San Francisco Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer and Vallie Brown introduced legislation this week that would create an Office of Racial Equity under the city’s Human Rights Commission. According to the San Francisco Examiner, “Fewer said that it “will institutionalize our commitment to address long-standing racial disparities.” She said that since she began serving on the board there hasn’t been analysis “of how decisions we made would positively or negatively impact communities of color.” The office would have a number of duties, including the analysis of proposed Board of Supervisors legislation to determine how it would promote racial equity and to help every city department establish racial equity plans. The plans would address racial disparities within their own departments and in services they provide… The office’s mission is to “advance racial equity in the city and repair harm done by government policy decisions that have created, upheld, or exacerbated racial disparities in the city,” the legislation states. That includes addressing “structural racism that limits opportunities for and impacts the wellbeing of people of color in The City.””
A new law in Alabama bans abortion at any stage in pregnancy, with narrow and difficult to navigate exceptions for “serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother,” and would make performing abortions a Class A felony, in a clear challenge to Roe v. Wade. In an interview with The New Yorker, Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse said, “laws like this have almost nothing to do with the fetus, or the embryo, or the fertilized egg, and everything to do with the role of women in society today. It’s all about the dignity and agency of the female half of the population. And that’s what’s at stake, frankly.” If Alabama’s law goes into effect, it will “disproportionately affect poor women and women of color. Wealthy Alabamians would still be able to go out of state to receive abortions, while the poorest in the state, who are disproportionately Latino and black, would be trapped. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, only half of the state’s 67 counties have access to a local obstetrician, and Alabama consistently ranks among the poorest states in the country… Many critics of the bill say it’s part of a constellation of... policies that punish and disenfranchise the state’s nonwhite, poor, and female residents, and note that the same lawmakers who preen as “pro-life” have done nothing to address the fact that the state has some of the worst infant- and maternal-mortality rates in the country.”
Reuters reports on sharp disparities in breast cancer outcomes between black and white women, especially in southern states, with black women being 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than their white peers. "No region has as many high-disparity states clustered together as the South. Louisiana and Mississippi have the highest racial disparities in breast cancer mortality. In both of those states, the excess death rate among black women is more than 60%, according to the American Cancer Society. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee all have excess death rates over 40%. “We automatically think that, when we get cancer, we’re doomed and that it’s a death sentence,” said Mahone, referring to black women... And black women have described feeling cast aside by a health system of doctors, nurses and support groups that rarely look like them; and face further obstacles outside labs and hospitals — including lack of access to jobs, transit and health insurance. This marginalization of black women is especially prevalent in the South. “This makes people, especially black women, who are busy working and providing care to family members, not want to waste their time,” said Alisha Cornell, who worked as a registered nurse in North Carolina. “The way we are treated makes us feel shameful or unimportant.” ... Federal officials have taken some steps to reduce this disparity, from awareness campaigns to collecting long-term health data from minority communities. Alabama officials have mandated that low-income women diagnosed with breast cancer be automatically enrolled in Medicaid. And Tennessee officials have used health data to identify counties with the highest disparities, and convinced hospitals to send mobile mammography clinics to those areas."
