How The Pandemic Is Widening The Racial Wealth Gap

Good data-based analysis:

Joeller Stanton used to be an assistant teacher at a private school in Baltimore and made about $30,000 a year. In mid-March, when the pandemic was just starting, her school closed for what was supposed to be two weeks. “Up to that point, we were under the impression that it wasn’t that serious, that everything was going to be OK,” Stanton recalls.

But as schools in Maryland switched to virtual learning indefinitely, Stanton was let go from her job. She received her last paycheck in March. “I had about $300 savings that was basically gone by the end of March,” she says.

She says she applied for unemployment but was denied initially. And by April, she had no money to pay for rent and utilities, and was struggling to put food on the table for her two children.

Stanton, who is Black, is caught up in a huge wave of economic stress hitting Americans, especially people of color.

Sixty percent of Black households are facing serious financial problems since the pandemic began, according to a national poll released this week by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. That includes 41% who say they’ve used up most or all their savings, while an additional 10% had no savings before the outbreak.

Latinos and Native Americans are also disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s economic impact. Seventy-two percent of Latino and 55% of Native American respondents say their households are facing serious financial problems, compared with 36% of whites.

“The thing that immediately struck me was how large the gap was by race for the people who said they were facing serious problems,” says Valerie Wilson, director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute.

The pandemic’s disproportionate financial impact on communities of color reflects — and is worsening — existing racial disparities in wealth, she adds.

Struggles with income, housing, food

“The three groups that are being just ravaged by this epidemic are reporting unbelievable problems of just trying to cope with their day-to-day lives,” says Robert Blendon, professor emeritus of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who oversaw the poll.

Thirty-two percent of Latino and 28% of Black respondents say they’re having problems paying rent or mortgages. About a third of respondents in both groups were struggling to pay credit cards or other loans. And 26% of Latino and Native American respondents say they struggle to afford food, while 22% of Black respondents do.

Among households that reported they lost income, survival is even more of a challenge. For Black respondents, 40% say they’re struggling to pay rent or mortgage, and 43% say they’re having trouble paying utilities. For Latino households that lost income, 46% say they’re struggling to pay mortgage or rent. About a third of both Black and Latino respondents who lost household income said they’re struggling to pay for food.

The fact that many minority groups are also experiencing higher rates of coronavirus infections makes it even harder for them to cope financially, Blendon adds.

“You have people who don’t have savings, they can’t pay bills,” he says. “And then you’re going to tell them, ‘Well, somebody in the household tested positive, nobody can go work.’ How are they going to keep their lives going?”

Stanton’s sister, who works for the city government, got COVID-19 earlier this year and had to isolate in her basement. “She had a cough, and she couldn’t eat because her taste buds were completely gone,” Stanton says. “I would cook meals, and I would take it to the basement, put it down on the floor for her.”

Luckily, she says, no one else in the family — including her 82-year-old mother and her 7-year-old son, who has asthma — got infected.

But Stanton says she has lost a sister-in-law to the disease and had a friend in coma for six weeks on a ventilator. She knows of many others in her community who have died.

And most of her co-workers and friends are out of work.

Worsening existing disparities

Even during the economic recovery of recent years, minority groups were lagging behind, says Wilson of the Economic Policy Institute. “There were significant racial disparities in wages, significant racial disparities in unemployment, significant racial disparities in the kinds of jobs people held.”

Black, Latino and Native American workers were more likely to have jobs that were lost during the pandemic, Wilson says. A Harvard University analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Pulse Survey, released in July, found that 58% of Latino and 53% of Black households experienced loss in earnings early in the pandemic. Wilson’s own research has shown that Latino workers have been particularly affected by job losses during the pandemic.

Wilson adds that people in these groups are also more likely to have jobs that didn’t allow them to work from the safety of their homes, therefore putting them more at risk of getting infected. And they’re also less likely to have substantial savings. As a result, it makes it harder for them to weather times of economic downturn, she says.

Wilson says she worries that the pandemic is worsening racial disparities.

“We’re going to see coming out of this pandemic an expansion of the racial wealth gap,” she says. “We saw the same kind of thing in the Great Recession in 2007-2008 — in particular then with the extensive foreclosures in communities of color and the loss of housing wealth.”

“You just pray”

The pandemic forced Stanton to give up her rental home back in April. But she says she was fortunate not to end up homeless, thanks to her sister.

“My sister helped me get a storage unit,” Stanton says. “I moved my furniture into a storage unit. And I moved in with my sister, me and my two kids — my 11-year-old daughter and my 7-year-old son.”

She is grateful to have a roof over her head, but money, she says, is still tight.

She now gets $280 a week from the state of Maryland as unemployment, but it doesn’t go far.

“The first thing I buy is any personal hygiene items me or my kids need,” she says. She buys food, above what food stamps get her; she pays her phone bill and covers her sister’s utility bills. “That’s my only way of telling her, ‘Thank you,’ to show her that I appreciate what she’s doing.”

What little she has left, she buys a treat or two for her children, who have mostly been stuck indoors since the pandemic began: “Just trying to keep them happy,” she says.

But she’s far from happy herself. She hasn’t been able to find a new job because of the nature of remote learning. “They don’t need an assistant right now because the kids are not physically in the building,” she says.

And even if she did find a job, she worries she’d have to use pay to cover child care. Her kids are now also learning virtually from home and need constant supervision.

Stanton says the only way she copes with her daily struggles is through faith. “A lot of prayer and a lot of patience,” she says. “I try not to let things bother me because I don’t want to become depressed. So, you know, you just pray. I hope this is all over soon.”

