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, America’s public education a far cry from integregation

September 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, minority, Prejudice, public education, socioeconomics, The New York Times, U.S. Education Department Office for Civil Rights, whites | 3 Comments
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When the Supreme Court ruled that separate public schools were not equal, the law was changed to desegregate the schools. While that order seemed to be the appropriate approach to take at the time, what has not changed over time and has been a stumbling block to progress in American public education is the attitude of European American normalcy. In essence, while ethnic minorities have been given permission to attend school with the European American students, the subject matter as well as the control of the perceptions has been that of European Americans as the model of normalcy.

When the schools were segregated, prior to 1954, the African American students attended school where they were the norm. No doubt existed relative to their self-worth and abilities to achieve an education. Once desegregation came into existence, subjects like African American history were discontinued. Since the majority of the new teachers had no background or knowledge of African Americans from an historical perspective, they could not share that information with the students. So, although African American and European American students attended the same school, they did not receive the same educational experience. If the African American students attended a predominantly European American school, the feeling of self worth, security, familiarity, and normalcy disappeared. For the European American students, nothing changed but the introduction of unfamiliar students in their school.

Today we live under the misconception that our schools are integrated.  America’s schools have never been integrated! Let us be clear about these terms. Desegregation of the schools meant simply that African American students were allowed to attend the predominantly European American schools; that is all that happened. Nothing in the European Americans schools’ curricula, attitude and perception of African Americans changed. If the African American students were to experience success, they must adapt to the environments of the schools; no special accommodations were made for them.

Integration is a term that carries the same meaning in science or social environments; it means the process of mixing or combining. If we take a look at our public schools today, we cannot miss the mixing of students in many schools, while we can also notice the lack of mixing of student in others. Unless we are mistaken about the court ruling, the purpose of the ruling was to eliminate the separate and unequal education the students were receiving. Although the impact of the ruling fell on the African American students as victims, the European Americans were as well victims because they had been deprived of information concerning their fellow Americans.

One easy way to check to see if American Education reflects integration is to examine the text books being used in the public schools. If they present an accurate and factual picture of ethnic Americans as participants in the making of this nation, then we can answer affirmative to integration. If not, then we cannot claim to have integrated public schools and admit that much work needs to be done, namely, rewriting the American story to include the contributions of  ethnic minorities. To date, the history of America as told in the text books is the history of European Americans. In addition to the story that is being told, not all Americans have a say in what is presented to the students. In effect, a form of censorship is practiced that affects and influences the students and teachers alike.

In an article by Gail Collins, “How Texas Inflicts Bad Textbooks on Us,” published in “The New York Review of Books” (6/21/12), we learn that “No matter where you live, if your children go to public schools, the textbooks they use were very possibly written under Texas influence.” What that means is a few people in Texas have used their power to control the content of many textbooks. We are told that people in Texas are not the only ones to have a say about the content of textbooks, but the influence exerted by Texas comes from its size and system for electing State Board members: “The difference is due to size—4.8 million textbook-reading schoolchildren as of 2011—and the peculiarities of its system of government, in which the State Board of Education is selected in elections that are practically devoid of voters, and wealthy donors can chip in unlimited amounts of money to help their favorites win.”

In her article, Collins details just how Texas and other states, like California can influence the content of books simply by the volume of sales. The influence of the group in Texas comes from “the right,” and much of their concern with the textbooks comes from their religious beliefs. For example, the article noted that “In 2009, the nation watched in awe as the state board worked on approving a new science curriculum under the leadership of a chair who believed that “evolution is hooey.” In 2010 teachers were supposed to “work in consultation with ‘experts’ added on by the board, one of whom believed that the income tax was contrary to the word of God in the scriptures.”

To the earlier point that America’s public schools are not integrated the article noted the following:

In 2011, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank, issued an evaluation of US history standards for public schools. The institute was a longtime critic of curricula that insisted that representatives of women and minorities be included in all parts of American history. But the authors, Sheldon Stern and Jeremy Stern, really hated what the Texas board had done. Besides incorporating “all the familiar politically correct group categories,” the authors said,

the document distorts or suppresses less triumphal or more nuanced aspects of our past that the Board found politically unacceptable (slavery and segregation are all but ignored, while religious influences are grossly exaggerated). The resulting fusion is a confusing, unteachable hodgepodge.

The article provides much more information then could be included in this blog. However,  when we stop and take a good long look at education, we realize that much of the perception and attitude relative to what and who is important to our students is still controlled by a small number of narrow-minded people who do not understand or accept democracy. Desegregation was to be the first major step after segregation on the road to democracy. Today we also realize that we still must face the challenges of ethnic bias, low social and economic status, preschools, curricula and a host of related areas. After taking a realistic assessment of our situation, we find that we have only just begun to see the challenge in education for our society.

