This is an interesting 11 minute interview with Stephen Vaisey, who is a sociologist at Duke who is research[ing] 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.
New! Precis: WUNC The State of Things - “The Social Science of Diversity”
Kevin White (whitek) (Apr 17, 2015 2:52 PM) - Read by: 2
Last Edited By Kevin White (whitek) on Apr 17, 2015 2:52 PM
Host Frank Stasio interviews Dr. Rupert Nacoste after the release of his recent book, Taking on Diversity. Dr. Nacoste tells of his experiences in the U.S. Navy during the race riots in the U.S. military of the 1970s. His commanding officers chose him to be a “Racial Awareness Group Facilitator,” leading conversations among fellow sailors about diversity.
“Our anxiety over addressing racial disparities is stunting our ability to accept people who look or act differently.” He seeks to move from anxiety to respect, asserting that the fear of being perceived as “racist” stifles conversation on the issue. This was not as important several decades ago when people were not as afraid of being labeled a racist.
Prejudice is not bigotry is not racism. Everybody has prejudices. These may be conscious or perhaps unconscious until there is a particular stimulus. Bigotry is the outward behavioral manifestations of prejudices. Racism, he argues, is institutional and organizational; it “authorizes and supports bigotry” through both implicit and explicit policies. Dr. Nacoste refuses to talk about white privilege in his classroom because it “puts white kids on the defensive.” Because everyone carries around prejudice, “there are no innocent… There are no innocent in America.”
One important lesson he learned from his students is how important “inter-group” interactions are among college students. In asking his students to reflect on their most intense inter-group interaction, he found that interactions between people of differing races, religions, sexual orientations, or classes greatly influence their life experiences.
Dr. Nacoste speaks of the minimal group paradigm, in which people subconsciously sort things into categories. Some of these are adaptive (e.g. sorting poisonous berries from safe ones), but some are maladaptive (“us” vs. “them”). The danger comes when this tendency comes at the expense of other groups, when “we’re trying to interact with a person who we’re only looking at in one way.”
Quoting the opening line of the Declaration of Independence, he argues that diversity is supposed to be central to America’s identity. The heterogeneity in America precludes cookie-cutter solutions in addressing racism, but creating a safe environment for conversations about diversity is very important for promoting a change from anxiety to respect on a national level.
In her April 2014 opinion piece in the News and Observer, Ellie Kinnaird, Mayor of Carrboro and a former N.C. State Senator, describes in detail the regressive changes associated with the Voter Identification Verification Act (VIVA) passed by the North Carolina State Senate in 2013. She highlights several important consequences of the bill all of which introduce restrictions to the ability of North Carolinians to participate in the voting process.
Mayor Kinnaird succinctly explains the consequences associated with this new legislation. VIVA repealed the ability of 16 and 17 year old students to pre-register to vote, which she describes as a lost opportunity to introduce high school students to the importance of citizenship and the democratic process. Early voting was shortened by one week, which introduces additional obstacles to for all North Carolinians, mostly African Americans for whom early voting was the most popular method of voting. Same-day registration and voting was repealed, which marginalizes college students and other members of society who may be too busy to register 25 days prior to Election Day. Repeal of the straight party ticket, introduces additional obstacles for voters, particularly choosing candidates running for lesser-known political seats. Moreover, following the passing of the VIVA, photo identification will be required for all voters and will be restricted to an unexpired N.C. driver’s license or special ID issued by the DMV; unexpired passport; or enrollment card from a government recognized Native American Tribe.
Mayor Kinnaird goes as far to mention that although legislators were presented with statistical charts as to how black voters would be disproportionately affected, little concern was shown for the potential effects this law would have on this community. She questions the underlying motives of the conservative legislators, as the majority of those who have been or will be affected by VIVA vote heavily Democratic. She closes her piece by contextualizing the actions of the N.C Senate within the larger movement of the U.S. Supreme Court releasing all states from measures of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that had required the Justice Department to review changes to voting laws, highlighting her concern for North Carolina’s most restrictive voting laws in the country.
Relevance to the course: This opinion piece by Mayor Kinnaird acknowledges the consequences associated with differential access to knowledge, resources, and power, within the context of who is able to vote and whose vote counts in a democratic society. The restrictions to voter freedom in North Carolina disproportionately affects minority communities and youth, who tend to vote to democratic lawmakers, and liberal ideals. Such restrictions curtail the democratic process and have major implications for social justice, inequality, and health disparities, when particular communities, particularly those that have been previously marginalized are kept out of the process of voting for elected officials.
New! Precis: How do schools promote equity among students? Video Interview with Pedro Noguera
In this video the executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, Pedro Noguera, discusses how schools can promote equity among students. He notes that in education, equity means more than just opportunity (e.g., access to education); it also means equity in student outcomes. In theory, all children, no matter where they live, will experience equitable education. However, we know that is not the case, especially for children living in poor areas.
