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New! Precis #1-Wharton Study Shows the Shocking Result When Women and Minorities Email Their Professors

Raven Harris (harav) (Mar 21, 2015 7:19 PM) - Read by: 2mark as readreply to this messageReply

Last Edited By Raven Harris (harav) on Mar 21, 2015 9:42 PM

Wharton Study Shows the Shocking Result When Women and Minorities Email Their Professors

 New research finds that women and minorities have difficulty in finding mentors in a university setting. Professors tend to favor white male students when it comes to assistance and mentorship. This research was led by Wharton School's Katherine Milkman through an email study. 6,5000 professors from 89 disciplines at the top 259 schools were contacted through email by people posing as students with racial and gender obvious names, such as "Brad Anderson", "LaToya Brown", and "Deepak Patel". As expected, white males were the type of students who received the most responses from professors. Researchers measured how often professors wrote back agreeing to meet with students and found very large disparities. Women and minorities were less likely to receive any response, especially one that was positive and supporting.

Faculty at private universities and in more lucrative fields were more likely to be discriminatory in whom they chose to respond. Contrary to stereotypical ideal of “Asians as a model minority group”, racial bias was most evident towards students with names of Asian descent. This data exhibited how Asians are a silent minority whose mythic “model minority” status often obscures their real, lived discrimination in America. Largely, this study further illustrates how white men continue to experience academic privilege despite the misbelief that federal amendments such as Title IX and executive orders such as affirmative action created a “post-racial” America. The U.S. Department of Education reports that there remains a substantial achievement gap between whites and racial minorities for primary and secondary education, which continues to be seen in college. Though black men tend to be most engaged in tutoring programs, white men are six time more likely to graduate in three years with a degree. This large divide in academic achievement in college is often attributed to minorities entering college with “weaker academic skills,” which scholars suggest can be countered by “building strong personal connection on the campus”. Unfortunately, minorities don’t often receive this institutional support.

Relevance: (Highly Relevant to this course and all academia)

One of the various reasons there’s an educational gap in America between whites and minorities is because minorities often don’t receive support early on in elementary and high school. Unfortunately, this cycle continues in college and adversely impacts education, health, and wealth outcomes for minorities. With no equity in access to education and academic support, educational gaps will continue to widen.




New! Precis #2-Fearing abortion and lesbians, Conservative Christians boycott Girl Scout cookies

Raven Harris (harav) (Mar 21, 2015 9:43 PM) - Read by: 2

Last Edited By Raven Harris (harav) on Mar 21, 2015 9:44 PM

Precis #2: Fearing abortion and lesbians, Conservative Christians boycott Girl Scout cookies

Conservative Christians are raising a fuss about Girl Scouts again. Some Christians have chosen to boycott Girl Scout cookies because they believe the organization promotes abortion and lesbianism. This initiative and call-to-action is called “Cookiecott 2015”. According to these organizers, because Girl Scouts honors people such as Nancy Pelosi, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Barbara Lee who are supporters of free choice, Girl Scouts supports abortion. In addition, supporters of “Cookiecott 2015”, disapprove of the partnership Girl Scouts has with Planned Parenthood. Anna Saladin, a conservative Christian and founder of My Girl Scout Council argues, “The Girl Scout curriculum series promotes many women and organizations that publicly advocate for abortion rights, without a similar inclusion of women and organizations that publicly advocate against abortion.” Fox News pundit Todd Starnes also calls for a boycott of the cookies because he believes that Girl Scouts money that funds Planned Parenthood further propels a “very liberal pro-abortion agenda”. Many other criticisms of Girl Scouts include promotion of promiscuity, encourager of lesbianism, and developer of radicals.

In reality, Girl Scouts is an organization that accepts all members. The Girl Scouts are 2.8 million leaders worldwide that offer young women enriching experience. They denounce discrimination and are accepting of lesbian and bisexual members. They were founded and operate on the mission of making the world a better place. Through camaraderie and team work, Girl Scouts seeks to build courage, confidence, and character through self-empowerment. Selling cookies is simply one of the vehicles the organization uses to allow young girls to gain self-confidence by interacting directly with customers to develop skill sets in decision making, goal setting, and business.


