are more likely to have unnecessary limb amputations.

As part of “The 1619 Project,” Evelynn Hammonds, a historian of science at Harvard, told Jeneen Interlandi of The New York Times: “There has never been any period in American history where the health of blacks was equal to that of whites. Disparity is built into the system.”

African-American men, in particular, have the worst health outcomes of any major demographic group. In part, research shows, this is a result of mistrust from a legacy of discrimination.

At age 45, the life expectancy of black men is more than three years less than that of non-Hispanic Caucasian men. According to a study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, part of the historical black-white mortality difference can be attributed to a 40-year experiment by the U.S. Public Health Service that shook African-Americans’ confidence in the nation’s health system.

From 1932 to 1972, the Public Health Service tracked about 600 hundred low-income African-American men in Tuskegee, Ala., about 400 of whom had syphilis. The stated purpose was to better understand the natural course of the disease. To do so, the men were lied to about the study and provided sham treatments. Many needlessly passed the disease on to family members, suffered and died.

As one scholar put it, the Tuskegee study “revealed more about the pathology of racism than it did about the pathology of syphilis.” In fact, the natural course of syphilis was already largely understood.

The study was publicized in 1972 and immediately halted. To this day, it is frequently cited as a driver of documented distrust in the health system by African-Americans. That distrust has helped compromise many public health efforts — including those to slow the spread of H.I.V., contain tuberculosis outbreaks and broadenprovision of preventive care.

According to work by the economists Marcella Alsan and Marianne Wanamaker, black men are less likely than white men to seek health care and more likely to die at younger ages. Their analysis suggests that one-third of the black-white gap in male life expectancy in the immediate aftermath of the study could be attributed to the legacy of distrust connected to the Tuskegee study.

Their study relies on interpreting observational data, not a randomized trial, so there is room for skepticism about the specific findings and interpretation. Nevertheless, the findings are consistent with lots of other work that reveals African-Americans’ distrust of the health system, their receipt of less care, and their worse health outcomes.

The Tuskegee study is far from the only unjust treatment of nonwhite groups in health care. Thousands of nonwhite women have been sterilized without consent. For instance, between the 1930s and 1970s, one-third of Puerto Rican women of childbearing age were sterilized, many under coercion.

Likewise, in the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of Native American women were sterilized without consent, and a California eugenics law forced or coerced thousands of sterilizations of women (and men) of Mexican descent in the 20th century. (Thirty-two other states have had such laws, which were applied disproportionatelyto people of color.)

For decades, sickle cell disease, which mostly affects African-Americans, received less attention than other diseases, raisingquestions about the role of race in how medical research priorities are established.

A ‘Rare Case Where Racial Biases’ Protected African-Americans

Outside of research, routine medical practice continues to treat black and white patients differently. This has been documented in countless ways, including how practitioners view pain. Racial bias in health care and over-prescription of opioid painkillers accidentally spared some African-Americans from the level of mortality from opioid medications observed in white populations.

“While African-Americans may not have died at similar rates from opioid misuse, we can be sure needless suffering and, perhaps even death, occurred because provider racism prevented them from receiving appropriate care and pain medication,” said Linda Goler Blount, president and chief executive of the Black Women’s Health Imperative.

Of course, health outcomes are a result of much more than health care. The health of people of color is also unequal to that of whites because of differences in health behaviors, education and income, to name a few factors. But there is no doubt that the health system plays a role, too. Nor is there question that a history of discrimination and structural racism underlies racial differences in all these drivers of health.

Reinforcing the fact of racial bias in health care, a recent studyfound that care for black patients is better when they see black doctors. The study randomly assigned 1,300 African-Americans to black or nonblack primary care physicians. Those who saw black doctors received 34 percent more preventive services. One reason for this, supported by the study, is increased trust and communication.

The study findings are large. If all black men received the same increase in preventive services as those in the study (and received appropriate follow-up care), it would reduce the black-white cardiovascular mortality rate by 19 percent and shrink the total black-white male life expectancy gap by 8 percent, the researchers said.