Source: How The Pandemic Is Widening The Racial Wealth Gap

Canada’s Safe 3rd Country Agreement With The U.S. Draws Criticism

NPR coverage:

Sitting relaxed at the kitchen table of her new home in a comfortable Toronto suburb, Kinda Bazerbashi recalls how differently she felt when her family lived in Houston.

Originally from Syria, she had lived in the United Arab Emirates, then arrived in the United States with her family on temporary visas and applied for asylum in 2012. Through a series of rejections and appeals, she says, they lived their lives in a legal limbo that made it hard to work, plan or travel to see scattered relatives.

“You are just like in jail, in a nice life,” she says. “There are cars. There is supermarket, but you feel, inside, you are in jail.”

By the time President Trump was elected, only a temporary protected status at the discretion of the White House kept her family from being deported back to Syria. Concerned about the president’s positions on immigration, she and her husband, Anas Almoustafa, looked to an alternative.

“From the TV,” says Almoustafa, “they [were] saying a lot of immigrants, they go to Canada.”

In March 2017, the family did what they had seen on TV and what more than 46,000 people have done since the 2016 election. They walked across the border from the U.S. to Canada, away from official entry points, and applied for asylum.

“People are crossing that way because of the safe third country agreement,” says Maureen Silcoff, president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

Signed in 2002, the agreement operates from the assumption that both the U.S. and Canada offer protections, so people fleeing their homes should apply for asylum in either country they arrive in first.

That kind of deal has gained renewed attention as the Trump administration presses Mexico and Guatemala to take in asylum-seekers traveling through those countries to the U.S. As America’s policies push more migrants to head across its northern border, Canadians and rights groups have challenged the agreement with the U.S.

Under the accord, people leaving the U.S. cannot apply for asylum in Canada at an official crossing point, or vice versa. Except for a few limited cases, such as if they have close family in Canada, they will be turned back to the U.S.

However, what some call a “loophole” in the agreement allows people to apply for asylum in Canada if they can arrive in the country.

“People feel hopeless about their chances of receiving protection in the United States,” Silcoff says. “That essentially drives them to cross between ports of entry.”

Most have traversed one country road on the border of upstate New York and the province of Quebec. Royal Canadian Mounted Police wait on the other side of this unofficial path to apprehend them.

The total number of migrant interceptions since 2016 still pales in comparison to 100,000 on the U.S.-Mexico border this March alone. Numbers have also trended downward this year over last. But Canadian pollster Shachi Kurl of the Angus Reid Institute says the border situation took on an outsize political importance because Canadians were unaccustomed to these types of arrivals.

“Just literally walking across an undefended border was starting to create a deep sense of unease and concern not just in right-wing voters, but it was really an issue that crossed the political spectrum,” she says.

Canada’s opposition Conservative Party has picked up this theme in its campaign to unseat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government in federal elections this fall. In a speech in May, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called the numbers of irregular crossings “almost hard to believe,” protesting that some migrants are able to “exploit loopholes and skip the line.”

Trudeau’s government has made a number of changes in the last two years to try to reduce the number of arrivals. The Canadian government sent representatives abroad to discourage people considering traveling to the border and to temper perceptions of the welcome they would receive.

Trudeau also created a new Cabinet-level border security minister, a position filled by former Toronto police chief Bill Blair. Earlier this year, Blair met with then-U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen about expanding the safe third country agreement so Canada could turn border-crossers back to the U.S. His office declined an interview with NPR but said the two countries have not begun official negotiations.

However, even as the U.S. pushes for similar agreements with Mexico and Guatemala to give migrants heading for the U.S. border asylum in their countries, groups like Amnesty International Canada are urging Canada to withdraw from its asylum deal.

Arguing that the U.S. does not offer equal protections for immigrants, Amnesty Canada director Alex Neve says Canada should allow people to make asylum claims at all official border crossings.

“At a time when refugees and migrants, a very vulnerable group, face this full-out attack on their rights from the U.S. government, Canada shouldn’t be turning its back on them,” Neve tells NPR.

Amnesty has joined with other organizations in a lawsuit to overturn the agreement. Hearings will begin in September.

Silcoff, the attorney, pointed out that U.S. policy changes that have, for example, closed eligibility for asylum to victims of domestic violence, whereas she noted, “They have a good chance because of our laws of receiving protection in Canada.”

Despite their rejection in the U.S., Baserbashi’s family was approved for asylum in Canada last year.

“This is the final step we hope and final move — absolutely it’s [the] final move — because we get approved, thanks God!” she says.

Her family would receive a different reception if they arrived today. The Canadian government passed one more measure this summer, tucked into a large budget bill. The provision bars people from applying for asylum in Canada if they applied previously in the United States or a handful of other countries with which Canada shares biometric data.

Those who have applied elsewhere will now enter an alternative administrative process that Silcoff says offers fewer protections.

A spokesperson for Minister Blair’s office said in an email to NPR that the change was meant to “deter people from making multiple asylum claims in different countries,” but added, “Nobody will be removed without a chance to be heard.”

Source: Canada’s Safe 3rd Country Agreement With The U.S. Draws Criticism

Opinion: Report On Racism, But Ditch The Labels

Thoughtful commentary:

Editor’s note: NPR this week has described the language in President Trump’s tweets about a group of Democratic congresswomen as “racist.”

Keith Woods, NPR’s vice president for newsroom training and diversity, argues that journalists should not be using the term “racist” to describe the president’s tweets. He explains why below.

Once again, the president of the United States has used the sniper tower of Twitter to take aim at immigration, race relations and common decency. And once again, journalists are daring their profession to boldly call bigotry what it is: bigotry. Enough of the vacuous “racially charged,” “racially loaded,” “racially insensitive” evasions, they say. It’s racist, and we should just call it that.