Interestingly, Dr. Noguera notes that schools promote inequity because they deliberately assign the best teachers to educate the already highest performing students. On the other hand, the least experienced teachers often teach students with high needs. This process often happens for political reasons; the parents of high performing students often have more resources and possibly power in demanding that their students receive the best education. Additionally, teachers with seniority often demand that they teach high performing students. Importantly, Dr. Noguera does not blame parents or anyone else for wanting the best for their children, but the practice means that some children do not get equitable education because of their circumstances.
To make education more equitable, Dr. Noguera discusses the need for leaders to make a true commitment toward excellence for all students and not just the gifted ones. Commonly, we build certain classes and educational enrichment opportunities that are reserved for gifted students, but by doing so we build inequity into education.
To conclude, Dr. Noguera explains that we should aim for all children to learn skills they can apply to their specific situation. As an example, he tells the story of an environmental science teacher who wanted to connect with her students and their lives. She spent time in the community and realized that if residents used the soil in their community to garden, they would expose their families to toxins. After teaching the children how to test soil for toxins, the children organized and approached the County Health Commissioner to warn the families about the problem and to devise solutions for safe gardening. Dr. Noguera argues that these children will always remember their lesson on soil toxins because they were able to apply what they learned to their community.
Relevance: This video discusses one of the key social determinants of health—education—and how we frequently promote inequality in the current education system. It reminds us that by focusing our resources on the highest performing students, we are promoting inequality for the other students who may have a higher need. If all students were to receive equitable education, it would mark a critical move forward in our efforts to eliminate health inequity as well.
In March 1973, Maharishi gave the keynote address at the Annual Convention of the American Association of Higher Education. In this speech, he discussed the relationship between higher education and quality of life for individuals. To understand this connection, Maharishi explains that the current education system ignores that knowledge of the knower (i.e., the knowledge that a student already possesses) and instead focuses on teaching subjects (e.g., physics). In teaching this way, a student can never master all subjects.
When the knower is ignorant of himself, Maharishi notes that the structure of education is baseless. Without a base, knowledge is unfulfilling, and this unfulfilling knowledge does not motivate students to continue embracing or pursing higher education. Unsurprisingly, Maharishi describes that all over the world, students are choosing not to pursue higher education. Although this decision could be attributed to multiple reasons, boredom and issues within the education system can be factors.
Maharishi continues to explain that the knowledge of the knower can be gained through the process of Transcendental Meditation (TM), which brings awareness to the field of consciousness that is the home of all knowledge. By increasing awareness, the knower gains access to this knowledge. Without the awareness, the knower remains ignorant to his or her own knowledge. As part of this solution, Maharishi argues that TM should be taught and practiced in schools. In doing so, Maharishi notes that quality of life would improve because one’s mind becomes unbounded and full potential can be reached.
Relevance: This keynote address describes how education and quality of life are linked. As education is associated with many key public health outcomes, Maharishi’s address describes how one potential solution (TM) can make students more aware of the knowledge they already possess and experience better overall education. As there is evidence to suggest that TM may improve some student outcomes (e.g., test scores and ADHD symptoms) Maharishi’s address describes a tool that may contribute to the reduction of health disparities. [i]
[i] The Quiet Time program: Improving academic performance and reducing stress and violence. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2015, from http://www.davidlynchfoundation.org/schools.html
New! Black Lives Matter - A Challenge to the Medical and Public Health Communities
Last Edited By Lorenzo Hopper (hlorenzo) on Apr 23, 2015 11:03 AM
Last Edited By Lorenzo Hopper (hlorenzo) on Apr 21, 2015 11:28 AM
In light of the very public and racially charged recent events, many Americans have been left wondering where do we go from here and how do we as a collective come together to end racism? Mary T Bassett, Health Commissioner of NYC, writes an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that resulted after a group of medical students approached her after the Staten Island Grand Jury decided not to indict the police officers involved in the murder of Eric Garner. Dr. Bassett poses the question, "Should health professionals be accountable not only for caring for individual black patients but also for fighting the racism -- both institutional and interpersonal -- that contributes to poor health in the first place? Should we work harder to ensure that black lives matter?" The article describes how lives are cut short and not only by violence, but also by dramatic disparities in many health outcomes (e.g. cardiovascular disease, cancer, and HIV).
The article shifts to focus on how physicians, nurses, and public health professionals witness these inequities every day yet many are reluctant to address the role of racism in these inequity gaps. This topic relates directly to our semester long discussion on racism and how it contributes to persistent health inequities. Dr. Bassett highlights how over 300 articles have been published in the Journal over the past decade, and only 14 have contained the word “racism” half of which were book reviews. Dr. Bassett then challenges black US physicians and allies to acknowledge the legacy of injustice in medical experimentation and other historical trauma that communities have faced and stop sitting on the sidelines.
