Pride, Prejudice and Slavery: This Week in Race and Racism

Your weekend-ready, “Did you SEE that story?” cheatsheet

This week’s tour of race and racism news takes us from the English countryside to the world of “Quiet Storm” radio. The economic suffering of Black millennials, deadly environmental racism, and racist abuse on a college debate stage are also featured in this week’s roundup of stories you might have missed.

Pride and Prejudice (and Slavery)

A Jane Austen museum in Chawton, England has decided to include information about the Austen family’s ties to the slave trade. Austen’s father was trustee of a sugar plantation in Antigua, and many commonly used products in homes in Austen’s era were tied to slavery and colonialism (for example, tea, cotton and sugar). But predictably, the museum’s efforts to add context are being derided by the conservative outrage mill, with one U.K. tabloid accusing it of “woke madness.”

Bad news for Black Millennials

For all the crap we get from other generations, millennials really do have it tough. We’ve grown up amid near-constant war, generation-defining terror attacks and mass shootings, rising rates of inequality, real estate bubbles, economic downturns and stagnating wages combined with rising costs of living. And if you’re Black — well, it’s all that and then some. NPR’s Planet Money reported on research by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis that found “Black millennials… aren’t just falling further and further behind white millennials in building wealth for their families — they’re falling further and further behind what previous Black generations amassed in wealth.”

When economic inequality makes us sick

Black people are often blamed for the higher rates of health problems in our communities: We eat too much fatty soul food! We refuse to go to the doctor! We fail to bootstrap ourselves into better housing! Of course, the reality is much more complex, and it’s often government policy failures (or even sabotage) that create a petri dish where health and economic inequalities can grow. This New York Times article explores how racist real estate practices and disinvestment contributed to a THIRTY-YEAR life expectancy gap for Black folks in one Chicago neighborhood (where the average life expectancy is 60 years old) as compared to a nearby White neighborhood (where residents, on average, can expect to reach 90). “These are not about choices,” one physician and health advocate said in the article. “These are about the reality of options that people have in their lives or don’t have in their lives.”

“America is segregated and so is pollution”

New research indicates that Black people are disproportionately exposed to a type of air pollution that is responsible for up to 200,000 total excess deaths in the U.S. each year. Fine particulate matter pollution can come from a variety of sources, from highway traffic to oil refineries, and this study found that Black people were exposed to higher-than-average concentrations of it from pretty much every source the study categorized. The disparities persisted across different income levels and states, and in both urban and rural communities.

When dignity and equity are matters for debate

Morehouse College’s debate team withdrew from a national tournament after being subjected to racist taunts and mockery from other teams. Several other colleges withdrew in solidarity, including Spelman. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first incidence of anti-Blackness that the HBCU students have experienced at such debates. This quote in particular, from one of the Morehouse debaters, really struck me: “It’s not that the action of mocking me was that significant,” said [Caleb] Strickland. “It’s six years of being discounted in rounds and seeing Black experiences being discounted in rounds and watching debaters who are non-Black use Black experiences as just a point to win a game.”

The loud-and-clear influence of “Quiet Storm” radio

Do you remember listening to the velvety, grown-and-sexy voice of a radio host floating into your ear and playing sultry R&B love songs during a local station’s “Quiet Storm” show? Or maybe you’re too young to remember it — because your parents were busy conceiving you to its soundtrack (sorry not sorry). This mini-documentary from Vox’s “Earworm” series explains how “Quiet Storm”-style late-night shows became a staple of Black radio and how they contributed to and reflected the rise of the African-American middle class.

Stephanie Siek is a writer and editor who loves cats, cookie dough and aborted alliteration.

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