Last night, the court-ordered deadline for the Trump administration to reunite separated families passed. Approximately 1,442 children between the ages of five and 17 have been reunited with their parents. Many of these parents (approximately 900) face final deportation orders within the next few days. At least 711 children who were separated from their parents remain in government custody, in the majority of cases because the US government deported their parents and now claims these families are “ineligible” or “unavailable” for reunification. New data shows that the Trump administration during the month of May singled out adults traveling with children for criminal prosecution, leading to the government separating families, while often releasing adults travelling alone without charges.
A young black woman, Nia Wilson, was killed at an Oakland BART station last weekend, and her sister was injured, by a white man. While law enforcement is still investigating what may have motivated this violence, ThinkProgress reports that “Wilson’s death coincides with the overall rise in hate crimes in the East Bay and in California overall in the past year, according to an attorney general report from earlier this month. In Alameda County, where Oakland is located, hate crimes increased from 59 in 2016 to 89 in 2017, the East Bay Express reported. According to an analysis of 2017 hate crime data, hate crime totals for the 10 largest cities in the United States have increased for four straight years and are at the highest levels in a decade. Black people were the most-targeted group. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released in 2017 shows that one of the leading causes of death for non-Hispanic Black women under the age of 34 is homicide… Monique W. Morris, social justice scholar and author of Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools said Wilson and her sister’s race and gender can’t be erased from the conversation about her murder. Morris emphasized that violence against Black girls and women happens in both private and public spaces, adding that activists need to focus on the systems that contribute to the violence Black women experience on a regular basis. Morris said she hopes there is a robust discussion of how to prevent this violence. “There is a deep hurt and understanding that there is a broader climate that is leading with hate at the moment in our society and that whether it is rhetoric and a broader climate of hate, the folks who suffer are indeed in actuality those with the least power,” Morris said. “So I was definitely appalled when I heard the term ‘random’ being applied to this incident, although I think that was just a poor choice of words, because there was seemingly no motive that people could use outside of racial bias and gender bias, so folks were hesitant to use the words hate crime or hate incident as I’ve seen in some spaces,” she said.”
Jamelle Bouie at Slate writes about the effect of the Stand Your Ground law in Florida, one week after a young unarmed black man was killed by an armed white man in a dispute over a parking space, an incident that started in a similar way to other incidents that the white man had provoked over the parking space that included making threats of deadly violence. On the basis of Stand Your Ground, the shooter was not even arrested. Bouie writes, “This is the world of “stand your ground,” where people can use deadly force, with no duty to retreat, if they fear “imminent death or great bodily harm.” While it’s impossible to say if race shaped this particular incident, it has undeniably shaped how the system responds. “Stand your ground” not only redistributes police power to ordinary citizens, it takes the usual impunity granted to police—who can essentially kill black people without consequence—and extends it to white citizens, and few others… Embedded in these [criminal justice] institutions are racist stigmas and ideas that reflect the origins of American criminal justice in the legacy of slavery, its relationship to efforts to preserve racial hierarchy, and its reliance on flawed but popular notions of black pathology and black criminality. “The United States did not face a crime problem that was racialized; it faced a race problem that was criminalized,” observes historian Naomi Murakawa in her study of federal crime politics in the 20th century. And despite the massive size of the American penal system, notes legal scholar Michelle Alexander, “the primary targets of its control can be defined largely by race.” In the American racial imagination, “black” is a property of crime, and crime is a property of blackness. We see this in social science, and we see it in public discourse, where euphemism (“urban” and “Chicago”) hardly obscures the intended message. What this means for policy is that any expansion of the carceral state—or any application of the logic of state punishment—falls hardest on black Americans, regardless of actual rates of offense. Putting police officers in schools means black children in handcuffs, stop-and-frisk policies mean black neighborhoods under virtual occupation, and criminal punishments for drug use means black addicts in prison. Here’s where “stand your ground” comes in. Legally an expansion of the “castle doctrine,” it can be understood as an extension of police prerogative—the right to use deadly force against any perceived threat. These laws deputize ordinary citizens as agents of state violence, and as with all such violence, the distribution is racial.”