This article represents how a group of people can misconstrue a message due to their own belief system. Whether one is Christian or not, the impact that Girl Scouts has had in terms of empowerment and confidence is unarguable. The social justice misfortune lies in boycotting a group of young girls due to their support of an organization that happens to partake in abortion. Planned Parenthood is an informative resource for sexual and reproductive health. Their sole purpose or mission is not abortion. Hence, this disdain of one of the services of Planned Parenthood shouldn’t negatively impact the entire organization nor should Girl Scouts be punished for the service of one its many partners. 

New! Re: Precis #2-Fearing abortion and lesbians, Conservative Christians boycott Girl Scout cookies

Vanessa Miller (vmiller) (Mar 21, 2015 10:18 PM) - Read by: 1

wow. this is just astounding. girl scouts promoting abortion and lesbianism?!? I have never even thought of the girl scouts as a progressive group before--I thought they had an emphasis on producing well-mannered 'ladies' with badges for cooking and cleaning. However, as a result of reading your post, I went to the website http://forgirls.girlscouts.org/home/badgeexplorer/ and was pleased to see there are plenty of innovation focused girl scout badges and even a science and technology badge section.

Thanks for posting!


New! Precis 1: Demography of Inequality in the United States

Vanessa Miller (vmiller) (Mar 21, 2015 10:19 PM) - Read by: 1

The Demography of Inequality in the United States (November 2014)

20 page report

45 minute webinar

Available online at: http://www.prb.org/Publications/Reports/2014/united-states-inequality.aspx


The Population Reference Bureau is a US organization with the mission statement to “informs people around the world about population, health, and the environment, and empowers them to use that information to advance the well-being of current and future generations”. They publish the Population Bulletin twice a year and this particular issue is related to the demography of inequality in the US.  

A good portion of the publication explains the difference between poverty and income inequality. Before reading The Demography of Inequality in the US, I was not familiar with the Gini index, but the reading provides a background and explains the usefulness of the Gini index as compared with the poverty index. The Gini index is a measure of income across households. In contrast to the poverty levels that has increased and decreased numerous times since 1967 the Gini index has been steadily increasing. This means that inequality has been increasing as the Gini index is a number between 0 and 1 where 0 represents all households have equal income while a value of 1 represents one household has all of the income.  Recently the population has grown quickly in areas with high inequality but low poverty. North Dakota is a good example of this trend where the oil industry has fostered population growth as well as inequality when there are several extremely wealthy landowners and at the other extreme many blue-collar workers. The blue-collar employment prevents this area from having high rates of poverty but the inequality creates a vast divide between lower and higher income families.


The trends of inequality presented in this publication are very interesting and the online resources such as the “what-if” scenario showing how changes in poverty and wealth distribution could impact groups of people (children especially are impacted by changes in poverty and wealth distribution) and the interactive graphics allow the user to explore state by state data and allow the user to seek out trends of inequality. I would recommend this resource to anyone interested in poverty, inequality, and the demographics of the US.

New! Precis #3: “It’s Time to Revolutionize Race Relations”

Raven Harris (harav) (Mar 22, 2015 1:58 PM) - Read by: 2

Precis #3: “It’s Time to Revolutionize Race Relations”

Bernard J. Tyson, Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, shares his thoughts on the current state of race relations in America. Tyson expresses that many would think that as a top executive of $55 billion organization his experience as a black man would be different from a black man who works in retail or food service to make a living. However, he believes that the two share a commonality of being a black male that trumps economic status or job title.

Tyson believes that in order for America to move forward in race relations and to experience positive outcomes from demonstrations for change such as the Ferguson protests, negative imagery of black men must cease. White police officers are notoriously known for describing black men as “hulking and demonic”. These are adjectives that portray black men in a dehumanizing light and reference the days of slavery.

As a black man, Tyson speaks from real and lived experiences rather than a theoretical standpoint and he shares personal recent personal experiences of racism. He recounts times when he was “followed” throughout retail stores, had food servers explain to him how to tip once he was seated, and been singled out in stores to provide identification when using a credit card. Tyson also reflects on lessons taught to him by his father on how to act when confronted by a policer. The irony he faced when learning how to protect himself against the people who were supposed to protect him continues to resonate with him.

Tyson concludes on how he thinks we as country should move forward in combatting poor race relations. He endorses police body cameras, continued community activism, and more support of school and church leaders that seek to engage in positive dialogue about creating safer neighborhoods.


