Racial bias in a medical algorithm favors white patients over sicker black patients

An article by The Washington Post

Ruha Benjamin, an associate professor of African American studies at Princeton University, drew a parallel to the way Henrietta Lacks, a young African American mother with cervical cancer, was treated by the medical system. Lacks is well known now because her cancer cells, taken without her consent, are used throughout modern biomedical research. She was treated in a separate wing of Johns Hopkins Hospital in an era when hospitals were segregated. Imagine if today, Benjamin wrote in an accompanying article, Lacks were “digitally triaged” with an algorithm that didn’t explicitly take into account her race but underestimated her sickness because it was using data that reflected historical bias to project her future needs. Such racism, though not driven by a hateful ideology, could have the same result as earlier segregation and substandard care.

From ArtNews: New York City Picks Artist to Replace Monument That Honored Doctor Who Experimented on Slaves, After Another Proposal Is Withdrawn

I continue to have mixed feelings about monuments on indigenous land, whether or not they mark the site of injury of indigenous and Black folks. The feelings are mixed. This monument looks beautiful and I hope to be at the dedication if and when it is announced. There are many Sims statues to be torn down, altered. There are many narratives of history to relearn, unlearn. This is, perhaps, one way to do so.

This whole deal makes me think about the novel Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. What do we do with narratives of our past that were harmful? Do we render it to alter the course of our future? In which case, what do monuments that mark the site of Black injury do for Black future? We already know what Sims’s statue marked.

See Vinnie Bagwell’s mockup at the link over at ArtNews


Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth. Shalon Irving's Story Explains Why

My first job out of high school was as an administrative assistant for Black Infant Health of California in Littlerock, CA. I didn’t know this would be a trajectory that I’d continue to work with or even think about. And I think about it often. What I learned there, at the age of 19, is that Black women have the highest infant and mother mortality rate of any ethnic group across class. This is structural inequity based on race and gender. Shalon Irving’s story haunts me because she could be me. As I think about my own fertility, unfortunately I am often thinking about whether or not I would survive pregnancy or birth. This doesn’t have to be the case.