Policing and Schools with Majority-Minority Populations

Ever since the storming of the United States Capitol Building on January 6th, there have been ongoing debates about how much security to have at the building, and how much to force members of the United States Congress to be subject to certain security regulations. Some of these debates and disagreements have even resulted in some members of Congress defying security regulations put into place…or at least attempting to do so.[1]

My initial thought when reading about the actions of some of the aforementioned defiant individuals: “This shows how privileged they are—openly defying some of the very same security measures that many kids in schools across the United States have to experience and have no choice in experiencing.” But lately, as drastic as this sounds, my thoughts this issue have turned to other questions.

Why do we have things like police officers, metal detectors, and locked gates at our schools? And why do we need bodyguards in the same space where students learn math, social studies, and science?

I used to assume that it was because school shootings are unfortunately a risk in the United States, and that these measures were an attempt to keep such heinous tragedies from happening.

My assumption was wrong.

As it turns out, the biggest predictor of which schools receive such stringent security measures is not crime in the neighborhood or anything crime-related, but skin color.[2] Evidence of this fact is how majority-minority schools are two to eighteen times as likely as schools with small nonwhite populations (under 20% nonwhite) to have metal detectors, school police and security guards, locked gates, and random sweeps.[3] A blunt way to summarize the current scholarship on security measures at schools is that it’s disproportionately used to treat students of color like suspected criminals.

But if school security measures are used in such problematic and even racist ways, what are the implications? Where do we go from here?

On a practical level, it means that there needs to be an honest answering of two questions:

  1. Should we even have security measures, such as bodyguards and metal detectors, at schools? Interestingly, it is not even a given that said measures even work at accomplishing the supposedly intended goal of keeping schools safe.[4] If the measures don’t even accomplish the goals they are supposed to, they are a huge waste of time for the people involved in keeping things “safe,” as well as a waste of money.
  2. If the answer to the previous question is yes, how can such security measures be better targeted so that we don’t continue to disproportionately treat students of color like suspected criminals?

On a political level, especially in relation to the increased security for members of the United States Congress in the wake of the attempted January 6, 2021 insurrection, I wish that the same energy dedicated to figuring out what level of security is appropriate for members of Congress were also dedicated to figuring out what level of security is appropriate for schools, and particularly schools that serve large populations of students of color. Security at the United States Capitol is important and should be deliberated, but so should the security of students going to school every day, and making sure that the way we implement security measures at schools is not based on the racial makeup of them. In the wake of mass school shooting tragedies in the last few decades ranging from Columbine to Sandy Hook, we know that the solution is not to completely ignore the issue of school security, but at the same time serious questions should be asked about the way school security is currently approached.

On the big-picture level, in terms of racial issues, the implication is that the issue of security measures in schools is yet another manifestation of racism in the way majority-minority populations are policed (something I’ve talked about in a previous blog post, by the way). While a fair bit of attention on racism and minority populations is focused on the shootings of unarmed people of color, some attention should also be dedicated to the policing of schools where most of their students are people of color.


[1] https://www.denverpost.com/2021/01/12/lauren-boebert-guns-congress-security-stop/

[2] https://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/metal-detectors-and-strict-policing-schools-criminalize-minority-students-study-says

[3] The paper that has these findings can be found here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2830885. If you want a summary of the findings, you can read them here: https://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/metal-detectors-and-strict-policing-schools-criminalize-minority-students-study-says

[4] Ibid.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: February 25, 2021

I hope that all of my readers are healthy and safe, regardless of where you are.

So, in last week’s COVID update post, I lamented about the lack of vaccine availability for my parents, even though they live in a place where COVID is a major issue. That situation has changed significantly, and evidence of that is the fact that they got their first dose of the vaccine yesterday! I am grateful for the efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for their work in significantly increasing vaccine appointment availability in communities in my area hit hard by COVID yet also underserved by vaccinations. I am also grateful for how smoothly the vaccine site was run, according to my parents. If you live in Queens or Brooklyn and you’re among the populations eligible for COVID-19 vaccines now, please visit https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/ to see if you are eligible. For readers who live in Queens and Brooklyn, please spread this information far and wide! Now that there is somewhat greater supply, we want to make sure that people in at-risk populations take advantage of that supply.

This good news does not take away from the fact that COVID is still existent in high numbers in my area–nearly 12% in my zip code, to be exact. The test positivity rate is actually a little higher this week than it was last week. The high COVID rates show that now is absolutely not a time to get complacent with the mask-wearing, the social distancing, or other precautions. Especially since hospital beds in my area are still slammed from the virus, it is important for people to act with caution. I will also add that even if you have been vaccinated, you should continue to wear your mask and practice social distancing.

