Journalists’ use of race by color continues to create confusion

April 30, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in African American, Alzheimer's disease, blacks, Daniel Chang, DNA, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Human Genome, Media and Race, minority, Race in America, skin color, The New York Times, University of Miami, whites | 2 Comments
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Two articles reporting on “Alzheimer’s disease in blacks” arrived at different conclusions about the study’s affect on African Americans. The first article discussed here in the last blog was written by Daniel Chang in the Miami Herald (4/11/13) entitled “Researchers identify possible new gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease in blacks.” The earlier article in The New York Times (4/9/13) written by Gina Kolata is entitled “In Blacks, Alzheimer’s Study Finds Same Variant Genes as in Whites.” We find some interesting similarities as well as differences in comparing these two articles that focused on the same topic: Alzheimer’s disease in blacks.
Actually, the similarities are few; first, they include a reference to “Alzheimer’s disease in blacks” in their headlines. Next, they both discuss the gene ABCA7. Other similarities might exist, but these two are the major ones. The Chang article suggested that the important concern is that this ABCA7 gene is found in blacks and is also linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Of course, we had problems with the use of the word blacks. The only reference to blacks by Kolata appears in the headline. Obviously, someone else could have written the headline for Kolata’s article without fully reading or appreciating the text.
The differences between the Chang article and Kolata’s are many, but the major ones verify the comments made in the last blog by Chang regarding the use of blacks as an identity. Nowhere in Kolata’s article does the reference to blacks appear. Because of this deliberate act, the readers are spared any confusion about the study or who it involves “African-Americans have a slightly higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease than people of largely European ancestry, but there is no major genetic difference that could account for the slight excess risk, new research shows.” In effect, no major concerns for African Americans acquiring Alzheimer’s disease were detected as a result of this study. This statement is contrary to the Chang statement:”University of Miami medical school researchers working with geneticist and physicians from other institutions have identified a new gene associated with Alzheimer’s disease in blacks, a finding that doctors say could help them prescribe more effective drugs for patients affected by the disease.”
The Kolata article does not place emphasis on blacks as does the Chang article, but on the disease; it says that “The results are from one of the only large studies ever done on Alzheimer’s in African-Americans. Researchers identified the same gene variant in older African-Americans that they had found in older people of European ancestry.” Chang’s article never mentions people of European ancestry. Kolata’s article continued, noting that the study “…found that African-Americans with Alzheimer’s disease were slightly more likely to have one gene, ABCA7 that is thought to confer risk for the disease.” In addition, the Kolata article noted that “Another gene, AP0E4, long known to increase Alzheimer’s risk in older white people, was present in about the same proportion of African-Americans with Alzheimer’s as it is in people of European ancestry.”This quote mentions the word “white” for the first and only time in the article.
So, what is the point being made here? The point is when ethnic identity is used and clearly defined, such as in African American and European ancestry or European Americans little confusion occurs. When color is used as ethnic identity, no one knows for certain who is being identified. The fact that the Chang article used blacks only suggested that some biological difference appeared in African Americans that did not exist in European Americans. The use of color, be it black or white, always suggest race and different races at that. Using the terms African American and people of European ancestry in her article, Kolata avoids the confusion associated with the color words.
We can compliment Kolata on her avoidance of suggesting a so-called racial difference in the Alzheimer’s study when she commented that “The researchers calculated that ABCA7 increased Alzheimer’s risk by about 80 percent in African- Americans, compared with about 10 percent to 20 percent in people of European ancestry. “ She added that “Those are considered modest increases; a gene that carries a significant risk would increase the chances of getting a disease by well over 200 percent.” She continued by noting that “…ABCA7 was not very common, still leaving most Alzheimer’s risk unexplained. About 9 of every 100 African-American with Alzheimer’s had the gene, compared with 6 out of 100 who did not have the disease.”
All the attention to blacks paid by Chang was totally unnecessary. One Alzheimer’s researcher, Dr. John Hardy, commented on the study by applauding the participants for their focus on minorities then “cautioned that the difference in risk between African-Americans and those of European ancestry who had ABCA7 was unlikely to be meaningful.” Actually, the Chang article seemed to promote race and racial differences as the focus of his article when the information did not support it. The Kolata article presented the study information in a clear and unbiased way. Her article is a good example of how ethnic identities rather than race can be used positively and effectively. Other journalists would do well to follow her example

Paul R. Lehman, Racism should not be considered a permanent feature of American society

