Medium: How We Save Our Body Politic

Medium, August 24, 2020: How We Save Our Body Politic

Hello friends:

I offered a version of these remarks to a powerful civic group recently. As part of my discourse on America in peril, I explained how hard it has been to be a Black female journalist. This may be the most personal and emotionally vulnerable writing I’ve shared publicly in my life. After all, I wanted to tell other people’s stories, not my own.

Many times I’ve been thwarted in doing my job of telling the truth by managers who either disbelieved my news judgment (see “cherry picking the facts”), permitted me to be harassed/humiliated, or openly stripped me and my team of resources. After I wrote this essay to the group, I had a conversation with prominent trauma studies specialist  who said that journalists denied the chance to tell the truth by their newsrooms found it as damagaing or more so than the effects of witnessing violence, war, or disaster.

It was a massive aha moment for me. Being denied the chance to tell the truth and help the world by doing so is a betrayal of the very premise of our profession, one I have felt acutely. At times, I have questioned whether my years as a journalist were wasted, since the act of telling the truth did not prevent this painful moment in history or measurably change the newsrooms I tried to de-bias. But I am just one runner in a long relay race towards justice, and I have to accept with humility that I cannot determine the outcomes, only my own actions.

Having covered the past six elections, I now find myself on the cusp of adding my voice to 2020 coverage as well. Next month, I’ll be launching the radio show/podcast Our Body Politic with a coalition of public radio stations. More soon in a formal announcement. The show will focus on women of color as a superdemographic in American politics, and ask how we can save and improve our own lives and that of our nation. The marginalization of so many journalistic voices has impoverished our discourse and, as I argue in the essay, imperiled our national survival.

Here are two ways you could help Our Body Politic:

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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