Bernard Tyson is one of the few healthcare CEOs that maintains a strong social media presence. He is a person of color who is visible in the social justice and public health community. Though he has become exceptionally successful in his vocational pursuits, he still recognizes the challenges faced by a black man. By sharing his experiences, he reminds people nationwide that education and money aren’t equalizers in America. Disdain for skin color continues to be a weapon for oppression. 

New! Precis #4: Being Poor in the United States has rarely meant anything so simple as having too little money.

Raven Harris (harav) (Mar 22, 2015 6:41 PM) - Read by: 2

Precis #4: Being Poor in the United States has rarely meant anything so simple as having too little money.

In the summer of 2013, Fox News aired a segment featuring a 29-year-old surfer in La Jolla, California named Jason Greenslate. Greenslate received $200 per month in food stamps and used some of these funds to purchase sushi and lobster. Greenslate drove a Cadillac truck and called his shellfish “free food”. Republicans were furious, claiming that social welfare was allowing people like Greenslate to enjoy a lavish lifestyle and gourmet diet using the money of taxpayers. A month after the segment aired, House Republicans voted to cut national food assistance by $40 billion, and a GOP member referenced the Greenslate segment from Fox News. Contrary to the picture painted by the GOP of a “vulgar, cocky,” and well-to-do person who was carelessly using financial assistance, ninety percent of food stamp recipients live in a household with a child, are a senior citizen, or have a disability. (In fact, Greenslate, later revealed to reporters that he agreed to be apart of the Fox News segment in hopes of gaining publicity for his band.)

In America, there’s a distinction between those who deserve public or private assistance and those who don’t. The deserving poor are often widows and children. The working power, however, seem to be unworthy of charity and support. There was a time when the term poor had a different connotation in America. Prior to the twentieth century, there was a more of a community responsibility to assist those in need. The Industrial Revolution, however, changed this perspective for many. With more economic growth, financial shortfalls were viewed more as “individual failings”. Today, Republicans bash food assistance programs by speaking of the very few instances of fraud and abuse in government assistance and increasing number of food stamp recipients without acknowledging that possibly these circumstances are the result of increasingly challenging economic times people are experiencing.


This article speaks to a variety of American’s ongoing issue, including “unemployment, persistent wage stagnation, and increasing inequality”. Disadvantaged groups are often unable to rise out of poverty because some people in America feel that they are unworthy of assistance. This American structure we live in is designed for some people, depending on race, social status, educational background, etc. to succeed while other people are considered “lesser than” and deserving of poverty because of their assumed insufficient work ethic. 

New! Precis: Completion of TM Survey

Jennifer Richmond (jenni404) (Mar 25, 2015 10:34 AM) - Read by: 2

Per Vic's email on 3/21, I am posting in this forum to note that I completed the TM survey to count for one of the Precis.

New! Re: Precis: Completion of TM Survey

Vanessa Miller (vmiller) (Mar 25, 2015 11:22 PM) - Read by: 1

Me too!

New! Precis: The Case for Reparations

Jasmin Hainey (hainey) (Mar 27, 2015 2:42 PM) - Read by: 2

In his "Case for Reparations", Ta-Nehisi Coates documents the various methods used by the U.S. government to deny Black Americans access to privileges and opportunities, and prevent them from accumulating wealth and passing it down to the next generation. Through the use of interactive redlining maps, article screenshots, photographs, videos, and accounts of the terrorization of Black Americans, he asserts that after 250 years of slavery, 90 years of Jim Crow, 60 years of "separate but equal", and 35 years of racist housing policies, America will "never be whole until we reckon with our compounding moral debt."

Coates frames his essay with the life experiences of individuals who have experienced the racism and forced segregation throughout their lives. One of these individuals is Clyde Ross, an African American man born in Mississippi in 1923. During Ross' childhood, Mississippi authorities seized his father's land and property. This common practice, which Coates refers to as "elevated armed robbery" reduced many families to sharecropping and subsequent poverty. Years later, Ross was drafted into the Army, and after fighting in World War II, decided to take his chances in Chicago in 1947. Like the millions of other African-American migrating to the North, he was seeking better opportunities and protection of the law. In 1961, Ross and his wife attempted to purchase a home, but were told that there was no financing available except through exploitive contracts. Years later, Ross helped to found the Contract Buyers League, a coalition of homeowners who fought back against the racist housing practices.

