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July 14th, 2015 No comments

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The State of Obesity

May 13th, 2015 No comments

By: Kosta Patsiopoulos

In September 2014, The State of Obesity published an article analyzing statewide efforts to prevent obesity in black communities. The analysis explains the obesity disparity between African Americans and Whites (47.8% of African Americans are obese whereas 32.6% of Whites are obese). These disparities seem to be directly correlated to the “[a]ccess to affordable, healthy food”, “[h]igher exposure to marketing of less nutritious foods”, and “[l]imited access to safe places to be physically active”. The significance of these inequalities corresponds with “obesity related healthcare costs for preventable diseases”.
In the past few years, progress has been made, starting with school children. In fact, Philadelphia’s strategy to close the racial obesity gap among children has been successful. Over the past decade, the City of Philadelphia removed sodas and sugar-sweetened drinks from public school vending machines, banned deep fryers in school kitchens, and switched all milks served at school to 1 percent and skim milk. Furthermore, the City of Philadelphia created “new financing methods to attract grocers to open stores in lower-income neighborhood . . . .” Between 2006 and 2010 there was a 5 percent reduction in the obesity rates among children in kindergarten through twelfth grade. More notably, the most significant decline was among African American boys at 7.6 percent.
Public health starts with incorporating a healthy diet into our lifestyles; however, equal access to and knowledge of healthy foods need to be readily available to all races and throughout all neighborhoods. Small changes, similar to those made in the City of Philadelphia, go a long way. Imagine what the reduction in the obesity rates would have been among the citizens of Philadelphia if the City of Philadelphia implemented this “school-strategy” throughout the entire city.

Source: The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, Special Report: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Obesity (September 2014), http://stateofobesity.org/disparities/blacks/

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Taxi Cab Drivers, Racial Profiling and Apps

May 6th, 2015 No comments

By: Nicole Danner

Although cities such as Washington, D.C. and New York City have strict penalties (such as fines or license suspension) in place for taxi cab drivers who discriminate against potential customers based on race or destination, taxi cab drivers still take part in racial profiling. According to a study in Washington, D.C., although dressed similarly, taxi cab drivers are less likely to stop for black individuals than for white individuals. Additionally, many black individuals have experienced the effects of racial profiling in daily life (e.g. standing in bad weather for long periods of time, or arriving late to appointments or to pick up their children because of the extended amount of time it takes to hail a cab).
As a result, many individuals, especially those of color, are embracing a new service provided by ride-sharing apps (such as Uber and Lyft) for transportation. These ride-sharing apps provide transportation to individual’s moments after submitting a request. An Uber spokesman stated “[w]ith 4 in 10 Uber trips starting or ending in neighborhoods underserved by taxis, Uber is ensuring that no rider is rejected because of who they are, where they live or where they want to go.”
Increased use of these services has caught the attention of traditional taxi cab drivers. Services like Uber and Lyft are not subject to the same regulations as taxi cab drivers and may charge lower rates, as a result, taxi cab drivers are losing customers. Taxi cab drivers claim they cannot compete with ride-sharing apps and drivers of such services should be subject to the same regulations as taxi cab drivers.
As word of these ride-sharing app services continue to spread, it will be interesting to see what changes, if any, are taken by those in the taxi cab industry.
Source:
Gene Demby, Apps Make Googly Eyes At Riders Tired of Being Snubbed By Cabbies, WUIS National Public Radio (Oct. 21, 2014, 11:50AM), available at http://wuis.org/post/apps-make-googly-eyes-riders-tired-being-snubbed-cabbies.

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Marijuana Reform

April 22nd, 2015 No comments

By: Lee Molitoris

Legalizing marijuana would benefit the low-income African American community and the United States’ economy. While the current drugs laws are not on their face discriminatory, in practice they have the effect of discriminating against the low-income African Americans. African Americans make up a disproportionate percentage of those arrested for possession. Many low-income African-American men turn to selling marijuana to support their families, and police departments tend to patrol “high crime” areas where a disproportionate number of these African Americans live. Legalizing marijuana would reduce the number of arrests and racial profiling of African Americans, allowing them to support their families and lessen the numbers sent to prisons.
Legalizing Marijuana would also have a beneficial impact on the economy. The government would save billions of dollars they currently spend on the enforcement, education, and prevention of drugs, including marijuana. The government would also save a proportion of the $22,000 they spend annually per prisoner. By legalizing marijuana, the government would then be able to tax marijuana sales and growers. For example, a proposed California bill, A.B. 390, has been projected to generate $990 million in taxes from the fee imposed on sellers of marijuana and another $349 million generated from the sale of every fifty ounces of marijuana sold. Therefore, legalizing marijuana could have a beneficial impact on African Americans by reducing arrests and incarcerations, and aiding the economy by generating tax revenue.