I understand the moral outrage behind wanting to slap this particular label on this particular president and his many incendiary utterances, but I disagree. Journalism may not have come honorably to the conclusion that dispassionate distance is a virtue. But that’s the fragile line that separates the profession from the rancid, institution-debasing cesspool that is today’s politics.

It is precisely because journalism is given to warm-spit phrases like “racially insensitive” and “racially charged” that we should not be in the business of moral labeling in the first place. Who decides where the line is that the president crossed? The headline writer working today who thinks it’s “insensitive” or the one tomorrow who thinks it’s “racist?” Were we to use my moral standards, the line for calling people and words racist in this country would have been crossed decades ago. But that’s not what journalists do. We report and interview and attribute.

I am not a journalism purist. I came into the profession 40 years ago to tear down the spurious notion of objectivity used to protects a legacy of sexism, xenophobia and white supremacy. The better ideals of truth telling, accountability, fairness, etc., are what give journalism its power, while the notion of “objectivity” has been used to obscure and excuse the insidious biases we do battle with today.

I’ve been an informed consumer of the media since my days as a paperboy. I read the Times-Picayune as I delivered it, and the distorted view it offered of black and poor New Orleans told me all I needed to know about “objectivity.” We have come miles since then as a profession. But why should I trust that we’re all on the same page with our labels now? Weren’t last week’s tweets racist? Or last year’s? Weren’t some misogynistic? Vulgar? Homophobic? Sexist? The language of my judgment is generous, and they are my opinion, and they belong in the space reserved for opinions.

What’s at stake is journalism’s embattled claim to be the source of credible news grounded in the kind of deep, fair reporting that exposes injustice and holds powerful people to account. It may be satisfying to call the president’s words, or the president himself, racist, given the attacks tweeted from his bully app and so often aimed at our profession. But at what cost?

It’s already nearly impossible to separate actual journalism from the argumentative noise on the cable networks that dominate so much of public perception. There are already too many journalists dancing day and night on the line that once separated fact and judgment. When that line is finally obliterated and we sink into the cesspool beckoning us to its depths, this historically flawed, imperfect tool for revealing and routing racism will look and sound indistinguishable from the noise and become just as irrelevant.

On Sunday, the president wrote this:

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

His words mirror those of avowed racists and xenophobes that date back to the birth of this country. Was that moral judgement, my last sentence? I would argue no. I’d call it context, and it doesn’t require my opinion, just a basic understanding of history. That’s an alternative to labels: Report. Quote people. Cite sources. Add context. Leave the moral labeling to the people affected; to the opinion writers, the editorial writers, the preachers and philosophers and to the public we serve.

We just have to do journalism.

Source: Opinion: Report On Racism, But Ditch The Labels

Vancouver Has Been Transformed By Chinese Immigrants

Getting more international attention:

When you cross over the Granville Street Bridge that winds into downtown Vancouver, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in Hong Kong. The skyline has the same ribbon of gleaming apartment towers hugging the waterfront, and similar mountains in the distance.

There is also an unabashed display of wealth, readily apparent in the city’s Kitsilano neighborhood. Within a few short blocks, you can find dealerships for some of the world’s most expensive cars: Lamborghini, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin, among others.

At the front of the McLaren showroom are four sleek, high-performance sports cars, known as supercars. Wilson Ng, an account manager with McLaren Automotive, gently runs his hand over one of the 570GT models. “They’re starting around $200,000 to up to $250,000 to $300,000,” he says, up to about $222,000 in U.S. dollars.

That’s for one of the cheaper models in this showroom. The most expensive runs about CA$1 million ($740,587) — the Vancouver showroom sold six last year. Ng says there’s a big market in Vancouver. Most customers are foreign.

“There is a large amount of Asian [supercar buyers], including mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, East India, Singapore … so a lot of foreign money,” he says.

Ng says the supercar market in Vancouver started to really take off around 2010, when China’s economy was red-hot. Wealthy Asian immigrants and investors also started buying up businesses and property in the city. The result has been a real estate market now out of reach for many residents, something that is straining the city’s reputation for welcoming newcomers.

A magnet for immigrants

Marianne Wu first came from China to Vancouver as a student seven years ago and now works in marketing and translating. The 27-year-old says she loves the city, just received her permanent residency card and bought a two-bedroom condo downtown.

“You know, people really want to own something because that’s where their security comes from,” she says. Owning property is deeply rooted in Chinese culture, she says, but the government in Beijing doesn’t allow people to own the land their homes are built on.

Wu says her family back in China helped her buy a home in Vancouver. “They push me to buy a property here,” she says. “They want me to have a stable life, which everybody wants.”

Vancouver has long been a magnet for immigrants from all over the world. It is one of Canada’s most diverse cities and prides itself on its multiculturalism. Immigrants began arriving from China in the late 1800s, when laborers came to help build the trans-Canada railway. Shortly after its completion, Canada began cracking down on Chinese immigrants, and banned most of them in the early 1920s.

Half a century later, those policies changed and Canada began encouraging Chinese professionals and entrepreneurs to come. About 20% of Vancouver’s population now identifies as ethnic Chinese.

Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.

The Chinese community has made a positive contribution to Vancouver, says Henry Yu, a historian at the University of British Columbia.

“You’ll see hospital wings, you’ll see at UBC, the Chan Centre for [the] Performing Arts. There are Chinese names on all of the institutions of arts and culture,” he says.

Yu says there was a surge of Chinese immigrants and investment in the Vancouver region in the 1990s, when there was concern over what would happen in 1997, the year Britain handed sovereignty of Hong Kong back to China.