But it is unlikely all black men could see black doctors even if they wished to. Although African-Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, only 4 percent of current physicians — and less than 7 percent of recent medical school graduates — are black.

This study does not stand alone. A systematic review found that racially matched pairs of patients and doctors achieved better communication. Other studies found that many nonwhite patientsprefer practitioners who share their racial identity and that they receive better care from them. They view them as better than white physicians in communicating, providing respectful treatment and being available.

Racial bias in health care, as in other American institutions, is as old or older than the republic itself.

Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act stipulates that neither race, color nor national origin may be used as a means of denying the “benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” As nearly every facet of the American health system receives federal financing and support, well-documented and present-day discrimination in health care suggests the law has not yet had its intended effect.

Source: Race and Medicine: The Harm That Comes From Mistrust

Venture Capital Firms Abandoning $4.4 Trillion Opportunity to Invest With Black and Women Entrepreneurs

Interesting, both for the analysis itself and that it was by Morgan Stanley:

Venture capital firms across America are neglecting a $4.4 trillion opportunity to increase their returns by not investing with companies owned by multicultural and women entrepreneurs, a new survey by investment banking giant Morgan Stanley suggests.

The survey, Beyond the VC Funding Gap, found that almost 200 U.S.-based venture capital (VC) firms and diverse entrepreneurs that have raised venture capital triumphantly are not utilizing known ways to boost their exposure or increasing the probability that they will invest in more diverse founders.

A staggering 83% of VCs surveyed reported they are confident they can prioritize investments in companies led by women and multicultural entrepreneurs and maximize returns. Some 60% of VCs stated their portfolios hold too few of these companies. However, just three out of five VCs reported making investments in women and multicultural entrepreneurs is not a firm-wide priority.

Multicultural and women founders cited “not the right fit for me” and “market-related issues” among the top reasons given by VC firms for not investing in their companies.

What is perhaps most startling is the potential amount of money VCs are leaving behind by not investing in the firms. Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Survey of Business Owners and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, Morgan Stanley reported revenues for women and minority businesses were $2.4 trillion. The firm said had the number of women and minority-owned businesses and a portion of revenues matched their percentage in the labor force—56%—then 2012 gross receipts would have risen to $6.8 trillion, suggesting a missed opportunity of up to $4.4 trillion.

TAKING THE RIGHT APPROACH

“Our research indicates that with a few subtle shifts in their approach, VCs can better position themselves to take advantage of these entrepreneurs and generate superior returns. I hope that this report will help to inspire more firms to re-evaluate their investment strategies so they can capitalize on these opportunities that have historically passed them by,” stated Carla Harris, Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman, Global Wealth Management and Multicultural Client Strategy Group Head.

The NVCA did not specifically address some of the issues pertaining to multicultural and women-owned firms raised in the Morgan Stanley report. But the Washington, DC-based trade group for the nation’s venture capital industry said it is taking several steps to ensure its membership works with and engages with those firms.

The group provided BLACK ENTERPRISE this statement from Maryam Hague, NVCA’s senior vice president of industry advancement:  “Through our VentureForward initiative, NVCA is committed to expanding opportunities for people of all backgrounds to thrive in the venture ecosystem and ensuring everyone who works in this ecosystem has a welcoming professional culture and safe work environment. Some of our activities to date include: NVCA-Deloitte Human Capital Survey – this survey is intended to be an educational resource for venture capital firms to understand how to expand the diversity of their teams and portfolio companies; LP Office Hours in Palo Alto, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. LP Office Hours is an in-person, half-day educational program across the country for professionals of diverse backgrounds to receive advice from and connect with LPs and other GPs, with the goal of learning from LPs about the fundraising process; NVCA hosts workshops and leadership dinners in San Francisco, Boston, and cities around the U.S. interacting with VC leaders in emerging ecosystems; and we have released model HR policies and best practices for attracting and retaining diverse talent. NVCA also offers several educational opportunities to democratize access to education on VC and to support the next generation of VC leaders, e.g. VC University and the Venture Capital Symposium.”