The other piece of bad news out of New York is that a new variant of the virus has been discovered spreading in New York City. There is concern that this variant may be more resistant to the vaccines being administered than COVID in its other forms, but local health officials are reminding residents that based on the science currently out there, it is premature to reach such a conclusion about the New York variant.[1] Based on the guidance I’ve heard from public health officials, it sounds like we shouldn’t panic yet, but it is completely possible that the New York variant will turn out to be a cause for concern. For now, let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the New York variant turns out to not be that bad.

In different New York-related news, sporting arenas are now reopening for fans, albeit at an extremely limited capacity.[2] It looks like you are required to get a test before you come to one of these games (and not just any test, but apparently the so-called PCR tests, so it’s a specific type of test), so unless there’s something I’m missing, the combination of the required testing and the limited capacity make it seem like this is a low-risk move from a COVID transmission standpoint. If any COVID experts happen to stumble upon this post and my assessment is incorrect, though, please let me know–I’m more than happy to be corrected by public health experts if anything needs correcting.

That is the most recent update on how I am. I’m happy to hear how others are doing, though!


[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa/new-york-officials-others-downplay-concern-over-new-coronavirus-variant-idUSKBN2AP2UY

[2] https://abc7ny.com/covid-vaccine-barclays-center-reopening-brooklyn-nets-nyc-covid-19-finder/10363564/

What Is…Medical Racism?

In the post I wrote a few weeks ago on racial inequity in COVID-19 vaccinations, I alluded to the history of the abuse of people of color by the medical field as a reason that some people of color may feel hesitant about the vaccine.

While I think it was important to talk about medical racism in my post from a few weeks ago, I think it is also important to dedicate a post all by itself to this topic, especially given the amount of attention this term has gotten in the past couple of weeks. Additionally, since it is Black History Month, it seems particularly timely to talk about this term now. As such, while medical racism was not among the terms I had initially planned to cover in my “what is” blog posts, I think it is important to cover this term.

But what is medical racism, and how has it manifested itself over the years?

In short, medical racism is “the systematic and wide-spread racism against people of color within the medical system.”[1] Racism against people of color within the medical system has taken a variety of forms over the past several hundred years in the United States, including, but not limited, to: policies that affect health outcomes disproportionately in communities of color, the disparity in health care coverage by race, biases held by healthcare workers against people of color, the use of the medical field as a means of harming people of color, and disproportionate use of people of color for experimental purposes in medicine.

The form of medical racism that involves policies affecting health outcomes disproportionately in communities of color is wide-ranging. It involves everything from the fact that unsafe water is much more common in communities of color than in white communities[2] to the building of highways through Black communities[3] (highways that would have an impact of pollution on said communities that got these highways[4]). Some of these policies might not always have in mind the intentional harming of health outcomes for people of color (though the building of highways in Black communities was in many cases intentional), but the result of such policies is harming people in communities of color.

Speaking of things that can negatively affect health outcomes for communities of color, one thing that can cause this is the disparity in health care coverage by race. I talked about this issue in my “Obamacare and Race” post a number of weeks ago, as there are particularly high uninsured rates among American Indians, Hispanics, and Blacks in particular. To Former President Obama’s credit, Obamacare has made that disparity somewhat less stark than it used to be, but it’s a disparity that still exists.

Even when people of color have health insurance, though, sometimes the doctors and healthcare workers that insurance covers can have biases against people of color. Sometimes that bias is explicit, but sometimes it can be implicit too, such as implicit preferences for white patients over Black ones,[5] false beliefs about the nature of how Black bodies are,[6] and the fact that many doctors don’t believe their patients of color when they say they are in pain (an issue particularly prominent with Black women).[7] This form of medical racism comes up every now and again, but especially in light of the painful COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a form of medical racism that really needs to be talked about thoroughly.

Sometimes, the medical field is used as a means of harming people of color, whether it be denying medical treatment available to others, or using medical treatment as a means of harming others. Both things happened with the way the American government in the 1830s handled smallpox in Native American populations. Initially, Native Americans were denied the access to smallpox treatments that whites got. However, many Native American populations later got this access when smallpox threatened removal of said populations to other lands.[8] In other words, denial of the smallpox treatments was initially used to harm Native Americans through suffering without medication, and then distribution of them was used to help accelerate the infamous Indian removals of the 1830s. I am sure there are other examples of this form of medical racism, but the example talked about in this paragraph is one that needs to be talked about more, in my humble opinion.