In the Guardian, Margaret Moss, director of the First Nations House of Learning at the University of British Columbia and an associate professor of nursing, writes about the often overlooked legacy of trauma in American Indian communities: “Exterminate, remove, assimilate, terminate, relocate. Most Americans will have no context for the relationship of these words to each other. Most Americans Indians will recognize them immediately. They align with US federal policies that were implemented from the late 1700s through to 1978 in order to solve the “Indian problem” and allow for Euro-American expansion. The result of these injustices is an unresolved grief that underlies our American Indian reality in 2019. Mental health expert Dr Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart calls it “historical trauma”. She writes: “This phenomenon … contributes to the current social pathology of high rates of suicide, homicide, domestic violence, child abuse, alcoholism and other social problems among American Indians.” This trauma, in other words, is making us sick. And so is the fact that it is routinely ignored by the rest of the country… Trauma is at the root of the issues that translate into the poor health outcomes characteristic of American Indians. The unspeakable, persistent, targeted, systemic aggressions visited on our ancestors live on in us, the descendants. This isn’t just a theory; it can be shown epigenetically. We suffer from some of the lowest life expectancies in the entire western hemisphere. The current average life expectancy for men born on Dakota reservations is 40 to 50 years of age, as compared to the US average for men of 76.1. According to the Indian Health Service’s Trends in Indian Health (2014), diabetes causes death in American Indians at a rate 177% greater than other Americans. As a nurse in the Indian Health Service (IHS) in New Mexico, I lost count of the incidents of amputation, dialysis, blindness and death I witnessed firsthand as a result of the disease; my mother died at age 69 from diabetes complications. Alcohol-related deaths occur at a rate 520% greater; chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 368% greater; tuberculosis 450% greater; pneumonia and influenza 37% greater; suicide 60% greater… Federal agencies as well as individual practitioners need to account for the spiritual illness that is translating into physical illness and killing American Indians… The reigning structure must be dismantled in order for any progress to be made with regards to American Indian health outcomes, which rely on the racism and attendant traumas visited on every American Indian every day in the US. The structure will be torn down when: American Indian people can proliferate, reclaim, use inherent sovereignty, rebuild and remain/return. But first it must be made visible.”
The California State Legislature has shelved Senate Bill 50, which would have overridden local zoning ordinances to permit multi-unit housing near transit and job centers, until next year, after being tabled by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. The Sacramento Bee reports that Governor Gavin Newsom “— who urged the Legislature to deliver a bill that tackles the state’s housing shortage — released a statement saying he was “disappointed by the committee’s decision… The cost of housing — both for homeowners and renters — is the defining quality-of-life concern for people across this state,” Newsom said. “California must address the housing supply shortage head on, and we need to be able to use every tool in the toolkit to address this systemic crisis.” The New York Times reports that, “like S.B. 50, tenants’ rights bills are facing tough battles. A.B. 36, a bill that could potentially expand rent control to more tenants, appears to be delayed until next year. A.B. 1482, a statewide rent cap that would extend some measure of rent control to the millions of California tenants who live outside the handful of cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles that already have rent regulations, is still alive but faces steep opposition from landlords’ groups.”
Apolitical reports on redesigning cities with women in mind: “City planning for women… encompasses everything from street lighting, transit and surveillance to the gender balance of statues in public spaces and the gender of architects working in design firms. While infrastructure such as public transport is often thought of as gender neutral, thinking through the specific ways in which it is experienced by women can highlight disparities. Research by Sarah Kaufman, Associate Director of the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, found that women pay more for public transport because they must make decisions that account for their personal safety and caregiving responsibilities… In the Swedish city of Kalmar, planners discovered that fewer women were taking the bus at night because of concerns about walking from stops. In response, “night stops” where passengers could request to alight between sanctioned stops, were introduced — and the number of people using the service increased. While gender analysis of green transport is only beginning to emerge, Johnston-Zimmerman hypothesises that “around the world we’re experiencing women-unfriendly cities because they’re so car-centric”, pointing to movements for pedestrianisation led by mothers in Amsterdam and Queens, New York. Building cities around cars subordinates the non-driving modes of transport women are more likely to use than men, and makes cities more dangerous and difficult to navigate with children or others to care for.”
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors banned the use of facial recognition software by local government agencies. Vox reports on the use and concerns about this software: “These technologies can detect faces in images or live video streams and match those facial characteristics to someone’s identity in a database. Today, facial recognition technology is widely used by the Chinese government for Orwellian mass surveillance of ordinary citizens in public life — most alarmingly to target the Uighur Muslim ethnic minority in what’s been called “automated racism.” In the US, the tools are far less ubiquitous but becoming increasingly popular with law enforcement agencies. Dozens of local police departments across the US use the technology to match driver’s license pictures and mug shots to criminal databases. It’s also used (in some cases by private citizens, not police) to monitor crowds at events such as protests, shopping malls, and concerts to identify potential suspects in real time, which has caused alarm among civil liberties advocates, who say this use can have a chilling effect on free speech.”