March 17, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, discrimination lawsuit, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Hispanic whites, integregation, minority, Oklahoma education, Race in America, socioeconomics, U. S. Census, whites | 3 Comments
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A number of articles recently focused on the topic of racism and how it negatively affects the mind and body of its victims. Studies ranging from stress and depression to heart problems have been conducted showing the detrimental effects of racism. As interesting and informative as these studies and articles are in bringing this awareness to the public eye, nothing has been said about avenues of approach to try and eliminate the problem of racism. Most articles and studies treat racism as if it is an indestructible social phenomenon that is with society to stay. If that is the considered sentiment, then what use are the studies and articles complaining about it? We have some alternatives that can be considered if we are sincere about wanting to address the issue.
Yes, we know that race is a social construct, but that does mean we must accept it as a permanent feature of American society. Polio was a problem in society until penicillin was discovered. What we as a society must do in addressing racism are to understand its cause; we know its affects. One of the causes of racism is our acceptance, support, and promotion of it. Since we know that the concept of biological races is made-up, we also know that it’s divertive, racism is also made-up. So, why do we continue to accept them as though they are legitimate features of our society? Maybe we think that if we continue talking about them, they will go away. So far that approach has not and will not work. We need to start with our conception or view of race first, before we can address the problems associated with racism.
Because we readily accept the idea of multiple biological races as a certainty, we can easily convince ourselves that superficial physical differences such as skin color, eye shapes, hair texture and numerous other physical elements constitute a so-called racial difference. They do not. The fact that we know that race is a social construct does not come from someone’s idea or suggestion. Science has offered empirical data to support that fact through DNA. For a number of years now, especially since the O.J. Simpson trial, we know that the science of DNA has provided us with conclusive data that can be duplicated time and again to underscore its reliability. So, when the scientists tell us that all human beings belong to one race, why do we not accept, believe, and communicate that concept- changing information? The fact that race by color has never been accurate or trustworthy does not seem to be enough to cause us to change our so-called racial stereotypes. We need to communicate to our society and the world that we recognize and agree with our scientists that the concept of multiple biological races is formally debunked. Knowing the truth and accepting it, however, are two different and challenging things.
Once we accept the concept of a one race world, we will then be in a position to understand that the concept of racism is equally false. We certainly cannot and should not ignore cultural and other man-made differences, but we cannot identify those differences as racial or biological. Along with the acceptance of a one race world comes the change of our own self-concept and of others as being a part of a world family. DNA scientists tell us that if we selected two people from opposite geographical locations on the planet, we could go back only six generations before we discover a common ancestry between those two people. That fact alone should tell us how much alike we are to one another. Still, we prefer to hold on to our old, false concepts of race. If we no longer identified people according to their color, how would we identify them?
The answer to that question came in 1945 from a group of world-renowned scientists assembled by the United Nations under the rubric of UNESCO. They decided that the word race was not suitable for use as a social identity because it was not accurate and reliable. They offered instead, the words ethnic group and ethnicity to be used instead of race, not a replace for it. However, during that time, American society was very much involved with the concept of race because of the privileges and opportunities it provided for those who eugenics identified as being of the white race. Many American immigrants from Italy, Poland, Russia, and Greece, along with Jewish people, were not favorably or readily welcomed here. Most were not yet considered white or America n because at that time America recognized only two races—white and black (Negro). The fact that UNESCO suggested the use of ethnic group and ethnicity instead of the word race was bad new, however, had it been accepted, the change would have negatively affect those immigrants who desperately wanted the white identity in order to enjoy all the rights and privileges of that segment of society. So, today in spite of all the data to the contrary, the U.S. Census still include on its form two races black and white.
Today in America some people hold on to their so-called racial identity and beliefs more than their religion. They do so because it might be the only positive thing of social value they have even if it is only make-believe. To many of those people, they believe it is their right to be biased and discriminate against people who do not look like they look. Because of the many negative stereotypes created about non-European ethnic Americans over the years, many people grow up in America embracing that negative stereotypes. A recent statistic concerning the practice of “Stop and Frisk” showed that out of the total number of people stopped, 88% were innocent. In addition, out of that 88%, African Americans represented 87% (check the MHP Show 3-16-13). If we as a society refuse to communicate the facts and truth about the falsity and inaccuracy of race and racism, nothing will change.
The fact that articles appear on a fairly regular basis dealing with the injustices of race and racism is evidence enough that it still exists. Because of the fact that we do not seek aggressively to debunk these concepts, we cause measurable harm to the mind and body of innocent people who do not yet know that they do not belong to a white, black, brown, yellow or any other color race. They do not need to agonize over what race is theirs—it is human. They can pick and choose their ethnic identity based on their culture and ancestry, American Indian, African American, Asian American, and Hispanic (Specify) American, or some other, but under no circumstances should it be black or white because that is where the concept of race and racism in America began. More on this topic later.