Coates highlights Chicago in particular as one of the most segregated cities in the country, a place in which white supremacy was upheld at every level in discreet ways. At one time, the city had the heaviest use of restrictive covenants, a clause in the deed forbidding the sale of the property to anyone other than whites, in the country. Other methods included deliberate site selection for public housing in all-black neighborhoods, the formation of block associations to enforce segregation, and mobs using violence to force Black people to move out of white neighborhoods. When these tactics no longer worked, white homeowners engaged in "white flight", leaving neighborhoods that began to have Black residents. In Chicago, as in other cities, American piracy was a “fact of nature", and Black people were “viewed as contagion.”

As the essay draws to a close, Coates discusses racially evasive politics and the more recent actions taken against reforms developed to improve access to opportunity for Black Americans, such as affirmative action, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and the Voting Rights Act. Even the Affordable Care Act was considered to be reparations of sorts (by Rush Limbaugh, of course), even though it makes no mention of race in its text. Over the years, scholars have offered ideas for reparations ranging from taking the Black-white difference in per capita income to program for job training and public works. In this work, however, the idea of reparations is defined as "the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences.”

Relevance: Coates' insightful and well-crafted essay incorporates several of the topics mentioned in class as well as themes from the keynote lecture for the 36th Annual Minority Health Conference. The essay highlights Jim Crow laws, stolen land and resources, the Great Migration, racist housing policies, and racist social engineering practices that continue to have an effect on the overall health status and quality of life for Black families. The huge wealth gap and restricted choices of neighborhood are no accident, and taking a historical perspective on these issues allows us to understand how these social inequities were created, and how we can address these issues today. This essay also makes it clear that we must get to the root of our problems, and not just address the symptoms through interventions and initiatives. The suppression and punishing of Black success has been implemented at local and federal levels, and improving not only health, but the quality of life for Black Americans will require a shift in the mindset of the American people. We can no longer collectively ignore the fact that this country was built upon notions of white supremacy, and we must face racism head-on at every level.


New! Precis: 14 Striking Findings from 2014

Jasmin Hainey (hainey) (Mar 27, 2015 2:42 PM) - Read by: 2

This collection of data analysis from the Pew Research Center presents 14 interesting findings gleaned from over 150 reports covering topics including demographic change, religious affiliation, politics, and public opinion.

Politics: According to their data, which is based on a scale of 10 political values questions, Republicans are more divided along ideological lines that at any point in the past two decades. This is no surprise, given the tension between President Obama and Republican leaders. Divisions are greatest among individuals who are more engaged and active in the political process, but it seems that the majority of American do not have uniformly conservative or liberal views, and believe that both parties should come together to resolve issues instead of remaining in their “ideological silos”.

Demographics: The world’s aging population continues to be a cause for concern, especially for the global economy and policy decisions affecting social programs. It is projected that by 2050, the median age in the U.S. will be 41, compared with 53 in Japan and South Korea. As the growth of the unauthorized immigrant population has slowed in the U.S., the median length of residence has grown from 7.4 years in 1995 to 12.7 years in 2013.

Media/Communication: Americans are more attached to internet access and cellphones than to their televisions or landline phones, and 39% of all Americans feel that they “absolutely need to have internet access.” In terms of news sources, 47% of consistent conservatives report Fox News as their main source, while consistent liberals named sources such as CNN, NPR, MSNBC.

Economics: The earnings gap between young adults with and without a bachelor’s degree reached its widest in 2013, even with high levels of student debt and youth unemployment. Millennials with only a high school diploma earns just 62% of what someone with a bachelor’s degree or higher makes. Additionally, wealth inequality has widened along ethnic lines, especially since the Great Recession. The median wealth of white households was 13 times the wealth of black households and 10 times that of Hispanic households in 2013.

Religious Affiliation: About 72% of the general public believes that the influence of religion on American life in waning, and most of these people believe this to be a bad thing. In fact, a growing number of people believe that religion should play an increasing role in politics.