The final form of medical racism that I think is worth talking about is one that involves the disproportionate use of people of color for experimental purposes in medicine. This is when experimental medicines that are, these days, typically tested with a cross-section of people or with other animals get tested disproportionately on people of color. It was this form of medical racism that led to the exploitation of Black slaves in the medical field for the purposes of experimenting.[9] This form of medical racism was also involved in the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male,” a study where researchers told the people involved that they were being treated for “bad blood,” but in reality did not get treatment during what was a highly unethical and ultimately lethal study.[10] Some in the medical field suspect that many people of color are hesitant to participate in medical studies these days because of the legacy of how such experimental studies did so much harm to many people of color.[11]

The form of medical racism that seems to be talked about the most these days is the disproportionate use of people of color for experimental purposes in medicine. However, the reality is that medical racism can take so many other forms, as well—forms that ultimately can contribute to negative health outcomes.


[1] https://www.ywcaworks.org/blogs/firesteel/tue-07212020-0947/what-medical-racism

[2] https://www.nrdc.org/stories/unsafe-water-more-common-communities-color

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/feb/21/roads-nowhere-infrastructure-american-inequality

[4] https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/who-is-at-risk/highways

[5] https://www.businessinsider.com/biases-you-didnt-know-existed-in-the-medical-industry-2020-4#black-people-are-24-times-more-likely-to-die-from-the-coronavirus-4

[6] A study in 2016 found that half of white medical trainees held false race-based beliefs such as Blacks having thicker skin than whites: https://www.pnas.org/content/113/16/4296

[7] https://www.today.com/health/implicit-bias-medicine-how-it-hurts-black-women-t187866

[8] https://ais.arizona.edu/thesis/politics-disease-indian-vaccination-act-1832

[9] https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32032-8/fulltext

[10] You can read about the long version of this story on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/timeline.htm

[11] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/10/25/556673640/scientists-work-to-overcome-legacy-of-tuskegee-study-henrietta-lacks

Coronavirus Update From New York City: February 18, 2021

I hope that my readers are healthy and safe, regardless of where you are. I also hope that people who are in parts of the United States affected by the winter storms are remaining warm and safe.

Everyone in my family continues to be free of COVID. We’ve been in a hotspot for this virus over the past few months, but in spite of that, we have managed to steer clear of COVID in my family’s household.

That being said, the test positivity rate where I live has dropped somewhat–down to a little under 11%. While this number is going in the right direction, it is still too high for comfort, and still high enough that it is important to exercise extreme caution. I should also note that the test positivity rate citywide in New York is going in the right direction, thankfully.

One number that remains stubbornly concerning is the number of hospital and ICU beds filled in my area by COVID patients. Every single hospital in my county (Queens County, NY), including the hospital nearest to where I live, is considered to be numerically under some level of concern or stress based on the number of beds occupied by COVID patients (with the hospital closest to where I live using an astonishing 79% of its ICU beds on COVID patients).[1] It’s worth keeping in mind that hospitalization numbers are a lagging indicator when it comes to COVID (since it can take some time between being diagnosed for COVID and going to the hospital for it), but it’s still worth being aware of these numbers because it further highlights the need for people in my part of New York City to continue practicing COVID precautions so as to keep ourselves from getting the virus, and keep ourselves from putting further strain on already strained hospitals.

On the vaccination front, my parents are now theoretically eligible for the vaccines, but they’ve been unable to find a place nearby to get them. This seems to echo what many people in my area are saying, which is that the available vaccine supply is nowhere near the demand, and that the vaccine supplies are not in the right places. Per my parents, there are apparently vaccinations available in Potsdam in Upstate New York, which is located in a county with a test positivity rate under 3%,[2] but not in New York City, where the test positivity rate is over 8%. I am not an infectious disease expert, but from a layperson’s perspective, it seems like we should be looking to prioritize the vaccination of vulnerable people in places where COVID spread is the greatest (which isn’t the case with Potsdam).

Before ending this post, I should also talk about the big news coming out of New York: a scandal regarding how Governor Cuomo’s administration has handled nursing homes. Long story made short, what happened was that the State Attorney General’s office found that deaths in nursing homes may’ve been undercounted by New York State by as much as 50%.[4] On top of that, the FBI is investigating the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.[5] To make matters worse for Cuomo, a state assembly member in New York is accusing Governor Cuomo of threatening to destroy his career as a result of speaking out about the nursing home scandal.[6] I know I’ve been a frequent Cuomo critic in my update posts, but good gosh. All I will say about this for now, other than that it was tasteless for Cuomo to go after an assembly member who lost his uncle to COVID in a nursing home,[7] is that I hope that the ongoing FBI investigation is thorough.

