Brainstorming Ebola under America First

Saw a story that got me wondering what the reaction would be under the current president if the test had come back positive.

An unidentified patient who was kept in isolation at a Philadelphia hospital while being tested for Ebola has been confirmed as not infected with the deadly virus.

  1. Thoughts and prayers? That seems to be the go-to for so many things like massacres at home and abroad.
  2. Deny travelers to Ebola prone countries the ability to fly to the US until they have self-quarantines elsewhere for the contagious period, thereby spreading it around the world?

The Obama administration’s Ebola response was to send 3,000 health officials to the region who:

  1. Constructed treatment units in the region.
  2. Provided protective equipment and medical supplies.
  3. Operated almost 200 burial teams.
  4. Conducted aggressive contact tracing to locate other potentially infected cases.
  5. Trained health care workers and conducted community outreach.
  6. Identified travelers who may have Ebola before they left the region.

I suspect health officials would lobby for the same response with the rationale, the faster we end the outbreak there, the fewer infected individuals overall and less like they end up in the US: America First! But, this is the region the current president referred to as “shithole countries.” My guess is this is just the excuse needed to bar travel to or from there.

“Look Like Them”

Read an article about pay disparities by gender in the system by which I am employed which mentioned research that students get along best with faculty members who look like them. It made me laugh out loud.

I cannot recall a teacher who looked like me: male, tall, and half-white / half-black. Or at least of brown skin.

The only male teacher that comes close to matching this might be my 8th-grade math & science teacher who lectured by popping his wrist with a rubber band. He is also African-American, tall, and broad shoulders. Cannot say we got along that well so much as we students cowered in fear of him.

Certainly, that year, I got along much better with my literature teacher, but she is short, Caucasian, and female. My recollection of my 2nd-grade teacher was she was African-American but of lighter skin color.


On Monuments

We built monuments to display our pride of winning or mourn our loss. They represent what we considered the great things about our society in the past as lessons for the present and future. In that light, defacing a historical marker such as both of Emmett Till’s shows the opposition that honoring the person is a good thing.

Frankly, I think we as a country have done a terrible job recognizing important people and events. Confederate monuments are overly honored due to the rush to throw them up during Segregation and opposing the Civil Rights Movement.

We should do a better job today creating monuments to abolitionists, slave rebellions, and victims of Jim Crow lynchings. People should be able to recognize Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, and Emmett Till even better than they recognize the faces of traitorous generals and presidents like Lee and Davis.

50th Anniversary of Loving v Virginia

Supreme Court decisions often have clear have day-to-day impact in one’s life. This one, though, has all the impact in the world to me. It allowed my very black father and very white mother to marry. Without, I could have still existed, but it would have been much more challenging for them to date and marry.

Legality does not mean everyone views it as acceptable. Things must have gotten somewhat better though as I have yet to get a death threat like my parents did. After writing that, though, I hope any of the women I dated would have said something if they received one. Today it seems to be limited to frowns and stares. And, the isolated judges who refuse to comply.

About 15% of marriages today in the US are interracial. It makes me happy that people are proving the value of this landmark court decision.

Review: Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a couple hundred pounds of chains bearing down on the reader. A father who writes about the race in America in the time just before #BlackLivesMatter attempts to put into words what it means. This stands out as a better expression of the weight of it all than anything else I have seen.

View all my reviews

Peril of Good Intentions

Defeated in college

I ran across a friend’s Facebook post about parenting and related a description of a college psychology professor’s eugenics lecture. The reply was that eliminating the genes of less intelligent people seems like it could help improve society. This seeming promise is why it has been tried many times. Before the Holocaust shifted to genocide, it dabbled in eugenics and mimicked United States eugenics programs.

But, let’s assume that a eugenics program stayed away from genocide. I still have issues with this…

Why a specific person is intelligent or not tends to be not so clear cut as good or bad genes. Psychologists tend to be pretty sure that most of intelligence comes from genes. I personally think genes provide recipes for brain cells and a layout of those cells. The brain cells still have to be grown and connections established in the brain. Exposure to various experiences in the raising of the child help achieve the potential provided by the brains. If a person both has good genes and was raised in such a way to maximize their potential, then I think a person ought to become the person we want them to be. Are we at a point where almost all children can are provided the experiences to reach this potential? Not even close. I think people who think we reasonably are at this point feel that eugenics or genetic modification are the ways to push beyond our plateau. I would prefer we fix the environment before we start punishing people for lack of socioeconomic resources or programs to help.

Biases cloud our conclusions in situations where we are not usually aware. It was thought the reason orchestras were almost all male because they were better performers. They shifted to a better mix of genders after the practice of blind auditions became common. Why? Because there are biases which affect opinions assessments beneath our ability to tell. We see similar issues when it comes to intelligence assessment and especially jobs in skilled fields. IQ tests have fought hard to get better at not being WEIRD. Anonymous names on papers change the grades students get and which conference submissions are accepted. Some of meritocracies could be doing much better.

When people think they are objective and unbiased then they don’t monitor and scrutinize their own behavior. They just assume that they are right and that their assessments are accurate. Yet, studies repeatedly show that stereotypes of all kinds (gender, ethnicity, age, disability etc.) are filters through which we evaluate others, often in ways that advantage dominant groups and disadvantage lower-status groups.