Paul R. Lehman, The use of race create flaws in sleep study

August 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Posted in American Racism, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, justice, minority, Prejudice, public education, Race in America, socioeconomics, U. S. Census, whites | Leave a comment
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The New York Times published an article by Douglas Quenqua, “How Well You Sleep May Hinge on Race,” (8/21/12) that does nothing more than make a mockery of science and research using race as it’s enticement. What the title of the article should have been was “Race can never be an influence in sleep habits of Human Beings.” So, what is wrong with the article? Well, let us see. If a person goes to his or her doctor and complains of a malady, the doctor does an examination and run some tests. Afterwards, during consultation, the doctor writes out a prescription and advises the patient to come back in three weeks. Chances are the patient will seek another doctor because this doctor did not do the job correctly. First, no malady was identified, no cause was found, no treatment was suggested, no questions were asked, and no expectations were given to the patient relative to a problem. Yet, a prescription was given and a return visit was advised. In essence, if the malady is not identified, anything that follows is suspect. The same sentiment can be made regarding the article about sleep and race.

The research identified in the article we can unequivocally say is bogus, unacceptable, flawed, and totally useless. Why? The answer is because a definition of terms was never given regarding race. To be clearer, let us examine the following statement: “Non-Hispanic whites get more and better-quality sleep than people of other races, studies repeatedly show. Blacks are the most likely to get shorter, more restless sleep.” If the research was conducted by scientists, they show a gross inefficiency in conducting a study by using out of date assumptions rather than current empirical data. How did they define “Non-Hispanic whites’? Since no definition was given, how can we accept any data that supposedly represent this group’s sleep behavior?

Additionally, we are told that Non-Hispanic whites get better sleep than “people of other races.” Are their other races of human beings besides Homo sapiens? Evidently, the scientists involved in this sleep study think so because no question was raised about the assumed races. Also, these scientists apparently accept the myth of a black and white race because both terms are used as if they were valid and accurate. One scientist, Dr. Michael Grandner, a research associate with the Center for Sleep and Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania, said that “We’re not at a point where we can say for certain is it nature versus nurture, is it race or is it socioeconomics.” He continued, “But when it comes to sleep, ‘there is a unique factor of race we’re still trying to understand.’”

If Grandner had done his homework, he would have known that the only possible area of research regarding sleep habits must be socioeconomic, because so-called race cannot be a factor. His statement relative to race being a “unique factor” in sleep is false, bogus, misinformation. The scientists involved in this study ignore the problems to focus on a non-relevant one—race: “Whatever the cause, doctors say that unlocking the secret to racial sleep disparities could yield insights into why people in some minority groups experience higher rates of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.” Duh, common sense should suggest that sleep problems have more to do with health issues and socioeconomic status, not race.

The doctors involved in this study are actually short-changing themselves by their unscientific assumptions about race and their random and mythical racial definitions. They also confuse socioeconomic status with ethnicity which creates more problems than it resolves. Part of their problem regarding the use of race and the various designations like non-Hispanic whites, blacks, and whites and others, might come from the U. S. Census Bureau. Unfortunately, the Census Bureau is having the same problem. It uses race and ethnicity in ways that are never defined, so people completing survey forms can supply any answer they feel comfortable with selecting. In any event, the use of race is not acceptable for any scientific study today, and scientists should know better.

The problem with using race as a given is that it is unreliable and inaccurate unless clearly defined with respect to ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Does black refer to a person’s skin complexion or does the assumed definition encompass more? Does white refer to a person’s skin complexion or does it encompass more? What more is assumed by using those terms? We were introduced to the term “non-Hispanic whites” earlier; how does one identify a white Hispanic? Eighty per cent of the worlds population will contain individuals of so-called black and so-called white complexions, so how does this fact impact a scientific study that make reference to black and whites without clear definitions of each? How can empirical data be retrieved from information based on myths and assumptions? The answer is simply, junk in, junk out.

All the doctors involved in this article should receive some attention for their bogus efforts, not just Garndner. The article also included Dr. Mercedes R. Carnethon, associate professor, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; Dr. Kristen Knutson, assistant professor, University of Chicago; Dr. Lauren Hale, associate professor, Stony Brook University. One wonders why these scientists did not accept the findings of the famous human-genome-project, mapping human DNA that concluded, for one thing, that

While DNA can prove direct ancestry or linage, it can’t prove race or ethnicity. The reason for this is that human beings are so much alike, and have had genetic mixtures for so long even the most defining racial or ethnic traits are found in almost every human family. Skin color, facial structure, hair and eye color, all things that are used to define race or ethnicity lose definition when traced as part of a DNA analyst. (The Human Genome Project)

The information from the genome project also tells us that “we are so much alike, that only our individuality separates us.” So, if this scientific information on DNA is accurate and acceptable to the scientific community, why would it be ignored by other scientists? The emphasis on race is evidently misplaced: “DNA tells us that we share so much in common that any two individuals on earth can trace some common ancestry in six generations or less.” Let us hope that new studies that purport to tell us something about us remember that race is a non-starter. The use of ethnicity and socioeconomic information would result in more accurate and usable information than would the use of race. The only thing that the use of race is good for is attracting attention while contributing to ethnic separation and confusion.

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