‘Unprofessional, dirty and wild’: French parliament takes up hair discrimination bill

Those sporting Afro-styled hair, blonde or ginger hair, dreads, braids or even balding heads could gain new protections in France, where a lawmaker from the French Caribbean has introduced a bill that would make discrimination based on hair texture, length, colour or style illegal. While some argue the law is unnecessary, others say it will fill a gap in existing legislation tackling discrimination. 

After years of hearing all sorts of derogatory comments from schoolmates about her Afro-styled kinky hair, Kenza Bel Kenadil was met with the same contempt when she entered the job market. At the tender age of 17, she was told at work that her hair was “unprofessional, dirty and wild”.

When she eventually took a job as a hostess at a hotel in southern France, she was shouted at by management. “Either you go home and change hairstyles”, her boss roared, “or don’t come in to work”.

Discrimination based on hair texture, length, colour or style is at the heart of a bill tabled by Olivier Serva, an MP from the LIOT group (Liberties, Independents, Overseas and Territories) from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. His aim is to ensure that hair discrimination becomes punishable by law. First introduced in September 2023, the bill will be debated in the National Assembly this Thursday, March 28.

A ‘historic’ bill

While Serva leads the political battle to end hair discrimination, Bel Kenadil has been waging her own combat online for years. Now 26, she posts videos on social media – some of which have garnered millions of views – to shed light on the issue.

When her boss at the hotel threatened her years ago, she ended up going home “in tears” and tied her hair up in a bun. “I didn’t understand why my hair would have an impact on my professionalism or employability,” she says.

To prevent that such situations continue into the future, Serva is proposing to add the specific mention of hair to the list of discriminations based on physical appearance.

“It is historic,” Serva said on March 18, after the bill was approved for debate by the French Law Commission, whose role it is to prepare all legislative debates in the National Assembly. “[France] is the first country in the world to recognise hair discrimination at a national level.”

Read moreRacist attacks on pop star Aya Nakamura test France’s ability to shine at Paris Olympics

This is almost true. The US is the only other country to have introduced legislation on hair discrimination. A bill known as the Crown Act (“Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”) was passed by the House of Representatives in March 2022. It states that any race-based hair discrimination at work, in public accommodations and against those participating in federally assisted programmes such as housing programmes, is strictly prohibited by law.

The bill, which especially strengthened school and workplace protections for Black women who are disproportionately affected by hair discrimination, was passed in 24 states including New York, California, Arizona and Texas. But to date, federal legislation has been unsuccessful, as Senate Republicans blocked the act from passing in December 2022. 

In the UK, the Equality and Human Rights Commission issued a directive in October 2022 on preventing hair discrimination in schools. Aimed at helping “school leaders foster an inclusive environment,” the guidance refers to sections of the Equality Act to ensure institutions are not unlawfully discriminatory in their policies. Though applied to all forms of hair discrimination, there is a focus on race because “research and court cases indicate discrimination … disproportionally affects pupils with Afro-textured hair or hairstyles”.

A legal framework exists – but is it enough?

Back in France, the introductory text for Serva’s hair discrimination bill states that “people who suffer discrimination based on their hair texture, colour or style lack a specific legal framework”.

But not all MPs share his sentiment on the issue, arguing there is already ample legislative recourse to combat discrimination based on physical appearance in France.

“This is a typical example of a bad idea. There is no legal gap,” labour law specialist Eric Rocheblave told French news agency AFP. Under French labour law, “discrimination based on physical appearance is already prohibited” even if there is no “explicit [clause] on hair discrimination”, he said.

If there was a case of discrimination “based on hair, lack of hair, colour, length or appearance, I could link it to existing legislation,” Rocheblave insisted.

Article 225-1 of the national criminal code lists 25 instances that would constitute discrimination prohibited by law, such as sexual orientation or political beliefs. But for advocates of a French law on hair discrimination, the list does not go far enough.

“If it did, we wouldn’t be turned away from jobs because of our hair. We wouldn’t be subjected to [derogatory] comments from colleagues. And the Air France steward wouldn’t have had to take his case to France’s highest appeals court,” Bel Kenadil counters, referring to Aboubakar Traoré, who sued Air France in 2012 for discrimination after he was barred from flights for wearing braids tied back in a bun.

The company said his hairstyle did not conform to the rules in the flight manual for staff, which allowed women but not men to have braided hair in the cabin.