Source: Vancouver Has Been Transformed By Chinese Immigrants

How Police Killings Lead To Poor Mental Health In The Black Community

Yet another example of the effects of systemic racism on African Americans:

A recent study published in The Lancet Medical journal shows that police killings of unarmed black men leads to poor mental. NPR’s Michel Martin talks with study co-author Dr. Atheendar Venkataramani.


Now we’re going to talk about a subject that has become one of this country’s flashpoints – police shootings of unarmed black men. It happened again last Tuesday in Pittsburgh, where Antwon Rose Jr. was shot three times as he ran away from police during a traffic stop. A neighbor caught it all on camera. The video was widely shared and inspired three straight days of protests in Pittsburgh.

But the negative effects of that shooting won’t end whenever the demonstrations stop or the reporting ends – this according to a study published in The Lancet medical journal. That study looked specifically at states that had a police killing of an unarmed black man in the three months leading up to the survey. And it found that these violent encounters have a direct effect on the mental health of black Americans living in communities that have experienced police violence. The telephone survey asked respondents how many days their mental health was not good. Black respondents in states with recent police shootings were found to have significantly more of those not good days.

Dr. Atheendar Venkataramani is one of the study’s authors. He’s an assistant professor in medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. He joined me from member station WBUR in Boston, and I started our conversation by asking him why he and his fellow researchers wanted to look into the link between police killings and mental health.

ATHEENDAR VENKATARAMANI: My co-authors and I were very struck by the images of police killings of unarmed black Americans, and we had seen in some small, local studies, as well as through our social networks and on social media, the kinds of things that black Americans who weren’t directly part of the event but had heard about it or read about it or seen it through the videos that were released – the kinds of things they were saying about how they felt – what it made them feel and what their mental state was after viewing or hearing about such an event. And for us, it made us wonder do events like this cross the line from just being upsetting to being something that make us sick? And that’s what really motivated our study.

MARTIN: The facts are that black Americans, as you point out in the study, are nearly three times more likely than white Americans to be killed by police. They are five times more likely than are white Americans to be killed unarmed. I just think that’s important to point out because it’s important to note that white Americans are also killed by the police, but it is far more likely that an African-American male particularly will be unarmed when that occurs.

So part of the reason that I raised that is to ask whether you saw any similar effects of other groups? Like, did, for example, killings of white Americans stimulate a similar effect? Do we have any comparison that we can draw upon?

VENKATARAMANI: Absolutely. So we looked at the police killings of armed black Americans and the police killings of unarmed white Americans, which don’t necessarily have that same kind of salience to people as far as their relationship to structural racism. And when we looked at the impacts of those kinds of events, we didn’t find any impact on mental health nor did we find any impact on mental health of white Americans who were exposed to police killings of unarmed black Americans.

MARTIN: And you know, the survey focused on people and communities where these shootings occurred. But we live in a time when many of these deaths were caught on camera. They’ve been widely shared. Do you feel comfortable extrapolating that this effect may be broader than the people who actually lived in the places where these incidents occurred?

VENKATARAMANI: Yeah, I think we do. And so for example, Eric Garner’s killing was seen by everybody in the country. And for the purposes of our statistical design, we considered people in New York State exposed. So one of the things we think is striking is that we find these large population-level effects even when we know that we are likely to be underestimating the true burden.

MARTIN: The summary says that, you know, the interpretation is that, you know, police killings of unarmed black Americans have adverse effects on mental health among black American adults and the general population. And it suggests that programs should be implemented to decrease the frequency of police killings and to mitigate adverse mental health effects.

What would that look like? I mean, what do you hope people will do as a result of this study which validates what, frankly, has been sort of widely discussed informally among many people for some time?

VENKATARAMANI: We don’t believe we’re telling people in the black American communities something that they don’t know. I think what this study does is provides a public health rationale to further try to understand why police killings occur of unarmed black Americans. And it further motivates policies and programs that would try to reduce those events.

And from the clinical side, as a physician, these events really kind of show you that when something happens in a community that there is a trauma that is a pathology, meaning it’s a true illness, and that health systems – community health centers, public health organizations – can try to rally around people to make sure that people are OK and that we’re treating the burden of disease that’s there.

So I think that’s why it’s useful to put numbers around something that many people have noted anecdotally because it sharpens the case for action, and it also lets us know the scope of the problem and potentially how we would need to address it.

MARTIN: That’s Dr. Atheendar Venkataramani. He’s one of the authors of a study published in The Lancet which looked at the mental health effects of police shootings on black Americans.

Thanks so much for speaking with us.


MARTIN: I also want to mention that the study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The latter is also a supporter of NPR.

Source: How Police Killings Lead To Poor Mental Health In The Black Community

Conservative Media Failed To Redefine Debate On Trump’s Immigration Policy – NPR

Some possible lessons here, or perhaps it is simply the power of children as victims to change the narrative (as Alan Kurdi’s did during the 2015 Canadian election):

As President Trump faced growing outrage over his child detention policy on the U.S.-Mexico border, conservative outlets like Fox News and Breitbart scrambled to his defense. They urged Trump to stand firm, describing the forced separation of migrant children from their families as part of a strategy to keep America’s borders safe.

But by Wednesday afternoon, that narrative began to unravel as national outrage grew and it became clear the president would reverse course. On Rush Limbaugh’s conservative talk radio program, one caller said that this time the fight might not be winnable.

“They’ve got Trump, they’ve blown Trump up,” Limbaugh said, voice rising in disappointment. “He’s got to reunite families or it’s over?”

“It’s these photographs [of children],” the caller said. “They finally got something that they can stick to him I think.”

During past scandals and debates over controversial policies, Trump and right-leaning media appeared to work closely together, pummeling the president’s critics while echoing arguments and developing themes. At the same time, the White House has aggressively dismissed mainstream media coverage as “fake news” designed to harm Trump.

