Nikole Hannah-Jones Fan Club:  Join Now!

New Orleans        I don’t have time to start the Nikole Hannah-Jones Fan Club, but I’m absolutely ready to join – and pay dues.  Somebody start this, and send me a membership card, because this is one truth-telling, tell-it-like-is reporter if there ever was one, and, miracles never cease, she does so in The New York Times of all places, if you can believe that.

So, I first found myself saying “right on!” when I read her piece about the importance of busing after the Kamala Harris / Joe Biden dustup on this issue at the debate.  Her arguments there devastated anyone who might have even whispered that busing was anything but a public good and essential to racial justice.  When Biden – and Harris’ – people read that piece several months ago, they should have just waved the white flag of surrender and stepped away from the car on that issue!

What really has pulled me across the line forever though is her lead piece for the 1619 Project noting 400 years of enslavement on North American soil.  Wow!  Let me just share some examples of her arguments to give you a sense.

  • She refers to “forced labor camps” which some people call plantations.
  • She calls out ten or so of our first dozen presidents as “slavers.”
  • She nails Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration writers for their efforts to scratch out any mention of slavery in the Declaration and Constitution, but counts the times that they danced around it.
  • She cites continuing the practice of slavery as a major trigger for the demand for independence from Britain for fear that abolitionists there would force an end to the practice in the colonies.
  • She unabashedly argues that African-Americans have saved democracy in the United States from the white elites and that the best and truest Americans are in fact African-Americans.

And, let me remark again, that she does this in the Times!

In general, this is a special Times magazine section that everyone should read.

You know it by its enemies.  Former House Speaker and current Fox commentator Newt Gingrich is whining that the 1619 Project distorts history.  Of course, he is!  He represented a district in the Atlanta suburbs that one article particularly zings for creating the traffic congestion that is the legacy of slavery and persistent racism in Atlanta, and where one county continues to reject the expansion of MARTA to provide mass transit there.

Living in Louisiana, the section on sugar cane, including the fact that the French Jesuit priests planted the first cane stalks in 1751 near Baronne Street in New Orleans where one of ACORN’s old offices was located in 1978 for several years at 628, was especially painful to read.  No one living in the South escapes this reality today and the impact of its legacy.

I also have to admit that as I read Hannah-Jones’ piece when she wrote about her father’s roots having been in Greenwood, Mississippi before they ended up in Waterloo, Iowa, and that there were more lynchings in that county than any other in Mississippi where there were more than in any other state, I had to quickly doublecheck that Greenwood was in Leflore County, rather than my mother’s family next door in Sunflower County, next door, even though terribly bad in every other way imaginable.

She’s going to win a Pulitzer this year for these pieces.  The New York Times is going to win one for the 1619 Project.  I’d take a bet on both of those, as a member of her fan club, but I would also cover a bet that she at least could care less – it’s change that every word in her essay is demanding.

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Please enjoy Do You Remember from Chance The Rapper ft. Death Cab For Cutie.

Thanks to KABF.

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Deadly Health Impacts of Racism from Cradle to Grave

Gulf Shores     The American Association of Pediatrics has released a study that has been several years in the making on the impact of racism on children, and it’s devastating.  It starts early, even in the womb and has serious health impacts right up to a too early grave.

The litany of impacts is jolting according to the doctors and the list of adverse medical problems is extensive.  Here’s a short list:

  • Low birth weights
  • High maternal mortality
  • Socially transmitted from generation to generation
  • Less access to prenatal care
  • Inferior medical facilities
  • High rates of heart disease
  • Excessive rates of hypertension
  • Chronic stress leading to chronic diseases
  • Unacknowledged biases from medical personnel
  • Behavior problems and attention deficit disorder

And, it goes on and on.

The doctors have some recommendations.   Wisely, there first order of business is “heal thyself.”  They advise children’s doctors and hospitals to make sure that everything a child sees and experiences in the healthcare environment is multi-cultural from magazines to dolls to hopefully staffing.  They want pediatrician’s offices to be a “safe space” for families and children experience racism and are encouraging their members to go past the length of the stethoscope and ask about racism, bullying, and other social impacts that may be harming the health of children.

The New York Times’ report quotes several doctors alarmingly:

Dr. Spinks-Franklin, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, said that racial awareness in children follows a set of milestones. By the time children are 3, she said, they begin to recognize normal human variations, including skin color, but without assigning value to them. “A 4-year-old recognizes basic racial stereotypes,” she said. Parents need to be aware of what their children are watching, and provide diverse books and stories with strong positive models.

By age 7, she said, children develop racial permanency, “where you recognize the body you’re born in is the body you have, your skin color isn’t going to change drastically.” Around 9, as part of their identity development, they become more aware of what place their own cultural group holds in society. “When I was 9, I knew exactly what racism looked like and how it felt and how it manifested itself,” said Dr. Spinks-Franklin, who is African-American.

And then in adolescence, as children explore racial and cultural identity, they tend to show strong preferences for their own groups, sorting themselves out by table in the cafeteria.  The goal of racial identity development, Dr. Spinks-Franklin said, is by young adulthood to have a healthy sense of who you are, recognizing your own cultural group without demonizing others. But not everyone gets there.

The doctors’ message seems clear.  Unless racism is attacked early and beaten back quickly with young children, it becomes a lifetime and fatal affliction.  This seems a call-to-action for Head Start, preschool, and the early years of elementary schools to train teachers, support staff, and, yes, even parents of children of all races, so that they seeds are snuffed out early and not allowed to grow into diseases that kill people and our whole society later.

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Please enjoy “Freeway of Love” by Aretha Franklin. Thanks to KABF.

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