Paul R. Lehman, Roger Clegg and charges of racial discrimination in OU’s admissions policy

November 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, blacks, college admission, desegregation, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, Michael J. Sandel, minority, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, public education, Race in America, The Oklahoman, whites | 2 Comments
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Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, presented some statistical data in an article “On racial admission preferences at OU,” in The Oklahoman recently (10-26-12). The article and data suggests that African American and American Indian students receive preferential treatment when admitted to The University of Oklahoma (OU).  In addition to presenting the information, Clegg makes a certain charge:”A study released this week by the Center for Equal Opportunity has found evidence of racial discrimination in law, undergraduate and medical school admission at the University of Oklahoma.”

Clegg continues by noting that “The study, which analyzes data obtained from the university, found that blacks were admitted to all three schools with lower academic qualifications than students from other racial and ethnic groups. Some evidence of preferential treatment for American Indian applicants was noted as well.” The fact that African American and American Indian students submit applications for admission with lower academic qualifications than other ethnic American groups should not come as a surprise when we consider from whence they come. Common knowledge underscores the fact that African American as well as other ethnic American students who come from socially and economically challenged communities do not receive an educational experience equal to that of more affluent students. So, why would the test scores lower grade point averages come as a surprise, especially from African Americans considering their special experiences in a biased society?

The article got specific regarding the charge of discrimination: “At the law school, we found black-white median LSAT gaps of 6 (equivalent to a combined math-verbal SAT gap of over 100), and a gap in undergraduate GPAs. Indeed, 105 whites were rejected despite higher LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs than the median black admittee in the two years studied.” What exact ally is the point being made here? If admittance was based only on examination scores of the LSAT and GPAs, the number of African Americans and American Indians would not exist at all, except for those students coming from upper-middle-class or affluent communities and schools. Statistics show that schools in the lower socio-economic communities generally produce poor to median students. All we have to do to verify this information is to take a look at the schools in Oklahoma where the applicants graduated.

Let us be clear about what is being suggested in this study.  Data concerning admittance at the University of Oklahoma was given to the Center for Equal Opportunity. The Center released the data along with the charge of “racial discrimination” and “racial preference” with a special focus on African Americans. For years, beginning with statehood to 1948, African Americans were denied admittance to all of Oklahoma’s institutions of higher education with the exception of Langston University, a predominantly undergraduate African American school. The primary reason for denying admission to the African Americans was their ethnicity or as noted, their race. If that was the primary reason for their being denied entrance, should not part of the resolution take in the fact of their ethnicity? Just how would Clegg suggest the problem be addressed that provides an equal opportunity to all?

Whether intended or not, Clegg characterizes African American students as villains for seeking admission to the school  at OU knowing full well that their scores and GPAs are not as high as the European American students. What are these students supposed to do when their society and academic experiences do not adequately prepare them to compete equally at the college and university level? One of the problems with these kinds of studies is created via the language used. The very name of the Center for Equal Opportunity is an oxymoron; since “opportunity” is based on chance or break, how can that be equal? Unfortunately, the word equal is a mathematical word, not a social one. The possibility of two people being equal does not exist. To use it with respect to college and university admittance suggests that all students must be treated the same. The problem with using that word is the creation of unequal experiences for some when attempting to correct the admittance problem for others. The appropriate word and action to use is fair or fairness because it allows for changes to be made without the restrictions associated with being equal.

As in my previous blog regarding Affirmative Action, the book Mismatch, by Sander and Taylor is referenced to show that preference is given to African American students. Clegg says “None of this is surprising: Nearly every selective school in the country uses racial preferences unless a court or state has told it not to.” If the schools want to treat the once denied African American students fairly, then they must show preferences; that is just plain common sense. Simple admittance will not address the over-all problem. Attention to the students’ education prior to college or university must be given serious and necessary attention as the book Mismatch suggests.

Concerning the charge of discrimination by Clegg we must wonder who else is being discriminated against. We know the African American and other ethnic American students are who are forced to compete unfairly with students from more affluent families and communities.  We know the European American students with the high test scores and GPAs are who are rejected in favor of students whose parents attended OU. We do not know for certain, but Clegg seems to place the blame on the university and the African American students, but we wonder why.

Maybe we can find some food for thought in the words of  Michael J. Sandel, author of What Money Can’t Buy when he says “Democracy does not require perfect equality, but is does require that citizens share in a common life. What matters is that people of different backgrounds and social positions encounter one another, and bump up against one another, in the course of everyday life. For this is how we learn to negotiate and abide our differences, and how we come to care for the common good.” Sometimes a simple word is sufficient.

Paul R. Lehman, Contrary to education report, intelligence, discipline not based on ethnicity

March 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Posted in American Racism, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, minority, whites | 1 Comment
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An educational report for the state of Oklahoma, written by Carrie Coppernoll, was published recently in The Oklahoman. The headline read, “Report shows racial disparity in school academics, discipline.” Actually, the reference to race is misleading and not factual, but has been a part of the stereotypical picture of education for so long that not too many people pay attention to it. The report should come as disheartening, but not surprising news for the state, parents, schools and students. Rather than view the report as educational defects, it should be seen as a challenge.