This time, however, the administration and its media allies faced a different kind of pressure. Powerful audio and images of crying children held in federal detention facilities went viral. The country’s more liberal-leaning media amplified the indignation, with Rachel Maddow appearing to choke up during her show on MSNBC while attempting to read about “tender age shelters.”

“Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children,” Maddow said, shaking her head with emotion before deciding she could read no more. “I think I’m going to have to hand this off.”

In conservative media favored by Trump and many of his supporters, the story often looked and sounded starkly different: websites like Breitbart, The Daily Caller and Drudge Report worked to redefine the debate, describing the border crisis as a manufactured media event, concocted by Democrats and advocates of liberal immigration policies.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter said in an appearance on Fox News, “These child actors weeping and crying on all the other networks right now,” adding, “Do not fall for it, Mr. President.”

Trump seemed committed to holding the line. He tweeted defiantly that critics of his tough border policies want undocumented immigrants to “infest” the United States. On Fox News, hosts echoed the argument, claiming Trump was defending the border from waves of impoverished and dangerous refugees.

“Their goal is to change your country forever,” argued Fox host Tucker Carlson Tuesday, referring to those who favor liberal immigration policies. “They’re succeeding by the way.”

Another Fox host, Laura Ingraham, said Tuesday, “The American people are footing a really big bill for what is tantamount to a slow-rolling invasion of the United States.” Ingraham also suggested that detention facilities being built for children resemble “summer camps.”

But this time, conservative media failed to shift the conversation. National anger grew as more images of children being detained emerged. Influential Republicans broke ranks with Trump. “We don’t think families should be separated, period,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Wednesday. “We’ve seen the videos, heard the audio.”

Meanwhile, White House arguments defending the child detention policy continued to shift and conservative media struggled to keep up. But their narrative began to splinter. In an emotional appearance on Sean Hannity’s popular program on Fox News Tuesday night, commentator Geraldo Rivera described the administration’s border policy as “child abuse.”

It’s unclear how much this back and forth in the media influenced Trump. As he prepared to sign his executive order on Wednesday, some conservative outlets pivoted and began voicing dismay at what they described as a major capitulation. Breitbart News ran a headline on its homepage claiming Trump had “buckled.” The influential website that often cheerleads Trump argued bluntly that he had caved to “left-wing hate.”

Limbaugh, meanwhile, warned that any retreat from tough immigration policies might divide Trump from his base. “The only person who can blow up this relationship [with conservative voters] is Trump himself,” the radio host told his audience Wednesday. “The media is attempting to force Trump to do things to make you start doubting, to make you start questioning.”

Source: Conservative Media Failed To Redefine Debate On Trump’s Immigration Policy

So What Exactly Is ‘Blood Quantum’? NPR

As Lawrence Hill recounts in his Massey Lectures Blood, there was similar classification among African Americans, including terms such as “octoroon” for those with one-eighth African American blood and thus not considered white. Bloodline is a narrow way of defining one’s identity:

If you’re Native American, there’s a good chance that you’ve thought a lot about blood quantum — a highly controversial measurement of the amount of “Indian blood” you have. It can affect your identity, your relationships and whether or not you — or your children — may become a citizen of your tribe.

Blood quantum was initially a system that the federal government placed onto tribes in an effort to limit their citizenship. Many Native nations, including the Navajo Nation and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, still use it as part of their citizenship requirements.

And how tribes use blood quantum varies from tribe to tribe. The Navajo Nation requires a minimum of 25 percent “Navajo blood,” and Turtle Mountain requires a minimum of 25 percent of any Indian blood, as long as its in combination with some Turtle Mountain.

Blood quantum minimums really restrict who can be a citizen of a tribe. If you’ve got 25 percent of Navajo blood — according to that tribe’s blood quantum standards — and you have children with someone who has a lower blood quantum, those kids won’t be able to enroll.

So why keep a system that’s decreasing your tribe’s rolls and could lead to its demise?

“I use the term ‘Colonial Catch 22’ to say that there is no clear answer, and that one way or another, people are hurt,” says Elizabeth Rule. She’s a doctoral candidate at Brown University who specializes in Native American studies, and also a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation.

“The systems are so complicated,” she explains, “but it’s all part of tribes deciding on their own terms, in their own ways, utilizing their own sovereignty [to decide] what approach is best for them.”

As we explored blood quantum in this week’s episode, we thought a primer of what, exactly, this system is and how it works — or doesn’t — might be useful. Here’s my interview with Elizabeth Rule, edited and condensed for clarity.

First of all, what’s blood quantum?

Blood quantum simply is the amount of “Indian blood” that an individual possesses. The federal government, and specifically the Department of the Interior, issues what is called a “Certified Degree of Indian Blood,” and that is a card similar to an ID card. So the way that blood quantum is calculated is by using tribal documents, and usually it’s a tribal official or a government official that calculates it.

But really it’s a mathematical equation. So the quantum is a fraction of blood that is derived going back to the original enrollees of a tribe who were counted on Census rolls, and then their blood quantum was documented, and usually those original enrollees had a full blood quantum. Typically.

How did people know that those original enrollees had “full blood quantum”?

Well, they didn’t. And that’s that’s one of the major problems with blood quantum today is that a lot of times, the people taking the rolls were federal government officials who were unfamiliar with Native ways of establishing and defining their own communities.

And so, for example, these officials would mark someone potentially as “full blood” when potentially that person was not. And that assumption was based on their appearance, on their level of cultural involvement with their community.

