The idea that anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism started after September 11, 2001, is one thing many progressives get wrong. At least since the late 1970s, the U.S. government has been racially profiling Arab immigrant activists through surveillance and the corporate media has been portraying Arabs as savage misogynists. This racial profiling continued through the Clinton administration with the Omnibus Counterterrorism Bill of 1995. The bill, supported by then Senator Joe Biden, enabled the new McCarthyism that many people contend started after 9/11. It allowed the government to use secret evidence in deportation proceedings for “aliens.” Consequently, the government could hide the source of information used to deport someone. Arab Muslim immigrant men were the primary population targeted by such secret evidence.
As the deadly Spanish Influenza killed 675,000 Americans between 1917 and 1920, that era’s Black healthcare practitioners took the initiative to help African-Americans avoid and recover from that flu because they saw that the public health system would not or could not do so.
Now, as America steps up its 2021 COVID19 vaccination phase, Black doctors and their HBCU (historically Black college and university) colleagues are again filling a void born of the same variants of systemic and structural racism their great grandparents experienced a little over 100 years ago. One example of the parallel is that in 1918, according to a study published in Public Health Reports, Dr. Nathan Francis Mossell, the Black medical director of Philadelphia’s 75-bed Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital, established a 40-bed emergency annex at St. Peter Claver, a Black parochial school when his hospital beds were quickly exhausted by the Spanish Flu. Mossell got no funding for this from Philadelphia’s Board of Health, although the city had opened many emergency clinics for sick whites.
In early 2020, in response to the current COVID19 pandemic, Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, president and chief executive officer of Meharry Medical College, and other HBCU leaders sought and received $25 million in diagnostic and testing equipment from Thermo Fisher Scientific, which they initially used for COVID19 testing for students and faculty on their campuses, testing that was slow coming from other sources for these students and the communities they came from. “We’ll be having discussions on how to do this for the wider community,” Hildreth said. “We see an opportunity for the wider community to be enhanced. We’ve asked the Ways and Means committee of Congress for $5 million to allow medical schools to set up a consortium for a national testing approach.”
Hildreth also envisions a role for HBCU’s in making vaccinations more efficient for communities of color. “The solution is we must take the vaccinations to their communities, to meet the people where they are,” Hildreth said. “With the right training and coordination schools, churches and other community organizations could develop model field hospitals for testing and vaccinations, and once we have an easy to transport vaccine, we can use a mobile approach—medical vans that will extend the reach of vaccines and testing.”
Other Black doctors share Hildreth’s view that Black people and other people of color suffered a big spike in infections and deaths early in 2020 because they were never surveyed or tested properly early on. Health officials, they asserted,, simply surveyed and tested areas and locations where Black folks do not congregate so they got missed, and studies support their conclusion
In December 2020, a study of public health departments was published in the Journal of the NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security in conjunction with NCCU (North Carolina Central University), an HCBU in Durham, North Carolina.
This study outlined troubling details about the readiness of public health departments across the country in terms of dealing with a pandemic like COVID19.
The study showed that state and local public health departments were steadily cut in size and scope as state legislatures cut state and local taxes.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot
After an ongoing conflict between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Teachers Union to reopen schools for in-person learning during the pandemic, education advocates argue that tensions between Chicago Public schools and the CTU wouldn’t have arisen if the Chicago Board of Education was elected and more responsive to the community. CTU approved a back-to-school deal with support from close to 55% of its members after teachers argued that the initial reopening plan fell short of safety expectations. The reopening debate has renewed energy around an elected school board for the Chicago Board of Education as CPS is the country’s third-largest school district and the only district in Illinois with an appointed school board. “I think an elected school board would make a huge difference because the school board will be responsive to public demand,” said Jitu Brown, national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance. “We know that the majority of the district is Black and brown and they’re not sending their children to school right now.
COVID 19 forces changes in strategies for anti-violence groups
Like much of the country, Autry Phillips was caught off guard when a worldwide health crisis descended on Chicago last year. In addition to his long-time, ongoing efforts to reduce neighborhood violence, he now faced the challenge of conveying his organization’s message to residents who were increasingly vulnerable to a rampant virus. “When COVID hit back in March we didn’t know what to do,” says Phillips, executive director of Target Area Development Corp.. “If COVID was part of a street organization and carrying a gun, hanging out on the corner, I would have known exactly what to do. We had no idea what to do with COVID.”
Aside from sharing federal safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (“We said, ‘It’s time to put the guns down, but you gotta put a mask on now,’” recalls Phillips.), he and other peace activists have been forced to regroup and re-strategize.
Patrons waiting outside of a south suburban dispensary is becoming a common sight. Black and Latinx owners are barely a blip on the cannabis income radar. Kara Wright followed the rules and could be considered a winner, since the state awarded her and her applicant team the right to maybe get cannabis dispensary licenses in a yet to be conducted lottery. Yet after months of delays, the lottery hasn’t been conducted, and Wright, one few Black step away from legally selling cannabis in Illinois, still doesn’t have a license. “We are almost at a billion dollars [of sales] here in Illinois,” said Wright.
Harris makes history as America marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote — a right that most Black women weren’t afforded until much later.
against the legacy of the many Black women on whose shoulders they believe she stands.
The subjugation of black people, enforced by violence and embedded in capitalism, has been the through line of American history.
Credited with helping the magazine survive the succession of its founder, Larson oversaw the Reporter’s redesign, investigations on asbestos in public housing and the launch of Catalyst Chicago.
A new study says Chicago’s black population decline is due to decades of racial inequality.
The STEP summit dissected the scope of poverty in Chicago and examined policies that have been successful so far.
As cannabis becomes legal in more states, religious leaders should be truth-tellers of the racialized history and disparate impact of the war on drugs in recommending how their congregations and communities should respond.