Ten years later, France’s highest appeals court ruled in favour of Traoré. But the decision issued by the court stated that the company policy amounted to gender discrimination, not hair discrimination.

Hair style, colour, length or texture

Even though Article 225-1 states that “distinctions made based on a person’s origins, sex, family status, pregnancy, physical appearance … constitute discrimination”, Serva is set on providing a “necessary legal clarification” by including “haircut, colour, length, or texture”. This precision would then have to be included in clauses of the French Labour Law and Civil Service Code that deal with discrimination.

Because France does not collect data based on race, ethnicity or religion, there are no national studies on the extent of hair discrimination against Black people in France.

But according to a 2023 US study carried out by Dove and LinkedIn, Black women’s hair is “2.5 times more likely to be perceived as unprofessional”. And a UK study from 2009 cited in the introductory text to Serva’s bill found that one blonde woman in three dyed their hair brown to increase their chances of being recruited and to be perceived as “more intelligent” in professional settings.

Serva also said hair discrimination affected balding men in an interview with French radio station France info in April last year, claiming researchers had proven that balding men were “30 percent less likely to be able to climb the ladder in their company”.

A public health issue

MPs from the conservative Les Républicains and far-right National Rally parties have criticised the bill, calling it an “importation of ‘victim logic’ into French law”.

Bel Kenadil says she understands how “one can question the existence of something when one hasn’t been a victim of it”. On the other hand, she adds, “for me, when even one single person is discriminated against, no matter how, that person must be protected”.

In a video posted on her Instagram account, the influencer sports a variety of hairstyles and assures everyone she is “professional”, while the caption reads: “My appearance doesn’t have anything to do with my skills.”

Countless testimonials of people who have been discriminated against because of their hair flood the comments section. “When I was a young student nurse, I had braids put in, and then I was asked if they were clean,” one follower writes. “I was told to straighten my hair for job interviews,” another laments. Other stories beyond the comments section of her Instagram profile have shocked Bel Kenadil. “A person with blonde hair was turned down for a job because her hair colour wasn’t ‘serious enough’,” she says. “A receptionist recorded an exchange in which her employer berated her, saying, ‘In your interview, you were told loose hair or hair tied up, but nicely styled. What is this? It looks like a lion’s mane.’”

The explanatory text accompanying Serva’s hair discrimination bill mentions the importance of self-esteem and personal confidence, but also touches on a significant health factor when it comes to Afro-textured frizzy or kinky hair.

“A person who is unable to wear their hair naturally in a professional or educational setting will either be forced to hide their hair or change it using chemical products,” the text reads. “This is far from harmless. Tight hairstyles can eventually lead to traction alopecia (hair loss from hairstyles that pull on roots), and products used to chemically straighten hair can cause scalp burns.”

2022 study by the US National Institute of Health (NIH) found that women who used chemical hair straightening products were at higher risk of developing uterine cancer than women who did not.

“This is proof that this topic needs to be taken seriously,” Bel Kenadil insists. “I don’t mind hearing that there are more serious issues. But if that is our starting point, we will never make progress on anything.”

This article is a translation of the original version in French. 

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French Senate debates compensation for gay men jailed under homophobic laws

An estimated 60,000 gay men were convicted by French courts between 1942 and 1982 under homophobic laws that were repealed just four decades ago. On Wednesday, French senators will discuss a bill acknowledging France’s role in the persecution of homosexuals and offering compensation to those still alive, mirroring steps taken elsewhere in Europe. 

The proposal put forward by Socialist Senator Hussein Bourgi tackles a little-known subject in French history, shedding light on the judicial repression of homosexuals carried out by the French state both in wartime and after the country’s Liberation from Nazi rule. 

France became the first country to decriminalise homosexuality during the Revolution of 1789, only to resume the persecution of gay men under subsequent regimes, through both judicial and extrajudicial means. 

Bourgi’s text focuses on a 40-year period following the introduction of legislation that specifically targeted homosexuals under the Nazi-allied Vichy regime. The 1942 law, which was not repealed after the liberation of France, introduced a discriminatory distinction in the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual sex, setting the former at 13 (raised to 15 at the Liberation) and the latter at 21.