The Morgan Stanley report revealed VC firms not acting on the data on diverse entrepreneurs could be causing them to miss out on returns. That perhaps is potentially being fueled by a lack of awareness of multicultural and women firms in-house. Some 45% of VCs surveyed didn’t know how the returns from companies founded by women compared with their overall portfolio returns. And 53% of VCs were unsure about the returns of firms with multicultural founders.

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE MARKETPLACE

Still, Morgan Stanley stated a closer look at the broader marketplace reveals that companies serving diverse customers represent a huge opportunity to capitalize on consumer segments with plenty of room for more growth. For example, the firm reported that women drive 83% of all U.S. consumption, through both buying power and influence. Plus, African Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually in the U.S. And, (Latin) consumers’ buying power is expected to reach $1.7 trillion by 2020.

Concurrently, the Morgan Stanley report revealed VCs have a reputation for taking calculated “expansion risks” to invest in new and emerging markets — frequently with little precedent or data beyond their own due diligence. Of the VCs surveyed, they reported about 20% of the companies in their portfolios that embody expansion risks. Yet, when they bump into companies run by ethnic and women, entrepreneurs, VCs are less likely to educate themselves or take the risk, particularly if they are not familiar with the market or product.

Yet 88% of the VCs surveyed view the experiences of underrepresented entrepreneurs as a competitive advantage when it comes to identifying different problems that need to be solved. Companies typically created by diverse and women entrepreneurs target a market inefficiency or need they’ve identified based on their personal experiences, making them ideal candidates for the specific types of calculated expansion risks VCs should be looking at.

Concurrently, companies started by women and multicultural entrepreneurs have been and continue to be a moneymaking investment opportunity. Morgan Stanley maintains it has been investing directly in startups led by diverse founders for the past three years.

In its survey, Morgan Stanley named some firms that have provided investors hefty returns. Take Sundial Brands, one of the largest black-owned personal care products led by co-founder Richelieu Dennis. It was acquired in 2017 by consumer products giant Unilever. Sundial Brands, a former BLACK ENTERPRISE BE 100s company,  had revenues estimated at $240 million when it was purchased. After the deal, Morgan Stanley valued Sundial Brands at a whopping $1 billion.

In another eye-popping deal, Nigerian native and entrepreneur Chinedu Echeruo sold his HopStop.com pedestrian navigation service to tech powerhouse Apple for an estimated $1 billion in 2013. The transaction was stunning as HopStop had estimated revenues of just $5 million in 2012.

Morgan Stanley’s Harris defines multicultural companies as those with an  African American, Hispanic, Asian or American Indian founder.

She says VCs may have held back historically from investing in such firms because up until now there really wasn’t much evidence they were missing something. However, she says, both the evidence and the number on the size of the opportunity exists currently for them to consider doing so.

“The time is now for people to embrace the conversation if not the debate,” Harris says. “The really big surprise is that even though the multicultural and women firms can provide traditional VCs stellar or equal returns (as their peers) that they’re not investing with them for some reason,” she says.

REPRESENTATION MATTERS

Another factor that perhaps is contributing to the funding gap is a lack of diversity at VC firms.

The lack of diversity among VC firms perhaps is adding to the funding gap. The survey showed among VCs who have hired more diverse fund managers, LPs, partners or board members, 71% say it is a “very effective” way to increase the diversity of companies and founders they invest in. Some two-thirds of multicultural founders reported that they have had more success with diverse VC firms. But, only 11% of entrepreneurs have teamed up with VC firms that are diverse when it comes to gender and race.

“The fact that they (VC firms) don’t have more diversity at the table certainly limits their understanding of some of these industries,” Harris says. “Diversity would make it a lot easier to do so.”

Harris says the encouraging news is that if you look at the private equity industry some of the nation’s largest institutional investors such as CalPERS or the New York State Common Fund are now asking their investment partners about their diversity practices. She says the questions include what does diversity in your firm look like, how many businesses of color did you look at and how many multicultural firms do you have in your pipeline for partnership? Harris is confident the actions may drive VC firms to make the shift of investing with diverse and women firms along with existing partners. “Once you see some of the outside companies start to have some success, I think it’s going to feed on itself,” she says.

