New Survey Shows Impact of Discrimination Against AANHPI Women

On Thursday, the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum released results of a major survey of that shows the impacts of racism and gender-based discrimination on AANHPI (Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander) women in the United States. The study was supported by The Asian American Foundation and the Korean American Community Foundation, and included responses from more than 2,000 adult women from a variety of AANHPI ethnic subgroups, with results collected in 6 languages in January and February 2022. Among the findings:

Anti-AANHPI violence has escalated since the start of the pandemic, with those at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities being most targeted and vulnerable. The same day that the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum survey was released, the New York Police Department announced that a man was arrested and charged for a spree of violence in which he attacked 7 Asian women across multiple neighborhoods in Manhattan over a two-hour period of time.

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Variant Update on Omicron Subvariant BA.2 

Recent data from the WHO and other sources have looked into a subvariant of the Omicron variant, named BA.2, as this variant has become the dominant strain in several countries in the past few weeks. This subvariant was discovered around the same time as the BA.1 variant, which has been the dominant variant in the United States and the variant most have been referring to when talking about the Omicron variant. The BA.2 variant was initially also called “stealth Omicron” by the media because it’s hard to differentiate in tests from other variants (not because it has less noticeable symptoms or doesn't show up as COVID-19 in tests). 

The WHO data showed that BA.2 is about 30% more transmissible than the BA.1 Omicron variant and accounts for about 20% of all recorded cases in the world right now. While cases have been dropping, the proportion of cases due to the BA.2 variant has been increasing, with BA.2 cases now accounting for more cases than those caused by the BA.1 variant in at least 43 countries. While there is some concern for this variant still, a recent study out of South Africa in preprint, meaning it has not yet been peer reviewed, suggests that this variant is similar to the BA.1 variant in terms of clinical severity and likelihood of hospitalization. In addition, another preprint study from Denmark suggested that the rate of reinfection due to the BA.2 variant is similar to the original BA.1 Omicron variant. While reinfection was rare, the study was relatively small with a total of 263 reinfections confirmed. 

While there hasn’t been any alarming signs from the BA.2 variant yet, there are still concerns as it has been shown to be more transmissible. It is still too early to be certain how it compares to the original Omicron variant in terms of clinical outcomes. While cases and hospitalizations have been decreasing recently, deaths are still incredibly high, yet vaccines have been shown to be protective. In addition to getting vaccinated or boosted if or when you can, continuing to wear masks and socially distancing are our best ways of protecting ourselves and each other.

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Racism in Ukrainian Refugee Evacuations

Over the past week, millions of Ukrainians have been leaving the country to seek safety in neighboring nations due to the Russian invasion. Those seeking refuge are not all being treated equally, however. Reports have come in from people across the country documenting widespread and systemic discrimination targeted at people of color in Ukraine. While the country is overwhelmingly white, approximately 20% of Ukrainian students are African (including approximately 4,000 Nigerian students, most of whom are studying medicine), and there are people living in Ukraine from around the globe, including Africa, India, and the Middle East.

According to first-hand accounts, people living in Ukraine who are of other nationalities are being blocked from getting on buses or other forms of transportation heading to border crossings, and are being forced to walk. One Black family was forced to disembark from a bus and was told "No blacks." Reports indicate the discrimination is occurring to people who are Black, Indian, Arab, and Syrian. Ukrainian border guards have been accused of violence, including beating a man from Egypt and denying Indian men and boys the right to leave until they cried and begged at their feet. Foreign students in Ukraine and people of other nationalities who have lived there for years are being denied access to transportation, hotels, and being held back at border crossings, while Ukrainian nationals, who are overwhelmingly white, are being given access in their place.

As a result of the reports, the African Union released a statement that their leadership is "particularly disturbed by reports that African citizens on the Ukrainian side of the border are being refused the right to cross the border to safety." It goes on to state that "Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach of International law. In this regard, the Chairpersons urge all countries to respect international law and show empathy and support to all people fleeing the war notwithstanding their racial identity."

The UN Refugee Agency released a statement that "As numbers of refugees fleeing Ukraine increase by the hour, it is crucial that receiving countries continue to welcome all those fleeing conflict and insecurity - irrespective of nationality and race - and that they receive adequate international support to carry out this task."

An international coalition has filed an appeal to the United Nations to support their call for executive orders to be issued by the governments of Ukraine and Poland directing government agencies to treat people of racial minorities equitably.

No country is free from the impacts of racism, and we need to hold everyone accountable. Racial and ethnic discrimination are not excusable because of difficult circumstances. As the President of Nigeria stated in response to the situation: "We understand the pain &fear that is confronting all people who find themselves in this terrifying place. We also appreciate that those in official positions in security & border mgt will in most cases be experiencing impossible expectations in a situation they never expected. But, for that reason, it is paramount that everyone is treated with dignity and without favour. All who flee a conflict situation have the same right to safe passage under UN Convention and the colour of their passport or their skin should make no difference."

More information:

"International coalition files United Nations appeal over reports of racism at border of Ukraine" 

"Foreign students fleeing Ukraine say they face segregation, racism at border" 

"Ukraine: Concerns mount as black people report racism while fleeing war zone" 

"Black People in Ukraine Are Reporting Racism While Trying to Leave" 

CDC Eases Mask-Wearing Recommendations

Early last week, the CDC updated their mask-wearing guidance recommendations, noting that nearly 70% of the population of the United States lives in areas where there is low to medium risk of COVID-19 currently. The current CDC recommendations are now divided into three categories outlined below:

Low (appears green on county map): 

Medium (appears yellow on county map): 

High (appears red on county map):

They also add the following note: 

You can find your county and level of transmission here.