But a great example for how to understand this problem in real life is that there is a history of freedmen who are black individuals who were living as fully incorporated members of Indian tribes. And when these original roles were taken, oftentimes these freedmen were not included, even though those individuals may be of mixed heritage: black and Indian. Because of their black appearance, they were listed on a separate roll. And today, the ramification is that they do not have that original enrollee [in their past]. They do not have enough blood quantum, and therefore oftentimes cannot be extended tribal membership.

Can you talk to me about how the concept of blood quantum came to be used for Native tribes?

Certainly, American Indians have been racialized. But our primary identity continues to be a political one. Blood quantum really emerges as a way to trace race between generations of Native people starting at the turn of the 20th century. And again, I think it’s helpful to understand the way that blood quantum works through another example that people may be more familiar with — and that’s the “one drop rule.”

The one drop rule measured the amount of “black blood” that black people had in society. And that ensured that every person who had at least one drop would be considered black and would be covered under these discriminatory laws and, even in the earlier days, enslaved.

Blood quantum emerged as a way to measure “Indian-ness” through a construct of race. So that over time, Indians would literally breed themselves out and rid the federal government of their legal duties to uphold treaty obligations.

One of the questions that kept coming up is: OK, so why don’t tribes just ditch these blood quantum requirements and switch to an enrollment requirement that uses lineal descent? (Lineal descent basically means that, if your ancestors were enrolled in a tribe, you can be, too.)

That is the question of the century. And first, I want to be clear that I don’t intend to speak on behalf of any specific tribes or even on behalf of my own, but I’m happy to walk you through some of those arguments that exist in support of maintaining blood quantum requirements for tribal membership. …

The thing that I’ve found to be most interesting about both arguments — in support and against blood quantum requirements — is the language of survival. So, lineal descendant supporters think about high memberships through the lens of existence as a resistance right. And so there’s a desire to build up tribes’ numbers and capacity in order to survive and perpetuate the tribe.

On the other side, those who defend blood quantum requirements also evoke this language of survival, and they look upon those blood quantum minimums as a way to preserve an already existing closed community that’s very close and … usually very culturally connected.

Even though they’re using what a lot of people say is a “Colonialist construct”?

Yes. And I don’t think that anyone would argue that it isn’t that. That history is very clear. But, tribes today of course have to adapt, and blood quantum for some tribes in their view has been a way to preserve their community.

I also want to emphasize that it is the tribe’s sovereign right to determine their own membership and whether that involves a blood quantum minimum or lineal descent system.

Ultimately their decision has to be respected in order to uphold tribal sovereignty.

You’ve used the phrase “personal gains” before to refer to some people who might’ve claimed Indian heritage. Can you walk me through what specifically those personal gains look like?

You hear every time a tribe changes over to lineal descent, or that there is a newly recognized tribe, for example, that usually there’s a mass group that’s interested in joining. And potentially, some of those incentives would be financial gain if the tribe, for example, has gaming revenue or other industries. Of course, there is a desire on some individuals’ part to claim an identity for affirmative-action purposes. But again, I would say that is certainly the minority of this side of the cases. But it does happen and I just want to point it out again to show that there are difficulties on both sides and that there’s not a clear-cut answer yet.

If each tribe is able to determine their own their own enrollment requirements, are there any tribes out there that you’ve heard of that are deciding to forego lineal descent and blood quantum — and deciding to use another completely different method?

I have heard of one example in Canada, where a First Nation has decided to open enrollment to people who have no Indian ancestry at all. Meaning that those individuals don’t meet the federal Canadian requirements of being a “status Indian,” and they also don’t have that blood quantum or descendancy from an original enrollee. It’s an extremely progressive and interesting move, and they’re really changing the game.

via So What Exactly Is ‘Blood Quantum’? : Code Switch : NPR

Poll: Discrimination Against Women Is Common Across Races, Ethnicities, Identities : NPR

Another in the series of NPR polls on discrimination, with the usual richness of data including the “intersectionality” between race and gender:

Discrimination in the form of sexual harassment has been in the headlines for weeks now, but new poll results being released by NPR show that other forms of discrimination against women are also pervasive in American society. The poll is a collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

For example, a majority (56 percent) of women believe that where they live, women are paid less than men for equal work. And roughly a third (31 percent) say they’ve been discriminated against when applying for jobs because they are women.

Overall, 68 percent of women believe that there is discrimination against women in America today.

The chart below shows that the experience of gender discrimination is not monolithic — women in each racial, ethnic and identity group have particular problems in employment, education, housing and interactions with law enforcement, the courts and government. Several groups of women also avoid seeking health care out of concern they will face discrimination.

On nearly every measure, Native American women had the highest levels of discrimination based on gender. In our series, “You, Me and Them: Experiencing Discrimination in America,” we have highlighted several of these situations, including unfair treatment by the courts in majority-Native areas.

NPR will livestream an expert panel discussion on Native American issues at noon ET on Tuesday.

One of the patterns that emerged from the poll and our subsequent reporting is a gulf between high- and low-income areas when it comes to experiences of discrimination. This gap is also apparent in the gender data crunched by our Harvard team. The graph below illustrates the stark differences based on income when it comes to several everyday experiences people have in their own neighborhoods.

A snapshot in time

Our poll — which was fielded from late January to early April — before this fall’s intense news coverage of sexual harassment — also captures what women were feeling and experiencing before the recent scandals.

We found that 37 percent women overall reported they or a female family member had been sexually harassed because they are women at some point in their lives. But there was a wide range of responses based on age, with 60 percent of those 18 to 29 years old saying they or a female family member had been sexually harassed because they are women, versus 17 percent of women 65 and over.

“Our survey highlights the extraordinary level of personal experiences of harassment facing women today, as reflected in the news,” says Robert Blendon, co-director of the poll and professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard Chan School. “These national conversations may have affected how people viewed or responded to their own experiences in our survey, or their willingness to disclose these experiences.”