Some 10,000 people – almost exclusively men, most of them working-class – were convicted under the law until its repeal in 1982, according to research by sociologists Régis Schlagdenhauffen and Jérémie Gauthier. More than 90% were sentenced to jail. An estimated 50,000 more were convicted under a separate “public indecency” law that was amended in 1960 to introduce an aggravating factor for homosexuals and double the penalty. 

“People tend to think France was protective of gay people compared to, say, Germany or the UK. But when you look at the figures you get a very different picture,” said Schlagdenhaufen, who teaches at the EHESS institute in Paris. 

“France was not this cradle of human rights we like to think of,” he added. “The Revolution tried to decriminalise homosexuality, but subsequent regimes found other stratagems to repress gay people. This repression was enshrined in law in 1942 and even more so in 1960.” 

Spain leads the way 

The bill put before the Senate on Wednesday calls for a formal recognition of the French state’s responsibility in the criminalisation and persecution of homosexuals. Mirroring steps taken in other Western countries, it proposes the establishment of a mechanism to compensate the victims of the French state’s homophobic laws, offering them a lump sum of €10,000, coupled with an allowance of €150 for each day spent in jail, and the reimbursement of fines. 

Most of those victims are likely to have died already, giving Bourgi’s proposal a largely symbolic value. If it is approved, the bill would also create a specific offence for denying the deportation of homosexuals during World War II, as there is for Holocaust denial. 

Schlagdenhaufen said France has a poor record when it comes to acknowledging some of the darker chapters in its history. He pointed to the belated recognition, in 1995, of the Vichy regime’s active role in the deportation of tens of thousands of French Jews to Nazi death camps during World War II. 

“Recognition and reparation of historical wrongs are an important part of a country’s stance on the protection of LGBT rights,” he said. “If this law is approved, it will bring France more in line with European standards.” 

In 2007, Spain’s Socialist government passed pioneering legislation acknowledging the persecution of homosexuals under Franco’s regime and offering compensation to those who were jailed or tortured in “correction camps” because of their sexual orientation. The move was part of a raft of laws that have turned the country from one of Europe’s worst offenders to a world leader on sexual minority rights. 

A decade later, Germany’s parliament voted to quash the convictions of 50,000 gay men sentenced for homosexuality under a Nazi-era law that remained in force after the war – and offer compensation. Earlier this month, Austria’s government announced it had set aside millions of euros to compensate thousands of gay people who faced prosecution until the turn of the century. 

“This financial compensation can never, never make up for the suffering and injustice that happened,” Austria’s Justice Minister Alma Zadic told reporters as she detailed the plan, flanked by two LGBT flags. “But it is of immense importance that we (…) finally take responsibility for this part of our history.” 

Extrajudicial persecution 

Austria’s compensation fund will apply to people who suffered from the country’s discriminatory laws in terms of their health, their finances and their professional lives, whether or not they were eventually convicted. Its scope makes it significantly more ambitious than the proposal put before the French Senate on Wednesday. 

While welcoming Bourgi’s text, some experts have called for a more wide-ranging proposal, noting that the focus on Vichy-era legislation conceals a longer history of repression of homosexuality carried out by republican regimes as well. 

In an op-ed published by Le Monde last year, when Bourgi first presented his bill, sociologist Antoine Idier lamented the “timidity” of a proposal that falls significantly short of acknowledging the full scope of state-sponsored homophobia, which, he argued, extends well beyond the judicial sphere. 

“State homophobia (…) encompasses all the processes by which state policies have contributed (and contribute) to supporting the domination and inferiorisation of sexual minorities,” Idier wrote, adding that even a more restrictive view of state repression would find the Senate proposal deficient in its scope. 

“State repression of homosexuality dates back to long before 1942,” the sociologist explained, highlighting the extrajudicial persecution of gay people carried out by police throughout the 19th century – “a daily routine of mockery, humiliation, control and harassment”.  He pointed to the abusive use of “public indecency” charges, instituted under Napoleon in 1810 and instrumentalised to persecute homosexuals in the private sphere, long before the introduction of an aggravating factor in 1960. 

Failure to widen the scope of the bill, he added, “would mean turning a blind eye to a large part of the persecution of homosexuals and exonerating France of a large part of its responsibility”. 

Senate obstacle? 

Schlagdenhaufen said he hoped the senator’s text would set the foundation for further action. 

“We have to start somewhere,” he said. “And the legislation enacted in 1942 and 1960, with its direct focus on homosexuals, is a good place to start.” 