Morgan Stanley offered some tips on how VC firms can tap into what the firm calls a multitrillion-dollar market by working with diverse firms. Here is a condensed version of those tips:

REDEFINE HOW YOU THINK ABOUT “FIT” AND EXPANSION RISK FOR YOUR PORTFOLIO

Adjust your definition of “expansion risk” to include companies founded and led by women and multicultural entrepreneurs. This can help expand your networking efforts among diverse entrepreneurs and help you better understand the opportunities they present.

Consider diverse entrepreneurs are more seasoned players with lower risk. When diverse entrepreneurs get to pitch VCs, they’ve already often demonstrated a stronger proof of concept, management expertise, and success metrics when compared with their white, male counterparts.

Women and multicultural entrepreneurs represent an emerging market in America, much like the internet was 20 years ago or cloud-computing a decade ago. Along with pursuing new markets and products, consider investing in the new perspectives that diverse entrepreneurs offer and the markets they serve.

DIVERSIFY

Having more women and multicultural professionals at your fund is one of the most effective strategies for increasing investments in diverse founders.

By looking inward at your hiring and retention practices and prioritizing diversity, you can improve the delivery of results for your limited partners. The traditional sources for entry-level VC talent—top business schools—have large enough pools of women and multicultural graduates to fill the need.

In addition to helping VC firms source more diverse entrepreneurs and see market opportunity more clearly, firm diversity also decreases overall risk: The more diverse perspectives VCs have, the more likely they are to recognize opportunities and identify potential pitfalls.

HOLD YOUR FIRM ACCOUNTABLE AND BE A FIRST MOVER—INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS CAN HELP

Develop a comprehensive strategy and make it public. Share data about your internal and portfolio diversity. Establishing goals for investing in more women and multicultural entrepreneurs can be an effective strategy for VCs to show their investors their commitment to effecting change; according to our survey, 86% of VCs agree that such goals would benefit themselves and their LPs.

Source: Venture Capital Firms Abandoning $4.4 Trillion Opportunity to Invest With Black and Women Entrepreneurs

How Racial Bias May Have Saved 14,000 Black Lives

Really interesting study on one of the rare positive impacts of implicit bias and discrimination:

When the opioid crisis began to escalate some 20 years ago, many African-Americans had a layer of protection against it.

But that protection didn’t come from the effectiveness of the American medical system. Instead, researchers believe, it came from racial stereotypes embedded within that system.

As unlikely as it may seem, these negative stereotypes appear to have shielded many African-Americans from fatal prescription opioid overdoses. This is not a new finding. But for the first time an analysis has put a number behind it, projecting that around 14,000 black Americans would have died had their mortality rates related to prescription opioids been equivalent to that of white Americans.

Starting in the 1990s, new prescription opioids were marketed more aggressively in white rural areas, where pain drug prescriptions were already high. African-Americans received fewer opioid prescriptions, some researchers think, because doctors believed, contrary to fact, that black people 1) were more likely to become addicted to the drugs 2) would be more likely to sell the drugs and 3) had a higher pain threshold than white people because they were biologically different.

A fourth possibility is that some white doctors were more empathetic to the pain of people who were like them, and less empathetic to those who weren’t. Some of this bias “can be unconscious,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University.

This accidental benefit for African-Americans is far outweighed by the long history of harm they have endured from inferior health care, including infamous episodes like the Tuskegee study. And it doesn’t remedy the way damaging stereotypes continue to influence aspects of medical practice today. “The reason to study this further is twofold,” Dr. Kolodny said. “It’s easy to imagine the harm that could come to blacks in the future, and we need to know what went wrong with whites, and how they were left exposed” to overprescribing.

The prescription-opioid-related mortality rates of black and white Americans were relatively similar two decades ago, but researchers found that by 2010, the rate was two times higher for whites than for African-Americans.