Indeed, a poll released last week by Quinnipiac University, asking specifically about sexual assault, suggests women may be more comfortable reporting such experiences now that more women are coming forward and revealing past abuse. (Our poll differs from Quinnipiac in that we asked a broader question: “Do you believe that you or someone in your family who is also a female has experience sexual harassment because you or they are female?”)

The survey from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard Chan School was conducted from Jan. 26 to April 9, 2017 among a nationally representative probability-based telephone (cell and landline) sample of 1,596 women. The margin of error for total female respondents is 4.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence interval. Complete methodological information is in the full poll report.

via Poll: Discrimination Against Women Is Common Across Races, Ethnicities, Identities : NPR

Poll: Asian-American Discrimination Marked By Individuals’ Prejudice : NPR

Latest in NPR polling on discrimination:

New results from an NPR survey show that large numbers of Asian-Americans experience and perceive discrimination in many areas of their daily lives. This happens despite their having average incomes that outpace other racial, ethnic and identity groups.

The poll, a collaboration among NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, also finds a wide gap between immigrant and non-immigrant Asian-Americans in reporting discrimination experiences, including violence and harassment.

“Our poll shows that Asian-American families have the highest average income among the groups we’ve surveyed, and yet the poll still finds that Asian-Americans experience persistent discrimination in housing, jobs and at college,” says Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard Chan School who co-directed the survey. “Over the course of our series, we are seeing again and again that income is not a shield from discrimination.”

In addition to asking about personal experiences with discrimination, we also wanted to find out what people’s perceptions are of discrimination within their own neighborhoods. The numbers for Asian-Americans were lower on this measure than for personal experiences but still show that a notable level of discrimination exists in everyday life.

The survey was conducted among a nationally representative probability-based telephone (cell and landline) sample of 500 Asian-American adults. The margin of error for the total Asian-American response is 5.8 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence interval. Interviews were conducted in English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese. Complete methodological information is in the full poll report.

Looking at the split according to immigration status, we found that nonimmigrant Asian-Americans are more than three times as likely to say they’ve experienced violence because they are Asian and more than twice as likely to say they’ve been threatened or non-sexually harassed because they are Asian.

We also saw a similar gap based on immigration status in terms of experiencing sexual harassment. But it’s important to note that our poll was done earlier this year, before the country’s widespread discussions of sexual assault and harassment in the fall. “These national conversations may have affected how people viewed or responded to their own experiences, or on their willingness to disclose these experiences in a survey,” Blendon says.

via Poll: Asian-American Discrimination Marked By Individuals’ Prejudice : NPR

Racism’s Chronic Stress Likely Contributes To Health Disparities, Scientists Say : NPR

Interesting series of studies and analyses:

A poll recently released by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that roughly a third of Latinos in America report they’ve experienced various kinds of discrimination in their lives based on ethnicity — including when applying for jobs, being paid or promoted equally, seeking housing or experiencing ethnic slurs or offensive comments or assumptions.

Amani Nuru-Jeter, a social epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, is another researcher working to find out how, as she puts it, racism gets under the skin. “How does the lived and social experience of race turn into racial differences in health — into higher levels of Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease or higher rates of infant mortality?”

For example, black children are about twice as likely as white children to develop asthma, health statistics suggest. And racial and ethnic gaps in infant mortality have persisted for as long as researchers have been collecting data. People with diabetes who are members of racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to have complications like kidney failure, or to require amputations.

Genetics might partially explain some of the differences, Nuru-Jeter says. Research has suggested that different populations may respond differently to some asthma drugs, for example.

“But it’s not an adequate explanation for the very persistent dramatic differences we see in health outcomes between racial groups,” she says. And public health researchers have found that health disparities remain even after they take into account any differences in income and education.

Nuru-Jeter and others hypothesize that chronic stress might be a key way racism contributes to health disparities. The idea is that the stress of experiencing discrimination over and over might wear you down physically over time.

For example, let’s go back to how Montenegro remembers feeling that night when strangers assumed he was a valet. He said he was “turning red,” his heart was “pounding.” Those are signs his body was feeling acutely stressed.

“When you start to worry about something, whether that’s race or something else, then that initiates a biological stress response,” says Nuru-Jeter.

Hormones like adrenaline and cortisol shoot up, readying your body to flee or fight. Those hormones can help you kick into action to escape a wild animal, for example, or to run after a bus. Under such circumstances, the ability to experience stress and quickly respond can be benign — and valuable.

Whatever the source of the perceived threat, the physical response — higher levels of stress hormones, a faster heart rate — usually subside once the threat has passed.

“That’s what we expect to happen,” says Nuru-Jeter.

But research suggests bad things happen when your body has to gear up for threats too often, consistently washing itself in stress hormones.

“Prolonged elevation [and] circulation of the stress hormones in our bodies can be very toxic and compromise our body’s ability to regulate key biological systems like our cardiovascular system, our inflammatory system, our neuroendocrine system,” Nuru-Jeter says. “It just gets us really out of whack and leaves us susceptible to a bunch of poor health outcomes.”

A number of small studies have documented similar stress reactions in response to racism, and even in response to the mere expectation of a racist encounter.

In studying black women, for example, she has found that chronic stress from frequent racist encounters is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation — a little like having a low fever all the time. Nuru-Jeter thinks it might be a sign that experiencing discrimination might dysregulate the body in a way that, over time, could put someone at a higher risk for a condition like heart disease.

Now, this kind of research is complicated. There’s no thermometer that measures degrees of racism, and it’s not like scientists can take a group of people, expose some of them to discrimination, and then see how they fare compared with others.