Sacramento-area officials convened this week to discuss the impact of trauma on their communities, and the need to shift from a focus on individuals to a focus on community settings and the role of institutions like schools and law enforcement. “’For Sacramento, when you think about Meadowview and Valley Hi and Del Paso Heights, a lot of the community trauma deals with community violence and also police violence,” said Kellie Griffin, the director of Strategic Giving & Community Engagement at Health Net. Event attendant Gina Warren, a clinical pharmacist, said change will not occur until the perceptions of those in the medical field and in the educational system are changed to recognize the experiences of children who’ve grown up in poverty. Both Warren and Griffin mentioned the high suspension rates of black and brown students in the Sacramento region. Researchers from San Diego State University and UCLA recently found Sacramento schools suspend black males at the highest rates in the state. “We’re seeing our 3-year-olds, our 4-year-olds getting suspended from Good Neighbors (Child Development Center),” Warren said. “Kids from Castori get suspended and sent to the older continuation high school. How do we deal with the teachers who still are not trauma-informed nor are ready to be trauma-informed when they’re looking at our black children?” In response to Warren’s comments, Dr. Flojaune Cofer, the director of state policy and research for public health advocates and an epidemiologist on the panel, explained the need to disrupt institutional racism and implicit bias within the educational system. Institutional racism — systems which perpetuate inequality — and implicit bias — which determines who is deserving and who isn’t — intersect in the educational system, Cofer said. “We’re not doing good trauma work if we only focus on the individual,” she said. “You can do all the great work you can in a school, but you send those kids home at the end of the day. That’s why it’s really important for us to understand childhood trauma from the lens of safety, but also to understand that our perception of safety is not just what happens at home, it’s what happens everywhere we go.” Breaking down systems which perpetuate prejudice and inequality can happen, Cofer said, when work is done differently — when it involves those directly affected in a larger dialogue.”
The Wisconsin State Journal reported on city efforts to prevent gun violence, citing prevention efforts underway in Milwaukee (featuring the city’s Blueprint for Peace) and Minneapolis. “Madison is far from alone in its struggle to address escalating gun violence. Bigger cities that have suffered jumps in gun violence now look far beyond law enforcement, employing hospital-based and public health initiatives in an attempt to slow cycles of violence. Milwaukee, which saw a 76 percent increase in firearm-related homicides from 66 in 2010 to 116 in 2016, spent 10 months creating a public health-based “Blueprint for Peace” that’s now guiding actions in some of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. “Prevention is not a luxury,” said Reggie Moore, director of the Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention. “It’s essential to public safety.”… In 2015, Milwaukee experienced one of its deadliest years in a decade, with homicides jumping from 87 in 2014 to 146 the next year. Many people in the city were already working to prevent violence but they weren’t necessarily working together. So the city spent 10 months creating the Blueprint for Peace, a 100-plus page plan focused on six main goals: stop the shooting; promote healing and restorative justice; support children, youth and families; foster strong and safe neighborhoods; and better coordinate violence prevention.”
New data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association shows that – for the first time in eight years – diagnoses of opioid use disorder declined from 2016 to 2017. “Opioid prescriptions have dropped by nearly 30 percent from 2013 to 2017. Two-thirds of opioid prescriptions filled in 2017 were within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended guidelines. ‘It means that there’s light at the end of the tunnel,’ Andrew Kolodny, co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University, told me. ‘The decrease in new cases of opioid addiction is likely due to the trend in more cautious prescribing and greater public awareness of opioid risks.’” But, Vox reports, “this data doesn’t mean the opioid crisis is winding down just yet. Overdose deaths reached new highs in 2016, when more than 60,000 people died of drug overdoses, most of them from opioids. Millions of Americans are still living with opioid addiction. More powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl have made the risks of just one relapse even deadlier.”
A New York Times op-ed today draws attention to fatal vehicle crashes, citing the statistic that over 100 people die in vehicle crashes on the average summer day in the US. “They were killed because a drunken driver hit them. Or because a driver was texting rather than looking at the road. Or because they were hit by a speeding car. Or because they themselves were driving a vehicle unsafely. Or maybe nobody did anything wrong, and bad luck led to the crash. Summer is the deadliest season on America’s roads, which are now the most dangerous in the industrialized world — a grim distinction that didn’t apply just a few decades ago. Worst of all, we could prevent a significant number of these deaths if we were willing to try. We would simply need to do the things that other countries have already done, to great success: Install more speed cameras. Crack down on smartphone use by drivers, with real enforcement and penalties. Reduce the threshold for drunken driving. Increase seatbelt use.”
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, a new open-access journal, shows that cleaning up and greening vacant lots in low-income neighborhoods significantly decreased residents’ self-reported feelings of depression, hopelessness, and poor mental health. Co-author Dr. Eugenia South said, she “hopes that the results of the study will resonate with physicians and city officials working in urban planning and public health, and inspire more projects to clean up public spaces. ‘Doctors can treat depression, drugs and wounds,’ she said. ‘But we need to look at what brings the patients in in the first place.’”