Category: The Legacy of Race

Vestiges of the Past Carry Ingrained Racism Into the Modern Age

Vestiges of segregation still thread through the systems and processes with which we engage throughout our lives, influencing Black Alabamians in large and small ways, including economic opportunities and lifetime wealth, relationship with law enforcement, health care and even projected lifespan. BirminghamWatch has an ongoing effort to analyze how these sometimes unrecognized vestiges of segregation are playing out in people’s lives today. Read stories in The Legacy of Race series.

Business Capital, Knowledge Remain Out of Reach for Many Minority Entrepreneurs

The economic downturn in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered many Birmingham businesses for good. But in the 4th Avenue and Civil Rights commercial districts, none of the 56 black-owned businesses that work with Urban Impact, an economic development organization for those districts, have gone out of business.

Urban Impact Strategic Growth Manager Elijah Davis said that unusual success “is a true testament to their spirit.”

“We are always resilient and innovative people,” Davis said.

That resilience is needed for entrepreneurs of color. Both in Birmingham and nationwide, black-owned businesses are less common and less successful, on average, than white-owned businesses. Read more.

More on The Legacy of Race: Economic Barriers

An Unequal Inheritance: On the Whole, Black Families Start With Less and Stay Behind, Leaving Less For Succeeding Generations

Infrastructure Decisions, Property Valuation, Investment and Hiring Practices Build a Gap Between Black and White Household Wealth

Infrastructure Decisions, Property Valuation, Investment and Hiring Practices Build a Gap Between Black and White Household Wealth

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— The Declaration of Independence

The founding fathers artfully crafted the phrasing that among the unalienable rights due all men is the pursuit of happiness. Part of that pursuit comes in one’s ability to get a job, develop a career, build wealth through an honest wage and establish a home. Many Black Americans have found that pursuit stymied by forces often beyond their control.

According to an article published by The Hamilton Project of Brookings Institute, the net worth of a typical white family was $171,000 in 2016, nearly 10 times the $17,150 net worth of a Black family.
The report said that gaps in wealth between Black and white households reveal the effects of accumulated inequality and discrimination, as well as differences in power and opportunity that can be traced back to this nation’s inception. Read more.

An Unequal Inheritance: On the Whole, Black Families Start With Less and Stay Behind, Leaving Less For Succeeding Generations

Children’s inheritance from their parents includes so much more than just a monetary bequest in a will. It can also encompass the gift of a college education, support starting a business or buying a home, financial know-how or a family business.

That inheritance starts at birth. Black families, which on average accumulate less wealth in the U.S. than white families, often have less to pass down to the next generation.

The Institute for Policy Studies reported in 2019 that the median Black family in America owns $3,600, about 2% of the $147,000 owned by the median white family. After adjusting for inflation, “the median Black family saw their wealth drop by more than half” from 1983 to 2016, while the median white family’s wealth accumulation increased by a third, according to the study.

“When you think about how wealth is built over time, typically the way wealth has been built is through property ownership,” REV Birmingham Director of Recruitment and Business Growth Taylor Clark Jacobson said. “That is a ladder to privilege and access.” Read more.

Health Care Disparities Plague Blacks

As part of The Legacy of Race series, BirminghamWatch looked into how race affects health and health care. What we found turned into a series of stories on its own.

Historically Black neighborhoods have some of the lowest life expectancies and highest rates of disabilities and infant mortality in Jefferson County, in line with national trends. Poorer health is a result of several factors.

Rural and poorer areas across the state lack easy access to healthy foods and to adequate health care facilities. People who live there may lack the money, insurance or transportation to seek health care when illnesses are manageable. When they do get to the doctor, most of those doctors are white and from completely different cultural backgrounds, making it hard to build trust.

When added to other factors such as poorer areas also having more environmental pollution, fewer sidewalks and fewer parks to encourage exercise, the result is more health problems and lower life expectancy rates.

Revisit the BirminghamWatch stories that explored these areas:

ZIP Code, Race Predict Lifelong Health Inequities

Access to Treatment, Insurance Isn’t Colorblind

Black Doctors Have Been Rare, but a Local Physician’s Experience May Point the Way Toward Building Numbers

Being the Target of Racism Can Make You Physically Sick, Research Shows

Health Care Disparities: Being the Target of Racism Can Make You Physically Sick, Research Shows

The color of a child’s skin can affect their health, education and sense of worth from the time they are born, or even before that.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has found that racial discrimination, direct and indirect, drives health differences of Black children and adolescents.

Dr. Tamera Coyne-Beasley, a professor of pediatrics and internal medicine and the division director of UAB Adolescent Medicine, said “adverse childhood experiences” such as racial discrimination or violence in their community stay with people and affect their well-being across their lifespan

“When we have looked at these experiences, we understand that they are stressors and risks for adult health problems such as mental health issues like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders, but also physical health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, cancer, emphysema, diabetes and fractures,” said Coyne-Beasley.

She said that experiencing racism or racial injustices not only affects a person’s confidence, it also affects how they form relationships and influences how young people develop identities for behaving with others in their worlds. Read more.

Health Care Disparities: Black Doctors Have Been Rare, but a Local Physician’s Experience May Point the Way Toward Building Numbers

Trust — or a lack of it — can become a barrier when it comes to health care.

Black patients sometimes get less effective treatment than similar white patients, and sometimes that’s because they don’t trust doctors of a different race as much as they do doctors who look like them.

And yet, there are relatively few Black doctors in the U.S. The Association of American Medical Colleges reported that, in 2018, there were about 807,400 active physicians in the country and only 45,534 of them were black. Experts see it as a problem.

“Black Americans make up more than 13% of the U.S. population, yet only 5% of physicians are black,” wrote National Public Radio’s Yuki Noguchi in a story that appeared July 1. “That lack of representation isn’t just a problem within medicine … but it perpetuates a sense that medical and mental health care is not of — or for — the Black community.”
Read more.

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.

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