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Is the “online you” creating your racial profile?

April 15th, 2015 No comments

By: Ryan Logan

Have you ever bought a car? A house? Maybe even a boat? Did you walk away from the deal thinking, “I definitely got the best price I could have.” If you’re like the rest of us, you probably have some regret that you didn’t save that extra one, two, or three hundred dollars. Everyone wants to save money, but not everyone is given the chance to.

Recent studies have continuously shown that employers, lenders, and other merchants target certain racial groups and charge them more. One such study showed that when a first time homebuyers of white and nonwhite disposition tried to secure a loan, the nonwhite individuals experienced less favorable treatments. This type of discrimination has expanded beyond in-person interactions. With the increase of internet sales, online discrimination based on race has become more prevalent.

You would be surprised what you could find out about yourself online. Through various free, public search engines, someone may be able to find your educational background, state financial data, and even your recent purchases online. From that information, what if someone denied you for a loan based on what type of music you buy or books you order? The evidence is there that racial targeting (through advertisements and e-mail) is already happening based on what you’ve already purchased. It’s affecting what you can buy, the types of loans you can secure, and establishing your “online racial profile,” for good or for bad.

Thus, the question remains: is it fair to racially profile someone, if you’ve never met them, based on a few purchases they’ve made? The next time you order something online, and they have a “people who ordered this also liked this” section, look to see if that would really be something you’d buy. If it is, great, but is it something you’d actually like, or something that a certain “type” of person would like based on social and racial trends?

 

 

Sources:

Margery Turner, et al., U.S. Dep’t of Hous. & Urban Dev., All Other Things Being Equal: A Paired Testing Study of Mortgage Lending Institutions (April 2002) available at http://www.huduser.org/portal//Publications/PDF/aotbe.pdf.

Nathan Newman, The Cost of Lost Privacy: Consumer Harm and Rising Economic Inequality in the Age of Google, 40 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 849, 877-79 (2014).

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Missing the Mark

April 8th, 2015 No comments

By: Joseph Winning 

Despite wide-ranging criticisms from legal academics and practitioners, the prevalence of pretrial diversion programs in the United States has increased considerably since its initial stages of development in the 1960s. Pretrial diversion programs allow prosecutors to defer or dismiss criminal charges pending against an individual provided that the individual complies with and successfully completes the requirements of the ordered program.

Thanks to the implementation of standardized guidelines geared toward determining eligibility, much of the discretion that originally rested with prosecutors has been restructured to ensure more predictable outcomes based on prior history and the current charges pending. Despite this guidelines approach, however, there still remains a wide discrepancy in the availability of diversion programs for minorities when compared to their white counterparts. In an article by Traci Schlesinger[1], the lack of an impact that these standardized guidelines have had on eliminating considerations of race in determining eligibility for pretrial diversion programs is made glaringly clear. The analysis is based on three different models which investigate the effect of race on admittance into diversion programs. Model 1 reveals that “[a]mong defendants charged with felony offenses in counties and years with operating pretrial diversion programs, black and ‘other race’ defendants have odds of receiving pretrial diversion that are 42 and 30 percent lower than those of white defendants, respectively.” Beyond the broad category of felony offenses generally, Model 2 looks specifically at candidates for diversion who committed similar offenses and explains that “[b]lack defendants have odds of receiving pretrial diversion that are 44 percent lower than those of white defendants charged with similar offenses.” Finally, Model 3, which compared the outcomes of candidates who had similar prior records, shows that “black, Latino, and Asian and Native American defendants have odds of receiving pretrial diversion that are 28, 13, and 31 percent lower, respectively, than those of white defendants with similar legal characteristics.”

With the effects of state funded diversion programs working so dramatically to the advantage of one segment of the population, a fresh reformation of the system is due. Perhaps the answer is stricter black-letter guidelines which mandate, rather than permit, admittance into diversion programs. Such strict principles would void the discretionary power wielded by prosecutors which has lead to this gaping disparity in treatment of racial minorities. Or maybe the answer is eradication of these programs all together. Whatever the best approach may be, the current model is clearly missing the mark.

 

[1] Traci Schlesinger, Racial Disparities in Pretrial Diversions: An Analysis of Outcomes Among Men Charged With Felonies and Processed in State Courts, Race and Justice, (April 5, 2013), available at http://raj.sagepub.com/content/3/3/210.full.pdf+html.

 

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