Because African-Americans were less likely to receive those prescriptions, they were less likely to become addicted (though they were more likely to endure unnecessary and excruciating pain for illnesses like cancer).

The researchers, Monica Alexander, a statistician with the University of Toronto; Mathew Kiang, an epidemiologist at Stanford; and Magali Barbieri, a demographer at the University of California, Berkeley; published their study in the journal Epidemiology.

With additional analysis at The Upshot’s request, Mr. Kiang calculated that had the African-American population’s mortality rates caused by prescription opioids been equivalent to those of whites, black Americans would have experienced 14,124 additional deaths from 1999 to 2017.

It’s a counterfactual analysis that relies on some large assumptions. Among other things, the projection assumes that the public health and medical response to the epidemic would have remained the same even if the African-American mortality rate had been higher. And it doesn’t take into consideration any potential changes in overdoses from heroin and fentanyl had African-Americans had greater access to prescription opioids. Still, Mr. Kiang found the results “fairly remarkable in at least two ways.”

“First, it’s a good example of how more medical care is not necessarily a good thing,” he said. “Second, it’s an extremely rare case where racial biases actually protected the population being discriminated against.”

A crackdown in recent years has reduced opioid prescribing over all, “and the racial/ethnic gap in opioid prescribing has narrowed,” said Mr. Kiang, but he said it was unclear whether the gap had closed entirely.

In recent years, drug overdoses have risen sharply among black Americans, particularly among older heroin users in places where fentanyl has become widespread. One reason that the death rates from heroin and fentanyl have converged between black and white people may be simple: Heroin and fentanyl are readily available outside the health system, so they’re less affected by bias within it.

The public response to drug epidemics also tends to diverge along racial lines. During the crack epidemic, there was a greater emphasis on punishment and incarceration. With the opioid crisis primarily affecting white people, there has been more emphasis on empathy and rehabilitation. (This same disparity was seen in crack versus powder cocaine.) Race played an obvious role in the policy response, Dr. Kolodny said: “From ‘Arrest our way out of it’ to, ‘It’s a disease.’”

Huge Racial Disparities Found in Deaths Linked to Pregnancy

Yet another example of racial disparities. Have not seen and comparative Canadian studies and grateful if any readers can direct me accordingly:

African-American, Native American and Alaska Native women die of pregnancy-related causes at a rate about three times higher than those of white women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Tuesday.

The racial disparity has persisted, even grown, for years despite frequent calls to improve access to medical care for women of color. Sixty percent of all pregnancy-related deaths can be prevented with better health care, communication and support, as well as access to stable housing and transportation, the researchers concluded.

“The bottom line is that too many women are dying largely preventable deaths associated with their pregnancy,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the C.D.C.

“We have the means to identify and close gaps in the care they receive,” she added. While not all of the deaths can be prevented, “we can and should do more.”

Maternal health among black women already has emerged as an issue in the 2020 presidential campaign. Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, have both raised the glaring racial discrepancies in maternal outcomes on the campaign trail.

“Everyone should be outraged this is happening in America,” Ms. Harris recently said on Twitter. She blamed the deaths on racial bias in the health system.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which was not involved in the C.D.C. report, recently acknowledged that racial bias within the health care system is contributing to the disproportionate number of pregnancy-related deaths among minority women.

“We are missing opportunities to identify risk factors prior to pregnancy, and there are often delays in recognizing symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum, particularly for black women,” Dr. Lisa Hollier, immediate past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in a statement.

The United States has an abysmal record on maternal health, compared with other high-income countries. Even as maternal death rates fell by more than one-third from 2000 to 2015 across the world, outcomes for American mothers worsened, according to Unicef.

The C.D.C. examined pregnancy-related deaths in the United States from 2011 to 2015, and also reviewed more detailed data from 2013 to 2017 provided by maternal mortality review committees in 13 states.

The agency found that black women were 3.3 times more likely than white women to suffer a pregnancy-related death; Native American and Alaska Native women were 2.5 times more likely to die than white women.

[The topics new parents are talking about. Evidence-based guidance. Personal stories that matter. Sign up now to get NYT Parenting in your inbox every week.]