Relevance: These demographic and political shifts in our society will likely have direct or indirect influence on the health status and health outcomes in the U.S. Trends in media usage may suggest changes in the way that interventions are designed and conducted, and demonstrate the need for an improvement in the way that health information and other new is delivered to the general public. The policies developed and enforced by different political parties (who may be influenced by religious beliefs) can potentially threaten our collective well-being, and it is imperative that we move past ideological differences in order to do what is in the best interests of everyone in this country, not just certain groups. The increasing wealth gap will continue to be relevant to discussions of health disparities, especially given the ways in which wealth is accumulated and distributed amongst individuals, and the fact that wealth accumulation is not always a protective factor in health status for minority populations. 

New! Precis: Meditation Nurtures Social Activism

Jasmin Hainey (hainey) (Mar 27, 2015 2:44 PM) - Read by: 2

This article discusses the oft-asked question asked to those that practice meditation: Are you not afraid to become too aloof and distanced from the real world?’ This question is based on the misconception that the idea that meditation eventually leads to a complete withdrawal from society as the meditator finds personal well-being and develops a numbness to the plight of others around them. However, research has shown that practicing Transcendental Meditation leads to “more engaged, compassionate, and empathic position towards other beings”, and gives individuals the strength to take on social responsibilities. Those who meditate also seem to decreasingly view others as competitors for resources, which tends to be a source of political and economic issues.

To illustrate the effects of TM on activism, the author employs the life stories of Alice Leahy and Aziza Hussein, two social activists who have been practicing TM for decades. Alice Leahy, a co-founder of a voluntary organization, describes how TM has prevented her from becoming “worn out and jaded”, and allows her to keep on going at 70 years old. Aziza Hussein, a civil rights activist working in Egypt, relies on her practice of TM to help to continue to work into her early 90s and “keep her bearings” within a complex political situation.

 Relevance: In thinking about the fight for social justice, it seems contradictory that bringing oneself into a more relaxed and harmonious state of being can actually help one’s commitment to social activism. Without a certain anger, frustration, and/or passion, how can one lead and sustain a movement against injustice? Can individuals, especially members of marginalized groups, actually maintain this state of mind in the face of the powers that be? While I’m not completely sold on TM as a method to develop better human beings and eliminate the ills of society, I can understand the ways in which being at peace within oneself could possibly lead to greater understanding of how current issues affect society as a whole and an increased desire to become involved. 

New! Precis: The UNC Minority Experience

Jasmin Hainey (hainey) (Mar 27, 2015 2:45 PM) - Read by: 2

The UNC Minority Experience is a 9-minute YouTube video that details the experience of being a Black student at UNC-Chapel Hill. The video opens with a Black male student delivering a speech that serves to undermine (word choice) the notion that Chapel Hill and UNC are a "Southern Slice of Heaven", as that has not been the collective experience of Blacks students on campus. The general consensus seems to be that the Black students are only on campus because of Affirmative Action, even though only 98 of the 3,948 first-year students in 2013 were Black males. The administration claims to value diversity, but only seems to value minority students when they're athletes and generating revenue for the school. The student also noted that while UNC has increased spending for athletic programs by about 30%, the school has also made cuts to the budget for student life by 12%, demonstrating what the administration truly values. Other topics briefly mentioned were the conflation of race and class, the educational inequalities that leave some Black students ill prepared for college studies, and the recent scandals surrounding African American studies.

The video then focuses on the different experiences of four Black students. Such experiences include being the only person in a class that looks like them, having to walk past buildings named after known racists and klansmen, potentially falling into stereotypes such as the “angry Black woman”, and feeling obligated to educate others and debunk negative stereotypes. The students agreed that the experience that they were promised when during the application process did not turn out to be the case once they arrived on campus. The video ends with a student saying that the group’s mission was to change the perception of minorities on campus, through the fulfillment of goals such as increasing the presence of minority faculty and staff, changing the names of campus buildings and statues, and developing initiatives to create a more inclusive community at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Relevance: The students in the video discussed several points that resonate with our class discussions and have implications for the health inequities that we are attempting to eliminate. Obtaining higher education is a way of improving one's social status and opportunity, yet these experiences speak to the point of the potential psychological damage associated with trying to become more upwardly mobile. Feelings of being different and inadequate, and dealing with stereotype threat and various micro-aggressions, can have a negative effect on stress levels and one's overall health status. Experiences like these illustrate why college-educated Black women have higher rates of infant mortality than white women with only a high school education.