But I should get off my soapbox. How are others doing?


[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/12/09/944379919/new-data-reveal-which-hospitals-are-dangerously-full-is-yours#lookup

[2] Utica is in Oneida County, NY, so what I have here is the Oneida County COVID-19 Dashboard: https://hoccpp.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/d88f4e10d59d4553b24c3add5abcbb0b

[3] https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-data.page

[4] https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/2021/attorney-general-james-releases-report-nursing-homes-response-covid-19

[5] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/governor-andrew-cuomo-nursing-home-deaths-investigation-new-york-fbi-federal-prosecutors/

[6] To make matters even worse, the assembly member Cuomo attacked lost an uncle to COVID-19 in a nursing home: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/18/new-york-assemblymember-cuomo-coverup-469741

[7] Even if the accusation is not true, Cuomo has publicly made serious accusations of corruption against this assembly member for, of all things, corruption related to a bill several years ago over nail salon regulations. As to why he’s making that accusation now, the cynical part of my mind is thinking that it is an attempt (albeit, a poor attempt) at trying to deflect from his own problems: https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/ny-state-of-politics/2021/02/17/assemblyman-ron-kim-says-cuomo-threatened-him-in-phone-call

Coronavirus Update From New York City: February 11, 2021

I hope that my readers are healthy and safe, regardless of where you are. I also hope that my readers exercised caution, if they did anything for Super Bowl Sunday last weekend. Here are the latest updates I have on how COVID-19 is going in my hometown.

Everyone in my family remains COVID-free. Some of us in the family are definitely experiencing burnout from all the time spent online and on Zoom, as well as the relative lack of time outdoors lately due to the snow, ice, and cold hitting my area the last couple of weeks. Spring is right around the corner (or already here, if you’re a believer in listening to a groundhog in New York City), so I believe that this weather too shall pass.

The test positivity rate in my zip code is at 13.1%, which is still among the highest test positivity rates of all the zip codes in New York City. The COVID rate remains high enough that I think it is of the utmost importance to continue acting with caution. It is out of this cautiousness that I’m not going for indoor dining, not gathering with other people right now, and not going in-person to my church–it just seems too risky with the positivity rate as high as it is in my neighborhood.

If anyone is interested in reading about the issues that have plagued my neighborhood in terms of both testing and vaccinations (namely, not being a priority for either until recently)–in spite of having one of the highest test positivity rates in New York City for a couple of months now–I encourage you to read a recent Washington Post article about said issues (assuming you can get through their paywall or haven’t exhausted your quota of free Washington Post articles for the month). I must admit that I’m somewhat amazed that the paper noticed issues in my neighborhood, but kudos to the writers of the article for noticing us in the first place, let alone writing a detailed article about the area by where I live.

Of concern is the fact that we are starting to record more cases of the COVID variant from the United Kingdom here in New York City.[1] In the past week, we have recorded 18 cases of the variant here in New York City, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that total were much higher, given how easily the UK variant of this spreads.

One person continuing to not act with caution is my governor, Andrew Cuomo. I reported in last week’s post that indoor dining is returning, albeit at reduced capacity, for Valentine’s Day. The start of indoor dining has been pushed up two days now, to February 12th, with the intention of giving restaurants the opportunity to profit off of a whole Valentine’s Day weekend worth of business.[2] Let me be clear–while there may be some areas where it is safe to return to outdoor dining, it is absolutely not safe to return to this in places like mine, places where the test positivity rate is well into the double digits. I know my governor has sometimes wanted to say that he “follows the science,” but I’m not aware of any science suggesting that indoor dining in a COVID hotspot is a good idea.

With regards to the vaccines, the fact of the matter is that the demand for the vaccines, even among the populations of those eligible for them, seems to far outpace the existing supply. While it sounds like supply is on the increase, demand is also quite high.[3] I expect this issue to continue for the next few weeks, at least.

That’s enough in terms of updates from me this week. How are all of you, my readers, doing?


[1] https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2021/02/08/covid-cases-deaths-vaccines-new-york/43378507/

[2] https://ny.eater.com/2021/2/8/22272476/indoor-dining-nyc-friday-february-12-restart-cuomo

[3] https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/coronavirus/its-going-to-be-frustrating-ny-warns-of-tough-stretch-as-major-vaccine-eligibility-expansion-looms/2875454/