The bill’s passage into law is far from certain, Schlagdenhaufen cautioned, pointing to the composition of the Senate. France’s upper chamber of parliament is dominated by the conservative Les Républicains party, whose members overwhelmingly rejected same-sex marriage a decade ago, when the party was known as the UMP. 

“The Senate has a conservative, right-wing majority, which is traditionally reluctant to acknowledge the state’s responsibility in past repression,” he said, adding: “It is not particularly favourable to LGBT rights either.” 

Ahead of Wednesday’s debate, a Senate committee expressed a number of reservations about the proposed text. It called for a “clear, strong and unambiguous recognition of the discriminatory nature of laws” targeting homosexuals but cited “legal obstacles” to financial reparations. The committee also argued that denying the wartime deportation of homosexuals is already punishable under French law, making part of Bourgi’s text redundant. 

The latter assertion will soon be put to the test at the latest, high-profile trial involving far-right TV pundit and former presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, who faces a lawsuit from several gay rights groups for arguing that a fellow politician was right to brand the World War II roundup and deportation of French homosexuals a “myth”. 

“It will be interesting to see what laws are cited when the court hands down its ruling,” Schlagdenhaufen observed. “We will have first-hand evidence of whether the Senate proposal really is ‘redundant’.” 

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Fatal stabbing of Gabonese student highlights ‘daily’ racism faced by Africans in Russia

François Ndzhelassili, a doctoral student from Gabon at the Ural Federal University in Yekaterinburg, Russia, was killed on August 18 by a group of Russian men after they harassed him and called him racial slurs. The murder is just the latest case of discrimination and violence against Black people living in Russia despite ongoing initiatives meant to encourage Africans to study in the country.

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François Ndzhelassili was a 32-year-old doctoral student at the Ural Federal University. He arrived in Yekaterinburg, Russia in 2014 from Gabon to study economics. He was active in the student community of his university, and in 2019 was named the university’s “Foreign Student of the Year”.

On the morning of August 18, he was killed in the city centre of Yekaterinburg by a group of Russian men who harassed him and called him racial slurs. One of his friends, who received death threats after speaking out about the crime, contacted the FRANCE 24 Observers team to bring awareness to the everyday racism he says Africans face in Russia. 

Ndzhelassili was an active member of the student community in Yekaterinburg. He served as the president of the Association of African Students, gave French and economics lessons, and participated in activities such as dancing, boxing and football. © The Observers

‘They were questioning him like often happens to us Africans’

Antoine (not his real name) is a friend of Ndzhelassili’s who also originates from West Africa. He told us that the young student was a great source of support for him when he started studying in Yekaterinburg.

When I left my country, my brother put me in touch with François. He had been in Russia since 2014. When I came here, I didn’t speak the language at all, and he helped me a lot.

We used to play soccer together. He used to dance. He danced a lot. He even taught French and economics because he was studying economics.

At one point, he was the president of the African students association at UFU (Ural Federal University). But he saw that African students were being ignored – we weren’t integrated into the university’s activities – so he resigned.

Antoine says that he spent the evening of August 16 with Ndzhelassili playing video games at his place. The next night, Ndzhelassili went out with other friends. Early on the morning of August 18, Ndzhelassili was ordering food at a Burger King in the city centre with another Russian friend. He was waiting to receive his food when two other Russians started to pick on Ndzhelassili for being Black. His Russian friend, who was there, recorded the incident and told Antoine how the conflict unfolded.

They were questioning him like often happens to us Africans. But François tried to engage in a conversation with them, to reason with them. They started threatening him, telling him to settle things outside. François told them he was waiting for his food.

He ended up eating inside, and as soon as he went out, the two Russians pounced on him. Since François had boxing experience, he resisted. However, there was a third person who had been outside the whole time, and he stabbed him between the ribs. He shouted, ‘We’re going to crucify the n****r.

Screenshot from a video sent by our Observer in Yekaterinburg. Taken by Ndzhelassili’s Russian friend, it shows the moment he was loaded onto an ambulance Aug. 18 after being fatally stabbed.
Screenshot from a video sent by our Observer in Yekaterinburg. Taken by Ndzhelassili’s Russian friend, it shows the moment he was loaded onto an ambulance Aug. 18 after being fatally stabbed. © The Observers

Antoine learned about the stabbing around 8 am, and says he spent the whole day trying to learn about Ndzhelassili’s condition. Hospital authorities finally informed him that his friend had died of his injuries.