Bill Moyers, a journalist and political commentator, interviews former journalist and writer/producer David Simon during a segment of his personal show. Simon is best known for two critically acclaimed TV dramas The Wire and Treme, which depict the everyday lives of Americans who were never meant to achieve the “American Dream”. Rather, the lives of these marginalized individuals are much closer to a nightmare, as these individuals must fight for relevance even as society actively works to degrade their existence. Simon positions his characters as being players in the economic and political plight of the United States. The result is what he calls a “horror show”, and he mainly blames the current economic system for the harsh outcomes experienced by many communities.
David Simon’s overall view juxtaposes President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address, where the president optimistically speaks social progress in the coming years. While maintaining a level of respect for the president, Simon expresses doubt that much will change due to having a “rigged game”. American society has come to a point where the measure for progress is only money. With this capitalistic mindset, there are populations that will always be at a disadvantage. The free market approach that seeks to constantly reduce costs and increase profit margins resulted in the closing of many domestic factories. This meant that many Americans lost their livelihood, and they were often unable to find substantial work. For many, the only viable option was to enter into the illicit drug trade. The government, in turn, harshly penalizes these individuals by heavily enforcing laws that disproportionately affect the most vulnerable. Simon emphasizes that what makes this situation even more terrifying is that society has even found a way to profit even further from these downtrodden individuals through populating the prison systems. The “war of drugs” is actually a disguise for a war on the poor. Overall, Simon believes that the poor have lost, and that America has largely shifted from the democratic struggle of balancing both sides in order to reach a middle-point that is best for society.
This interview candidly explores social determinants that shape the lives of many marginalized communities. While specific health outcomes are not discussed, it is not difficult to imagine how the distribution of health outcomes are affected by larger socio-economic forces at play. Without doubt, it is within these populations that we see some of the starkest health disparities in the United States. Although smaller-scaled interventions might alleviate some of the affects that the present American economic system has, it is inconceivable that health equity can be achieved without pursuing social justice. Simon offer two potential solutions that might address the issue of equity for those who are systematically disadvantage due to economic forces. The first is to pay people if their services are not currently needed in an economic system. This is commonly thought of as welfare in the United States, but Simon presents it in a way that is digestible and de-stigmatizing. The second solution is to train people in areas where they can be productive and actively participate in the economy. Both of these solutions require spending money, and they would be beneficial to the entire society. However, the nation’s growing libertarianism strongly opposes putting forth resources so that all communities can thrive. I believe that it is necessary to push back against free market practices and its accompanying philosophies in the pursuit of health equity.
Dear Chancellor Folt is a 8 minute and 47 second video created in 2014 that is the culmination of a shared experience of American Indian students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The video clip opens with an all too familiar scene of the Halloween celebration on Franklin Street. Several students are seen donning stereotypical Native American costumes, walking through the streets, posing for pictures, and even conversing with the producer of the film. Within the close of the first minute the cameraman focuses in on one male student, who appears in red face, dressed as a Washington "Redskin". When questioned on his choice of costume, the student replies, “It’s Halloween…if there’s no controversy there’s no Halloween.” Seconds later an African American female student also dressed as a native american notes that she felt that she saw someone dressed in blackface, screaming out, “that’s racist”, apparently unaware of the racial undertones of her own costume choice.
The video then transitions to a group of students within the American Indian center who openly share their experiences of at UNC. One student shares an experience of how her non-native peer appropriated aspects of native culture through a tribal themed party and openly laughed about it; two other students note that many other peers have questioned the authenticity of their American Indian heritage; another student expresses the shock she felt when she was mistaken for housekeeping upon entry into a basketball game at the Dean Dome.
As the video continues with additional experiences of the American Indian students on UNC’s campus several statistics are intertwined to highlight the dearth of an American Indian presence on campus. For instance, the film highlights low rates of admissions for native students (30 admitted/year) compared to their white counterparts (2800 admitted per year). The native students express their disappointment in UNC, which they expected to have a higher standard, with more excellence and greater awareness, regarding the diversity of different cultural groups. Instead they acknowledge an environment where it is acceptable for others to appropriate native culture, to treat native students as the other, and to question the essence of native culture. Some students express a sense of feeling unwelcomed and a need to justify themselves by educating their non-native peers as a way to validate their experience at Carolina.
The students acknowledge the presence of the American Indian Center, which has provided a safe space for native students on campus, allowing students to be themselves, not having to put on a façade or change their views, as compared to their experiences within the wider culture at UNC. They express their thanks for the staff at the center, who help to validate their student experience and remind them that they belong at UNC. The students provide several suggestions to Chancellor Folt throughout the film on how their experience at Carolina could be improved. They request for Chancellor Folt to encourage more discipline and cultural competency training for students; to facilitate making the native voice on campus stronger; to increase the representation of diversity on campus; and to recruit native students at a higher intensity.