Obstetric emergencies involving complications like severe bleeding caused most of the deaths at delivery. Disorders related to high blood pressure accounted for most deaths from the day of delivery through the sixth day postpartum.

A leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths was cardiovascular disease, which is not typically associated with young pregnant women.

Heart disease and strokes caused more than one-third of pregnancy-related deaths, the C.D.C. found. Cerebrovascular events, such as strokes, were the most common cause of death during the first 42 days after the delivery.

Cardiac disease, which disproportionately affects black women, may be present in a woman before pregnancy, but it also may appear during pregnancy. If heart disease goes undetected, it may become acute after the baby is born.

Suspensions Are Down In U.S. Schools But Large Racial Gaps Remain

Not sure what the latest Canadian trends are but in Toronto, believe overall pattern similar:

Students in U.S. schools were less likely to be suspended in 2016 than they were in 2012. But the progress is incremental, and large gaps — by race and by special education status — remain.

This data comes from an analysis of federal data for NPR in partnership with the nonprofit organization Child Trends. And it comes as the Trump administration is preparing the final report from a school safety commission that is expected to back away from or rescind Obama-era guidance intended to reduce racial disparities in school discipline.

The commission, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is expected to release its final report in the coming days.

The Child Trends analysis highlights findings that when a student disrupts class, a school can disrupt that student’s education — and his or her entire life. Research suggests suspension and expulsion, arrests and referrals to law enforcement, is associated with dropping out of school and going to jail. All of these consequences happen more frequently to black students, even in preschool. Sometimes they are punished more harshly for the same behavior as white students; often for nonviolent offenses. Students with disabilities are also punished more often and more harshly.

In 2014, with this body of evidence growing, the U.S. Department of Education issued detailed guidance on “how to identify, avoid, and remedy” what they called “discriminatory discipline.” They promoted alternatives to suspension and expulsion, and opened investigations into school districts that had severely racially skewed numbers.

In the wake of that guidance, more than 50 of America’s largest school districts instituted discipline reform. More than half the states revised their laws to try and reduce suspensions and expulsions. And, our indicators are, they succeeded.

At NPR’s request, the nonprofit Child Trends analyzed the federal Civil Rights Data Collection, which includes reports from every public school in the nation, over three years — the 2011-2012, 2013-2014, and 2015-2016 school year. They caution that this analysis, which is based on numbers self-reported by schools, can’t cover every possibility — for example, if schools are calling parents to pick students up instead of putting an official suspension on the books. Or if they are suspending fewer students, but suspending them for longer periods of time.

Still, they documented some heartening changes between 2012 and 2016.

  • The proportion of all students suspended from school at least once during the year fell from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent.
  • Among high school students, the percentage suspended fell even more, from 9.6 to 7.6 percent.
  • Suspension rates fell around the country, in each of the biggest-population states. Only one state, Mississippi, saw a persistent increase year by year.
  • Hispanic students experienced the largest decrease –a 30 percent drop in suspensions.
  • Suspension rates fell faster for those most often suspended — Black students and students with a disability.

But, on the flip side:

  • Black high school students are still twice as likely (12.8 percent) to be suspended as white (6.1 percent) or Hispanic (6.3 percent) high school students.
  • And students with a disability are also twice as likely (12.8 percent) to be suspended as those without a disability (6.9 percent).

“This progress is incremental and large gaps by race and disability still remain,” says Kristen Harper, who directs policy development for Child Trends. She says there’s “a long way to go” and a continuing need for federal leadership. “Any efforts that could suggest that these issues are not important could undermine the work of states and districts.”

We should note that NPR previously collaborated with Child Trends on a look at the Civil Rights Data Collection’s school shooting indicator. That analysis found serious problems with the data reported. But Harper says that the out of school suspensions indicator is far more robust and reliable, partly because the data has been collected for longer, and also because suspensions are more common than shootings, so a few data entry errors are less likely to skew the overall trend.

Source: Suspensions Are Down In U.S. Schools But Large Racial Gaps Remain