‘I started receiving racist messages and threats’

Since Ndzhelassili’s death, Antoine dedicated his time to publicising what happened to his friend in order to shed light on the reality faced by many African students in Russia.

I went to see the administration [of Ural Federal University], to talk to them about what happened, and they told me to keep it to myself, not to talk to anyone. I had already contacted François’ sister.

When I returned to the dormitory, I started receiving racist messages and threats. I decided to create a WhatsApp group for African students to communicate among ourselves. The students are truly afraid.

I left the dormitory, and now I’m staying at a Guinean friend’s place. I’m afraid for my safety. I’ll see how I can obtain my degree, and I want to leave Russia.

Antoine sent us one of the insulting messages he received. It read: “We will hang n*****s…. Russia is for Russians.” 

A Telegram channel dedicated to uncovering neo-Nazi activities within Russia has disclosed that the principal suspect in Ndzhelassili’s murder case is a 23-year-old Russian man. Moreover, a neo-Nazi-oriented Telegram channel has initiated a fundraising effort aimed at securing legal representation for the young man.

The Telegram channel Antifa.ru posted screenshots of messages on the anti-migrant Telegram channel “Rural Club Hands up!
The Telegram channel Antifa.ru posted screenshots of messages on the anti-migrant Telegram channel “Rural Club Hands up!” asking for funds to provide legal advice to the suspected killer of Ndzhelassili. © The Observers

Antoine does not believe that the murder was premeditated, but he thinks that it is representative of the discrimination Black students experience in Russia.

A dangerous university environment for African students 

On August 20, the Ural Federal University declared on their Telegram channel that Ndzhelassili “tragically” died, without mentioning any details about his murder or any form of commentary addressing the matter of racism, which disappointed Antoine. 

I spoke with François’ sister. She told me: Let it go, it’s for your safety. I will fight to bring his body back to Gabon, that’s all.

But it’s not just François. All Africans are in danger. Even me at the university. It’s a daily occurrence. They promote Russian education in Africa, urging students to come study in Russia. They make money off us, and then we are not safe.

I am very worried for the African community in Russia. Today it’s François. Tomorrow it could be me. Russia needs the support of Africans now. But it’s important to make people who raise the flag of Russia in their countries understand that Russia is not our partner.

International students studying in Russian universities have repeatedly raised concerns about facing discrimination, including insults, physical assaults, and persistent harassment. Africans living in Russia report frequently encountering acts of discrimination such as being denied service at restaurants, facing refusals from taxi drivers and experiencing difficulties securing housing due to landlords’ biases.

There are currently 34,000 African students in Russia, out of which 6,000 receive state-sponsored scholarships, according to a declaration made by the Russian Foreign Ministry in July 2023. The spokesperson announced 5,000 more scholarships for African students in the 2023-24 university year. 

Concerns about African students being recruited by the Russian army and mercenary groups to fight in Ukraine emerged in November 2022 after a 23-year-old Zambian was killed in the war. He studied nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (MEPhI), but was imprisoned on drug charges. Although Yevgeny Prigozhin declared at the time on the Russian social media platform VKontakte that the young man had freely enrolled with the Wagner mercenary group, his family believes that he was coerced.

Read moreRussians give bananas to Black foreign students and call them ‘monkeys’ in video

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Police violence: How can France tackle racial profiling without first addressing race?

Young men in France perceived to be Black or Arab are 20 times more likely to be stopped by police than the rest of the population, according to the country’s human rights ombudsman. Racial profiling runs deep in the French police force, but unlike in the US and Canada, very little action is being taken to combat this form of discrimination. 

The warning signs are there. Non-profit organisations, anti-racism activists and experts in France have been sounding the alarm for decades – long before the police killing of Nahel, a 17-year-old French boy of Moroccan and Algerian descent, triggered several days of rioting across the country. 

The video of the unthreatened police officer fatally shooting the unarmed teenager during a traffic stop reignited calls among left-wing politicians  and the UN  for French police to acknowledge its racial profiling problem.

Young men who are perceived to be Black or Arab are 20 times more likely to be stopped for identity checks than the rest of the population.

However, French authorities deny the existence of systemic racism. While some efforts have been made to tackle racial profiling, like police training on potential discriminatory behaviours, no concrete policies or laws targeting the issue have been implemented.