“Unless we could experimentally assign people to racist or nonracist experiences over a life course, we can’t make causal connections,” says Zaneta Thayer, a biological anthropologist at Dartmouth, who is currently looking into how discrimination experiences might influence multiple aspects of stress physiology, including cortisol and heart rate variability.

So, researchers find correlations, not causal links.

For example, Thayer studied 55 pregnant women in Auckland, New Zealand, and found that women who said they experienced discrimination had higher evening stress hormone levels late in pregnancy than other women who didn’t cite frequent discrimination. Another study, at Duke University, found that black students had higher levels of stress hormones after they heard reports of a violent, racist crime on campus.

The connection isn’t just with hormones. Other scientists have found correlations between discrimination and various measures of accelerated aging, including the tips of people’s chromosomes and subtle alterations in gene activity.

Individually, such studies are rarely conclusive, Thayer says. “There are always more questions to ask.”

But collectively, she says, they form a compelling picture of how discrimination, stress and poor health might be related.

And sometimes, in rare situations, researchers do get a slightly sharper glimpse of how such a connection may be playing out.

On May 12, 2008, about 900 agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — including some who arrived in a couple of Black Hawk helicopters — raided a meat processing plant in Postville, Iowa. They were looking for people who were working illegally in the U.S.

“You could time exactly when it happened,” says Arline T. Geronimus, a behavioral scientist at the University of Michigan who has studied the event. “It was a surprise, and it was quite extreme.”

According to some witnesses, the agents handcuffed almost everyone they encountered who looked Latino. They ended up arresting more than a tenth of the town’s population, detaining many for days at a fairground.

According to Zoe Lofgren, a California representative who chaired a congressional hearing on the Postville raid, detainees were treated “like cattle.”

“The information suggests that the people charged were rounded up, herded into a cattle arena, prodded down a cattle chute, coerced into guilty pleas and then [sent] to federal prison,” Lofgren said at the hearing. “This looks and feels like a cattle auction, not a criminal prosecution in the United States of America.”

 The people arrested were charged with criminal fraud for knowingly working under false Social Security numbers, despite allegations of judicial misconduct and reportsthat few of the employees were actually guilty of that crime.

“People lost their jobs,” Geronimus says. “People were afraid to go home in case there would be raids in their homes. They were sleeping in church pews. Some fled the state.”

By all accounts, it was an extremely stressful event for the approximately 400 people who were arrested and their families.

But the event also sent ripples throughout the state. Apparently, as Geronimus and her colleagues reported this year in the International Journal of Epidemiology, it may even have affected the unborn children of some Iowa residents who were pregnant at the time.

In the months after the raid, Geronimus says, some Latina women living in Iowa started giving birth to slightly smaller babies.

The researchers looked at birth certificates of more than 52,000 babies born in Iowa, including those born in the nine months following the raid, and in the same nine-month period one and two years earlier. They found a small but noticeable increase in the percentage of babies who weighed less than 5 1/2 pounds — the definition of what pediatricians term low birth weight — born to Latina moms.

“Pregnant women of Latino descent throughout the state of Iowa — including those who were U.S. citizens, including those who were not right at Postville — experienced, on average, about a 24 percent greater risk of their babies having a low birth weight than they had in that very same period of time the previous year,” Geronimus says.

Before the raid, 4.7 percent of babies born to white moms were low birth weight. After the raid, that number dropped to 4.4 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of babies with a low birth weight born to foreign-born Latina moms went up from 4.5 percent (76 babies) to 5.6 percent (98 babies). And it went up for the babies of U.S.-born Latina moms, too — from 5.3 percent (42 babies) to 6.4 percent (55 babies).

Overall, that’s a difference of just a few dozen children, each probably born just a few ounces underweight. But at that stage of life, a few ounces can make a difference, Geronimus says. Babies born small are at higher risk of dying in infancy and of having health and developmental problems later on.

“Low birth weight in general is not higher in the Latino population than in the white population,” Geronimus says. “And in Iowa it was not higher before the raid, and it was not higher years after the raid. But there is a spike that happens to be exactly when the raid was.”

And it’s worth noting, she says, that the effect even occurred among babies born to Latina moms who were U.S. citizens — people who shouldn’t have been worried about being arrested or deported.

“So why did it suddenly spike?” Geronimus asks. “Well, there’s a lot of research that suggests that stressful events during pregnancy can result in some complex immune, inflammatory and endocrine pathways and can increase the risk of low birth weight.”

She and her colleagues think the poor treatment of people who “looked Latino” to the immigration agents might have caused additional stress among women outside the immediate area of the raid who were pregnant around that time.

“People could begin to worry this could happen to them or to people they know or in their communities,” she says. “And those worries alone can activate these physiological stress responses, even if they never did have a raid in their own hometown.”

In fact, other researchers have noticed similar connections.

In the six months following the Sept. 11 attacks in the Eastern U.S., babies born in California to moms with Arabic-sounding names had a higher risk of being born small or preterm than observed in that group during the same time period the year before — a change that didn’t apply to other babies born in the state.

Both studies investigated the impacts of specific, dramatic events — and the results were consistent.

“You could time exactly when it happened,” says Geronimus. “We could measure before and after.”

But she views such events as merely slivers of insight into patterns that may quietly be happening on a much larger scale among many populations. Patterns that are harder to tease out and measure — like the effects of centuries of racism against black Americans, or a persistent series of incidents involving police brutality against minorities.

Maybe, Geronimus says, the cascade of stress that such events initiate sets the stage for health disparities in a generation of children — before they even enter the world.

via Racism’s Chronic Stress Likely Contributes To Health Disparities, Scientists Say : Shots – Health News : NPR