When we read the report carefully, we discover that other elements beside ethnicity (race) play a more important role in the students’ success as measured by their performance and behavior. For example, we read that “In Oklahoma City Public Schools, the state’s largest district, white and Asian students are more likely to be enrolled in gifted and talented programs than blacks, Hispanics and American Indians. They are less likely to be suspended or expelled.” Immediately we recognize that all students are grouped according to an ethnic group with generalized comments that actually focus on things other than race. For example, why would white (European Americans) and Asian students be more likely to enroll in gifted and talented programs? Certainly, not because they are the only gifted and talented students in the district as the statement suggests.

Another statement seems to suggest race as a cause of student behavior:” Black students represent 30 percent of the city district’s student population. But blacks represent 43 percent of in-school suspensions, 50 percent of out-of school suspension and 35 percent of expulsion.” We are not questioning the numbers here, but we must recognize that they include the entire district—schools in very low social and economic areas as well as schools in more affluent areas. We know that the most important elements in a child’s education are the home and family. Behavior, however, is not an ethnic problem.

Often what impacts a child’s education is the attitude of the family towards education. The more educational achievement reflected in the home, the more likely the child is to achieve success in education at school. However, the reverse is also true. The less education reflected at home, the more likely a child is to perform poorly at school. Add to the attitude towards education in the home, the social and economic status of the family and the opportunities for or against education comes into play. Families that enjoy a moderate income usually create a home environment that is conducive to learning with books, magazines, electronic gadgets, and other advantages not found in the average low-income family home. Notice the mention of ethnicity was not present in these comments because it is not a major factor at this point. Also of particular interest regarding success or lack of it in education can depend on a child’s geographic location. The location and per capita income of the community plays a definite role in the quality of the public school education.

In addition to the family and home’s role in the educational process, the school also plays an important part in the success or failure of the students. If teachers in a low social economic area school believe that the majority of the students in that school lack sufficient intellect to acquire the basic knowledge to be successful, the chances are that that attitude will be reflected in the teacher’s efforts. On the other had, if teachers in school expect their students to succeed, that attitude will as well be reflected.

When schools want their students to do well, they create programs and activities that help promote those ends. Usually the government or private companies contribute to help programs for the students.    In those types of schools discipline is not a serious problem. The report states “Blacks and Hispanics are less likely to be suspended in the Edmond district about 12 percent of students are black, but only 8 percent of in-school suspensions are of blacks. Hispanics make up 5 percent of the study body but represent less than 1 percent of all suspensions.”  Basically, what these figures tell us is that race (ethnicity) has little to do with a student’s educational success. When the environment and attitude is changed, the students’ performance will change as well, regardless of their ethnicity.

Other elements that affects student’s performance and behavior are well documented in many studies. In their book, The Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett tell of two groups of boys given the same take to perform—puzzle solving. One group of boys was from an affluent area, the other group was from a poor, lower-classed area. Neither group knew of the other’s status. After the first round of puzzle solving, the boys from the poor group actually did better than the boys from the affluent group. Then, the boys in the groups were asked to give their names and addresses. This activity informed each group of the social differences. The groups were given the puzzle solving tasks again. This time, the poor group did poorly; the affluent group did better than before. In essence, the behavior and performance of each group was influenced by the knowledge of social self.

This type of study was also done with African American and European American student. “In one condition, the students were told that the test was a measure of ability; in the second condition, the students were told that the test was not a measure of ability.” The results were that “the white [European American] students performed equally under both conditions, but the black [African American] students performed much worse when they thought their ability was being judges.”

What was concluded from these and other test is “evidence that performance and behavior in an educational task can be profoundly affected by the way we feel we are seen and judged by others.”So not only is family, home, and schools important in a child’s education, but also his or her self-image, regardless of ethnicity. Maybe that might explain why according to the article, that three of the largest districts: Moore, Norman, Tulsa, reported no blacks enrolled in calculus. However, the report states that “Though blacks [African Americans] are less likely to enroll in calculus, they are more likely than their peers to take physics and chemistry in Oklahoma City. On the other hand, in Tulsa, although African Americans represent 34 percent of the study body, they represent 76 percent of all in-school suspensions.

As troubling as this report is regarding the problems in education, the information is from a survey of 2009. If this information is viewed critically by the state, school, and parents, a list of the problems to be addressed can be created from it. We know for certain, however, the lack of success in education and disciplinary problems are not due to a students’ ethnicity. We need to move passed the stereotypes and get to the real problems of creating positive learning environments and opportunities in the home, school, community, state, and nation.

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