This Week In Race: Dave Says Sorry, Coin Controversy, Health Hazards Of Segregation

May 19, 2017
Originally published on May 19, 2017 6:30 pm

Oh, Code Switch fam: Has there ever been such a week? Because of the virtual smorgasbord of unfortunate news, you may have skipped putting these on your plate. Dig in. Keep a chaser of Pepto handy.

In policing, it's feeling like a lethal version of Groundhog Day. This time, a Tulsa, Okla., police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man with his hands raised was acquitted of first-degree manslaughter. Officer Betty Shelby says when she came upon Terrence Crutcher outside his SUV, she thought he was going for a gun when he reached into his car. Crutcher was unarmed. "I did everything I could to stop this," Shelby said. "Crutcher's death is his fault." Gov. Mary Fallon asked for calm, even as she recognized people have the right to disagree with the verdict.

In other policing news: Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a man who compared Black Lives Matter to the KKK, is now going to be an assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security. He'll be liaising, to use government lingo, with law enforcement at the state and local levels who are responsible for tribal law enforcement. Really. Clarke hasn't moved into his new office, but already critics are coming for him.

Who's Asian? A new poll by NBC says many respondents see a division between East and South Asians. Perceiving only some Asians as "real" Asians often means that South Asians — Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and others — are much more likely to be profiled and stopped, while East Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans among others) are seen as far less threatening and suspicious. The exception might be Indians who are Sikhs, and whose turbans and beards (both religious mandates) are often mistaken for Islamic. (We wrote recently about a publicity campaign mounted by American Sikhs to explain who they are.)

Last week we talked about the U.S. Mint releasing a new gold piece with a new Lady Liberty on it. The new Liberty is African-American, and some people are not happy about that. The mint says sales of this new coin have lagged while a gold coin released his week, which features a Native American,"was met with brisk sales and enthusiasm." Apparently some people consider the Native American an icon, whereas a black Liberty makes no sense to them — or worse, offends them. A museum director of the American Numismatic Association (a society devoted to educating and encouraging people to study and collect coins) said, "If our money is going to represent people it should represent the people of this nation." And if some people are upset now, will they be any happier with the mint's future coin plans, which include Liberty as Asian-American and Hispanic-American?

Think: If you were a college student, how effectively could you study for finals if you were constantly wondering whether your family would be home after school was over? Would worrying about the possibility of your parents and other family members being deported put a dent in your concentration? New America Media says in California, children of immigrants who are here without the proper authorization are so worried about being separated from their families that it is taking a toll on their studies and making them scale back plans for college.

Newsflash: Apparently living in segregated neighborhoods, especially those with fewer green spaces, higher crime rates and fewer city services, can be bad for one's health. And might be a significant factor in the high blood pressure that plagues many African-Americans. A study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found that when blacks move to less segregated neighborhoods, their systolic blood pressure numbers go down. (The top number in standard blood pressure measurements is the systolic number, which is considered a more significant predictor of cardiovascular disease.) Lowered blood pressure numbers mean less chance of a heart attack or stroke. Although, as NPR's Shots column points out, "moving to less segregated neighborhoods could increase stress in at least one way —by potentially exposing African-Americans to more racism." It's the medical version of the conundrum Lorraine Hansberry made famous in A Raisin In The Sun.

Women of color, and black women in particular, make up a big chunk of romance novel readers. Harlequin made a smart move in 2005 when it created Kimani, a line of romances specifically written by black women featuring "sophisticated, soulful and sensual African-American and multicultural heroes and heroines who develop fulfilling relationships as they lead lives full of drama, glamour and passion." But Kimani and four other Harlequin series are closing down. The last Kimani romance will be published in December 2018. Pass the smelling salts; we feel faint.

In other romance news, Aziz Ansari's Emmy-winning Netflix series Master of None returned for its second season, and yes, it's about the pursuit of romance, and it's more diverse than ever, on multiple levels. You can hear Gene and guest co-host Lenika Cruz talk with MON co-writer Alan Yang about Asian men as romantic leads and being creatively fearless on our latest podcast. It's a wonderful listen.

Oh, Dave. You'll remember that Chappelle famously suggested in an SNL cold open earlier this year that America should give its new president a chance. Well apparently, he has thought it over. When he hosted the gala for the Robin Hood Foundation in New York on Monday evening, Chappelle reminded the audience of his earlier suggestion, and then admitted this: "I bleeped up." (Only there was no bleep in the tape.) Yes, Mr. Chappelle, lots of people exercising their "I-told-you-so muscles" right about now ...

It's Friday. Try not to bleep up this weekend. We'll see you next week.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.