Category: BirminghamWatch

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Health Care Disparities: Access to Treatment, Insurance Isn’t Colorblind

Birmingham’s skyline includes prominent medical facilities, such as UAB, Children’s of Alabama and St. Vincent’s Hospital. Within sight of those buildings, however, are neighborhoods with the worst life expectancy and disability rates in Jefferson County.

Socioeconomic factors affect health, notably poverty, lower education and poor access to amenities such as grocery stores and sidewalks. But Black Americans also face barriers within the medical field itself, which lead to worse care and worse health outcomes.

“Even when you are physically close to a health care facility (that) doesn’t mean that you actually have access to that facility,” said Dr. Monica Baskin, a professor of preventative medicine at UAB and the Department of Medicine’s vice chair for culture and diversity. That access may be barred by lack of medical resources, no or limited insurance coverage or lack of what Baskin calls “culturally competent” care. Read more.

The Legacy of Race is an ongoing series about how the history of racism and segregation in Alabama affect the society we live in today.
Read part 1 of the health care installment: ZIP Code, Race Predict Lifelong Health Inequities
Read all of The Legacy of Race stories.

Health Care Disparities: ZIP Code, Race Predict Lifelong Health Inequities

On the day he’s born, the average white resident of Jefferson County is expected to live about 3.5 years longer than the average Black resident.

Jefferson County’s Black residents have higher rates of death due to heart disease, diabetes, stroke and “malignant neoplasms,” or cancerous tumors, than their white neighbors, according to the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership’s 2018 Community Health Equity Report, which studied county and state health statistics.

Infant mortality and low birth weights are twice as likely to occur among black newborns as white ones.

These differences are clear when data is broken down by ZIP code. Historically Black neighborhoods, such as College Hills, Fountain Heights and Titusville, show some of the lowest life expectancies and highest rates of disabilities and infant mortality in the county. Majority-white areas tend to show better health outcomes, an effect that is most pronounced in high-income areas such as Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills.

In this, Jefferson County mirrors the rest of the nation. Black Americans generally have more health problems and chronic illnesses, and consequently shorter life expectancy. Read more.

The Legacy of Race is an ongoing series about how the history of racism and segregation in Alabama affect the society we live in today. Read the stories published so far.

Daughters of Confederacy Put Up Statues, Indoctrinated Generations, Historians Say

The Alabama Legislature adjourned in 1900 so the United Daughters of the Confederacy could convene its national convention in the state Capitol.

The women sat just steps away from the spot where Confederate President Jefferson Davis took the oath of office 39 years before.

“You stand before the world the living witness that the past is not dead, but all in it that was good and great and true still lives and has its worshipers,” Marielou Armstrong Cory told the UDC in her opening address. “To you the selfsame welcome of the heart goes out as went that day to Jefferson Davis, the martyr chieftain of our sacred cause.”

That sacred cause — or Lost Cause — is a legacy of the UDC that critics say amounts to whitewashing the history of a slave-owning South.

Today, hundreds of UDC Confederate monuments are under attack as Black Lives Matter activists target them in protests against the killings of unarmed black men by white police officers. While monuments endure until a mob or mechanized crane removes them, historians and academics say the UDC holds a more lasting and insidious influence over generations of minds in the South.
Read more.

Black at Samford Pushes for Changes in the University’s Culture, Treatment of Black Students

Students at Samford University regularly talk about the “Samford bubble,” the idea that when they step onto campus, they leave the real world behind. Inside the bubble, there’s a sense they are more sheltered and there is more uniformity in the beliefs and backgrounds of students and faculty.

But not for students of color.

Many Black current and former Samford students are now sharing stories about how that bubble has concealed their experiences of racism, discrimination, isolation and pain on the Black at Samford Instagram account.

The stories run the gamut of racial experiences: exclusion from student groups’ events based on race; offensive stereotypes; different treatment by white professors or coaches compared to their white peers; casual use of racial slurs by white students; and the unofficial racial division of the campus cafeteria. Read more.

More on racist speech and attitudes

Sticks and Stones: Racist Comments Affect Policy, Law and Discrimination

A White Son Raised by a Black Man: Seeing Race From a Unique Perspective

A White Son Raised by a Black Man: Seeing Race From a Unique Perspective

Kevin Sims, who is white, remembers being on a beach when another white fellow asked him for a cigarette. As the pair talked, the subject of football came up.

And the other fellow showed his true colors.

“He was like, ‘Why I wanna watch football?’” Sims recalled. “I don’t wanna watch a bunch of (N-words) run up and down a field chasing each other.’”

Sims, who was raised by a Black man since the time he was 3, couldn’t stand for that. Read more.

Sticks and Stones: Racist Comments Affect Policy, Law and Discrimination

One time she was in a beauty salon when it happened, Pam King remembers. Another time, she was in the drug store. One time it happened while she was driving down the street in Vestavia Hills.

In each instance, another white person — someone she didn’t know — decided it was OK to say something to her that was racist about Black people.

“You can hear it every day. You can hear it … anywhere,” King said. “You hear from white people, constantly, ‘Well, did you hear what the Black people are doing?’ Just all kinds of little comments, every day. It’s part of the conversation.” Read more.

Sometimes, Media Have to Remind Government Who It Works For (That Would Be You)

Imagine giving some money to an investment broker and when you later ask what the broker did with it, you’re told it’s none of your business. I see no difference between that and what agencies of state and local governments in Alabama do whenever they reject or ignore a citizen’s request for government records.

This happens too often in Alabama and elsewhere:

— In June, the city of Decatur denied an open-records request by multiple news outlets for disciplinary records of a police officer involved in a physical assault of a storeowner.

— In May, the environmental advocacy group Gasp and the Environmental Defense Alliance filed a lawsuit against three state of Alabama agencies that have denied access to emails involving state opposition to a federal environmental cleanup of a North Birmingham neighborhood.

— Last year, the state Attorney General’s Office (one of the agencies sued by Gasp) rejected a request by an Alabama Media Group reporter to see a contract signed with an industrial safety expert as part of a new plan to allow death-penalty executions by nitrogen gas.

— In 2017, WBRC-TV asked to see the $2.6 million contract between the city of Birmingham and a company called ShotSpotter that detects gunshots and pinpoints their location. The station also asked for data compiled by ShotSpotter. Three years later, the city still has not provided the data or even the contract.

— You’d think that in a pandemic, when smart behavior depends on having full and accurate information, that there’d be no secrets. But you’d be wrong, as shown by the Alabama Department of Public Health’s refusal of an AMG request to identify individual state-licensed nursing homes that have reported coronavirus cases.

In each of these cases, there is a legitimate public interest. And in each of these cases, the reason cited for rejection was an incorrect interpretation of Alabama’s open-records law.
Read more.

Descendants Want to Remove Gadsden’s Emma Sansom Monument

A descendant of Emma Sansom said members of Sansom’s family support removing a Confederate monument in Gadsden that memorializes their ancestor.

The statue of Sansom near City Hall has become a target for conflict between Black Lives Matter protesters and counter-protesters. The fray began with national protests over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed May 25 by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

Sansom is a heroine of Confederate lore for her role in helping rebel Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest capture Union Col. Abel Streight and his brigade in 1863. Streight appeared to have escaped Forrest’s pursuit across north Alabama by crossing and then burning a bridge spanning Black Creek at Gadsden.
Read more.