In light of the recent incident involving the SAE fraternity at the University of Oklahoma, videos like this highlight the way in which the racism concentrated on college campuses across the U.S., and the manner in which it is dealt with, serves to perpetuate and uphold white supremacy. The case in Oklahoma seems like an outlier, as there are rarely consequences for racism and bigotry in predominately white fraternities and similar student groups further than a short suspension, a slap on the wrist, and some events for “dialogue”. There seems to be this notion that once the older generations die off, then we can finally move toward a more just society. However, these privileged, racist college kids are indicative of the ideologies currently present in our generation, and likely to be present if there is no intervention. These same people will become the politicians and lawmakers and people of influence in our society who will create the laws that we live by, passing their beliefs down the next group, and upholding the ideas, structures, and belief systems of the dominant culture. This certainly has important implications for tackling social justice issues from a policy perspective, and we have to willing to call out and address bigotry, not just letting it go unchecked, and stop this cycle from continuing to happen.  


New! Precis: ‘Bowling Alone’ Author Tackles the American Dream

Kevin White (whitek) (Apr 6, 2015 12:21 PM) - Read by: 2mark as readreply to this messageReply

This piece is an NPR interview with Robert Putnam, political scientist and author of “Bowling Alone”.  It follows the release of his book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.   In the interview, he tells of the town in Ohio where he grew up and how the majority of those who graduated high school with him went on to achieve a higher educational and economic status that their parents, a phenomenon that would seem to support the American dream, that hard work will earn opportunities for upward mobility.  Whatever family background you come from, you have the opportunity to be successful in life.  On a return visit to his hometown, things were markedly different.  It was not apparent that the same opportunities he had as a child were available to all children in the town, and the difference between the “haves” and the “have nots” were largely based on parental educational attainment.  The rich kids, he says, are simply those who have come from college-educated homes, while the poor kids come from homes with nothing further than a high school diploma.

One of the key differences he points out between rich kids and poor kids is the stability of family dynamics.  Between 60 and 70 percent of poor kids of all racial identities live in a single parent household.  By comparison, only six or seven percent of rich kids live in single parent households.  For poor kids, this means fewer family dinners, fewer family activities, and greater stress in the home, and fewer adults to act as mentors.

The internet, he argues, only mirrors the disparity that already exists because while poor and rich kids have similar access, they use the internet for different purposes.

Changing this trend isn’t easy.  He says this will require a culture change.  When he was growing up, his parents would talk about doing things for “our kids,” meaning all the kids in town, not just their biological offspring.  Over the past 3 - 5 decades, the scope of who we consider “our kids” has narrowed.  If we begin to think of all children as “our kids”, as part of our future, this disparity could change.

This article is relevant for social justice because social isolation is counter-productive in mitigating social injustice.  Calling attention to broad cultural phenomena that exacerbate disparity is worthwhile, though this in itself is not enough.  Culture has a lot of inertia.  For change to occur, there must be sufficient stimulus to upset the inertia.

New! Precis: Commentary- Considerations for Use of Racial/Ethnic Classification in Etiologic Research

Kevin White (whitek) (Apr 6, 2015 5:45 PM) - Read by: 2mark as readreply to this messageReply

This article argues that although the use of “race” in epidemiology lacks uniformity, there are appropriate uses of it in biomedical research.  The authors set out to create guidelines for appropriate use of racial/ethnic information in this body of research.  They assert that documenting “race” is meaningful in that it captures environmental variations that arise from social stratification and that these reflect meaningful differences in disease risk.  Establishing clear and uniform guidelines for collecting and using racial/ethnic data is useful for research regarding racism and health disparities.

In the biomedical literature, race is broadly understood as biological heritage; by contrast, the predominant understanding of ethnicity is an individual’s cultural heritage.  In theory, these are distinct attributes, but they are often collapsed in research literature because the data is most often self-reported and many respondents understand race and ethnicity as synonymous.  

Self-report of race/ethnicity is considered the “gold standard” assessment.  Investigators searching for a more objective method of measurement have proposed using genomic markers.  Although there are genetic markers correlated with ancestry, there is only an abundance of minor genetic variations as opposed to a single definitive marker (consider the X/Y chromosomal variations between men and women).