The eugenics movements were confident the physically & mentally unfit, materially poor, and atheists needed to controlled. People of color just happened to commonly be identified as meeting their criteria. I will be skeptical of any similar movement to be truly objective because even though they truly intend to be, the prior ones thought they were too. Hindsight shows they were not.

Of course, the abomination that I am was the reasoning for why my parents were not allowed to marry in my home state. It was deemed bad for the Caucasian race to allow mixing with inferior races. That probably fuels my own bias against this kind of thing.

Is it yours?

I did have this experience once:

One assumption that always gets me, and I am sure makes most of my African American male friends perhaps slightly uncomfortable when we are in public together, is when someone says to one of them, “Oh, your daughter is beautiful” ― except as Jerry Springer would announce, “He is NOT the baby daddy!”

Just because a white woman is with a man of color and the child is brown does NOT make that man the father. A nervous laugh always ensues when that question is uttered by yet another stranger. Immediately, the look on the face of my friend says, What do I say?

About nineteen years ago, this woman I had met online was taking her about 9 month old son to visit her parents. She planned to stop where I lived, so we hung out for a bit. The place she wanted to eat was a buffet, so she left him with me to fix their plates. That’s what my mother did with my little brother at the same age, so I knew this drill.

A guy at another table leaned over to say my son was well behaved and handsome. I was dumbfounded. But, but, but.

Then I realized that brown guy + brown boy => father-son. It was such an obvious conclusion I had no idea how to refute it. I did tell the mom about the guy’s compliment on her son.

Some friends have very, very blond daughters. At brunch I would occasionally carry them around and talk about things. The looks were priceless. Some found it amusing. Others had confused expressions. I know they wanted to ask whether or not this was my kid. A small part was about making people react just to see what it would be. It was a big, red, shiny button begging to be pushed.

Race Is Immutable?

In the eyes of the law, your race is considered immutable because it cannot be changed from its natural state.

This made me laugh. Being mixed the perception of my race is very mutable. People often have no idea what to make of my skin color, hair, or facial features.The day-to-day decisions I make influence that perception. The day-to-day decisions I make influence what I consider myself.

Some days I consider myself more black than white. Some days I consider myself more white than black. Some days I consider myself more mixed than either. Some days I consider myself neither black nor white.

The article does address this:

Race is an elusive, fluid concept, and the courts have been manifestly reluctant to define it. What, in the end, makes a person black? The 11th Circuit wrestled with the idea in its ruling, dredging up old definitions and emerging with nothing more definitive than that “race” is nature, not nurture.


Well Fed and Housed

Michelle Obama: I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.

Bill O’Reilly: Slaves that worked there were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802.

If he used a weasel word like “some” to say slaves had relatively decent treatment, then I would be okay with what he said. One of those who worked on the Capitol building, Philip Reid, was paid $1.25 a day but only on Sunday (the other six days his owner received pay for his work). Once freed due to Lincoln, this same man was a highly sought after craftsman. Because of his high desirability, he probably was well treated. Others building in DC with sought after skills probably were also pretty well treated.

But, those slaves doing the worst jobs probably got terrible treatment. Both are common narratives in stories about slavery. Those serving in the house or providing special skills were clean, well fed, and slept in nice houses. Those serving in the fields were dirty, barely subsisting, and slept in terrible conditions.

As an eye witness Abigail Adams observed in a letter slaves working on the White House were so malnourished and weak 2 Northern whites could do the work of 12 slaves. My 2nd cousin 8x removed, John C. Calhoun, was a great defender of slavery describing owners and caretakers of those who would otherwise be destitute. The story that slaves had good lives is a popular propaganda of those  who lovingly long for the South to return to its great glory. Dylann Roof’s manifesto contained writings about how slaves positively viewed their lives under it. So I read the Georgia narratives and found the opposite.

Let’s say they were well treated…

  1. They were still slaves.
  2. Meaning, they were still considered less than a full person at 3/5ths.
  3. As slaves they were still forced to work for the benefit of others not themselves.
  4. As slaves they had no option to decide they would rather do something else.

Pretty sure if I made Bill my slave, then he would be constantly trying to escape like Kunta Kinte to the point of needing to torture him and chop off part of his foot to hobble him. He would ungratefully do this even though I would feed him well and set him up in a nice house. He would bristle under not being free. He talks lots and lots about how great are the Bill of Rights because he appreciates freedom. Even if a slave owner treats the slaves well, they are… still. not. free.

Not all slave owners were terrible people. At least, a few slave narratives of blacks I read revealed some thought their owners treated them better than most did. The common narrative from the worst to the best is they were all still were glad to receive their freedom. Even those who found their circumstances onerous during Great Depression were thankful to be free.

What Bill said though is dog whistle politics. The underlying coded language here is that blacks were better off under slavery than they are now. Freeing my ancestors was a mistake because we could be still benefiting under that vile institution as slaves instead of what we have today. Those Southern conservatives who dream the South Will Rise Again ate that up and totally agree with him. A couple Confederate fanboy blogs I read yesterday even lament that Bill was not more explicit about what he meant.