Much of the recommendation changes were also reflected in the updated White House COVID-19 plan, which now focuses more on vaccines and treatments. COVID-19 cases have also significantly declined in recent weeks in much of the country.

In addition, MSU has also updated their masking policies, and beginning March 6, masks will no longer be required in most indoor settings on property owned or controlled by MSU. However, masks remain required in instructional settings (including in all classrooms, academic labs and shared research spaces) during course instruction and research activities. MSU has also noted that masks are still required include CATA buses, due to federal requirements, and in all health care facilities, such as Student Health Services and MSU Health Care locations

These types of changes in official requirements may be premature. COVID-19 deaths still average at over 1,500 deaths per week in the United States, with deaths exceeding 950,000 since the start of the pandemic. Much of the reasoning behind the pull-back of prevention measures like masks has largely been to give people “a break.” The reality is that we are still in a pandemic. Hong Kong is currently seeing an enormous surge in cases and deaths, with cases rising in other parts of the world. As this is a pandemic, we should be doing all we can to prevent further death. If you are able to, get vaccinated and boosted, socially distance, and wear masks, especially if you want to maximize protection for yourself and others.

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Police Killings Rose in 2021, with Black People Still Disproportionately in the Crosshairs

A new report from the Washington Post found that police killed more people last year than they have in any other year since the paper began analyzing data, in 2015. In 2019, 999 people were killed by police. In 2020, it rose to 1,021. In 2021, the trend continued, with 1,055 people killed by police.

The data also showed that the impacts of systemic racism in law enforcement and police violence have not changed: 27% of people shot and killed by police last year were Black, twice the proportion of Black people in the U.S. (13%). Over the past several years, 38 Black people per million were killed by police, 28 Hispanic people per million were killed by police, and 15 white people per million were killed by police. In other words, Black people were 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white people and Hispanic people were 1.9 times more likely to be killed than white people.

While Black communities and their allies have been calling for police funding to be reduced and redirected to social services that would actually help solve problems, rather than bring violence, conservative white politicians, including most white Democratic politicians, refuse to change their approach. President Biden reaffirmed his position in his State of the Union address: "We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to fund the police. Fund them with resources and training they need to protect our communities." Representative Cori Bush of Missouri, who is Black, responded by stating that "All our country has done is given more funding to police. The result? 2021 set a record for fatal police shootings. Defund the police. Invest in our communities."

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Black Americans Now Dying From Drug Overdoses At Higher Rate Than White Americans

In a recent publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Psychiatry (JAMA Psychiatry), it was found that drug overdose death rates per 100,000 persons among Black individuals increased from 24.7 in 2019 to 36.8 in 2020 (the first you of the pandemic), as compared to 31.6 per 100,000 in White individuals. The study gathered data from 1999 - 2020 from the CDC and the Prevention WONDER (Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research) platform as well as the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), while also looking at racial and ethnic groups. The data also showed that Black individuals had the largest percentage increase in overdose mortality of 48.8% as compared to White individuals at 26.3%, with increases in mortality seen in all racial and ethnic groups in this study. 

This was the first time the rate of deaths from drug overdoses recorded was higher in Black individuals since 1999, the earliest year that data was looked at for this study. The study found that the biggest factor that led to overdose deaths among Black individuals was due to a more toxic illicit drug supply chain, with fentanyl being the most common adulterant in illicit drugs. One of the co-authors, Dr. Helena Hansen, noted that Black Americans are exposed to fentanyl more often than White Americans, with this effect exacerbated due to socioeconomics and increased criminalization of Black Americans. It is also noted that lack of access to healthcare and addiction treatment also plays a large role in overdose deaths, with all of these issues rooted in systemic racism. Dr. Stephen Taylor of the American Society of Addiction Medicine also noted that millions more are expected to die of drug overdoses, with a large number of them likely to be Black Americans. Drug overdoses have been increasing in recent years and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a crucial public health crisis as well that highlights systemic racism and oppression. Access to healthcare and addiction treatment methods needs to increase everywhere, but they particularly need to be accessible to our most vulnerable communities.

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New Trial Ordered for Black Woman Imprisoned for Attempting to Register to Vote in Tennessee

Last year, Pamela Moses, a Black woman in Tennessee, was convicted for submitting paperwork in 2019 that said she was eligible to vote, and she has been in prison since December. She was ineligible to vote because, in Tennessee, people on felony probation are not eligible to vote. She stated that she believed her probation had expired because a probation officer had signed a certificate saying that it had ended and that she was eligible to vote. Prosecutors claimed that she knew was ineligible and that she had tricked the probation officer into signing the certificate. Reporters at The Guardian, however, uncovered evidence that officials at the Tennessee Department of Corrections had investigated the incorrect certificate two days after it was signed, and found that Moses had not tricked the officer, but that the officer had instead made a good-faith error. The Department of Corrections never provided that information, and the judge and jury were therefore unaware of it, leading to them convicting her. The judge in the case even yelled at Moses' lawyer during sentencing and said that she had tricked the probation officer, then sentenced her to six year in custody. As a result of the new evidence coming to light last week, the judge has ordered a new trial, and she was released from prison.

Moses was ineligible because she was still on probation from a 2015 felony. Barring people who are or have been convicted of crimes from voting disproportionately disenfranchises Black people in the United States. Coupled with the prevalence of police targeting racial minorities, prosecutors being more likely to charge them with major crimes, and judges giving harsher sentences based on their race, the result is that Black people are disproportionately denied the right to vote due to systemic racism.

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This Week's QM Round-Up Contributors (in alphabetical order):