The authors cite logical, conceptual, and practical problems associated with using this data.  Racial/ethnic information may be valid and useful in surveillance of disparities, which has implications for public policy (surveillance of disease burden, funding allocation for public health programs, health care, housing programs, education, etc.).  One critique of this use is that it simply reinforces race as a biomedical quantity rather than a reflection of social constructs.  Racial/ethnic data may be valid when race is a reflection of an etiologic process that is external to the individual.  The authors argue that racial/ethnic data as a variable of interest when the effects of race/ethnicity are hypothesized to be internal to the individual study participant.

This article is very relevant to this course in that the authors attempt to improve the tools for assessing and analyzing racial/ethnic information.  This information is an important metric for surveilling health disparities and progress towards social justice.

New! Precis: Invited Commentary- “Race,” Racism, and the Practice of Epidemiology

Kevin White (whitek) (Apr 7, 2015 10:37 AM) - Read by: 2mark as readreply to this messageReply

In this article, Dr. Camara Jones responds to Dr. Kaufman’s and Dr. Cooper’s paper entitled “Considerations for Use of Racial/Ethnic Classification in Etiologic Research”.  She argues that Kaufman and Cooper’s guidelines for using racial/ethnic information in biomedical research is limited in several important ways.

First, although Kaufman and Cooper assert that “race” is a social construct and not a biological phenomenon, their guidelines for using racial data frame race as a self-reported attribute of the individual, similar to ethnicity.  Second, the original paper offers several examples of research in which use of racial data may be highly valid.  Jones counters that some of these examples may in fact make it more difficult to understand racism and racial disparities.  She argues that “race” is a contextual variable, not an attribute of the individual.  Jones asserts that “race” is socially assigned, and would vary across countries.  The same person (with the same genetic makeup) would be assigned different races in the United States, South Africa, and Brazil.

According to Jones, investigators use “race” in their research predominantly because they understand it to represent some combination of social class, genetics, and culture.  While Black people are overrepresented in poverty, they comprise a minority of impoverished Americans, and not all Black people are poor.  Culture is extraordinarily heterogeneous, arguably varying more by geographic origin (e.g. American south, New England, urban, rural) than by skin color.  Furthermore, as Kaufman and Cooper wrote in the original paper, there is no single definitive genomic marker for “race”.  Thus, Jones argues that “race” makes a poor proxy for social class, genetics, and culture.

Race-associated differences in health outcomes are largely neglected because epidemiologists (who are mostly White) are not personally invested in such a research agenda and because these race-associated differences no longer surprise us or pique professional research interest.

This article is relevant for this course in that it adds to the discussion of using racial/ethnic information in biomedical research.  Surveillance of racial/ethnic health disparities requires measurement and incorporation of this data into statistical analysis.  This paper pushes forward the agenda of addressing racism in the US by calling into question common statistical and methodological practices among the scientific community.

New! Precis: “Is there anything you would not do for a million dollars”

Vanessa Miller (vmiller) (Apr 15, 2015 11:42 PM) - Read by: 1mark as readreply to this messageReply

Last Edited By Vanessa Miller (vmiller) on Apr 15, 2015 11:46 PM

"Is there anything you would not do for a million dollars"

WUNC radio


This is an interesting 11 minute interview with Stephen Vaisey, who is a sociologist at Duke who is research morality. The interview talks about his novel approach which is studying the development of morality over time by enrolling teenagers as young as 13 and following them into adulthood (late 20s) to answer some very important questions. Those questions include things like “why does someone become a conservative” and “why do some people care about social justice” but unfortunately, at the time of this interview in 2014, Vaisey doesn’t have the answers to these big questions.

What he does have to offer is his findings that have conflicted with previous findings about conservative versus liberal values and some ideas about the importance individuals place on being part of a group, which is where liberals and conservatives seem to have a clear divide with conservatives are interested in preserving traditions, being proud of their country, and liberals are more concerned with the welfare of people as a whole as opposed to conservatives who are more concerned with ‘taking care of the people around them’.

Relevance: This interview has some relevance to this course in that we have asked some of these same questions about why people care about some issues while other people do not buy in to social change or become invested in social equality. There are no easy answers to these questions. It is also important to note that people probably answer questions about what they would do much differently from how they actually choose to behave in their day-to-day lives.  It is important to understand morality, but in this interview there isn’t the depth from defining the terms like ‘morality’ and ‘liberal’ that would make this information more coherent.

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