Faced with a similar discrepancy between theoretical colourblind policing and unfair targeting of minorities, the US and Canada have tried to curb such racial profiling – with little success so far.

Court rulings not enough to modify ‘broader culture of police’

In 1996, New Jersey became the first state to affirm the existence of racial profiling after its court ruled that troopers were unfairly targeting and arresting minorities on the New Jersey Turnpike. A few years later, the Justice Department demanded the state police department track racial disparities in turnpike enforcement and put 2,500 troopers under a federal consent decree to ensure they adhere to regulations.

But allegations of racial profiling on the New Jersey Turnpike persisted. Thirty years after the initial ruling, an audit found that Black drivers were still being subjected more often to searches, arrests and uses of force during police traffic stops. An ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) report found that in 2018, Black people in New Jersey were still 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white residents, despite similar usage rates.

“[The ruling] didn’t change the broader culture of police,” says Jean Beaman, Associate Professor of Sociology at UC Santa Barbara who has researched state violence in France and the US.

“Just look at the legislation passed in New York [to reform] stop and frisk,” says Beaman. 

Read moreWhy deadly police shootings are on the rise on France’s roads

Body cameras and accountability

A few miles up north in New York City, former mayor Bill de Blasio promised to combat racial profiling. And he did, to a certain extent. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that New York’s stop and frisk practice was racially biased. The practice had previously allowed police officers to stop, interrogate and search residents on the sole basis of “reasonable suspicion”.

The New York Police Department was ordered to make sweeping reforms in policies, trainings and practices to end racial discrimination in stop and frisk cases. Officers were required to wear body cameras and monitoring was put in place for accountability.

“It was a huge victory,” says Beaman. According to the New York Times, de Blasio managed to reduce the total number of arrests, criminal summons and pedestrian stops by 82%. Crime rates fell, too.

But it wasn’t enough. A 2020 report by Data Collaborative for Justice found that Black neighbourhoods continued to be policed at a higher rate than white ones. Racial disparities persisted, with Black and Hispanic people still much more likely to be stopped and arrested than white people.

While Beaman acknowledges the positive outcomes of the ban, she says “it didn’t change the overall practices of racial profiling by police, in the sense of who they’re more likely to harass or think may be suspicious of criminal activity”.

“You can change the practices but the policing logic … which sees certain individuals as criminals or suspects, not regular citizens … is not going to change,” she explains.

‘Remove the tool that incites racial profiling’

French sociologist Anaïk Purenne, who works on youth-police relations with a focus on discrimination and police profiling, agrees that the larger “policing logic” Jean Beaman refers to is one possible explanation for the shortcomings of the reform. “We have to think about the bias that certain public policy priorities can generate,” says Purenne. If “the fight against crime” is a priority for a police force, she says, then it is important to look at what biases that instils in police officers.

But there is another case Purenne was deeply intrigued by. In a book titled “Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship”, researchers observed police behaviour during traffic stops in Kansas City and surveyed 2,300 drivers over a number of years. They found that there was little to no racial profiling by police in stops made after a driver had committed a traffic violation. During investigatory police stops however, which similarly to former stop and frisk practices are based on “reasonable suspicion”, racial profiling was stark.

“[The authors] concluded that the tool itself, investigatory police stops, had to be broken … that the police instrument had to be abolished altogether,” says Purenne. “I find that a really interesting idea. Removing the tool that incites racial profiling could be very beneficial.”

And this approach is being tested in some parts of the world like Canada, the sociologist explains. In Nova Scotia, police have not been allowed to conduct random street ID checks since 2019. “It’s too recent for us to be able to really measure the effects,” says Purenne, “but it is something to monitor.”

First step: Acknowledging the problem

There are myriad ways to reform policing in order to put an end to racial profiling. Examples from the US may be imperfect, but they are a start.

When it comes to reforms that could be made in France’s police to curb racial profiling, both Beaman and Purenne are pessimistic. The two sociologists agree that a crucial first step would be for French authorities to acknowledge that there is a problem.

“It’s very simple,” says Purenne, “we start by acknowledging there is a problem and naming it”. 

She adds that “being open to the notion that there could be structural causes driving this behaviour” within the police force is also essential.

For Beaman, both France and the US “need a full-scale accountability mechanism for police officers”.

“Part of that is recognising how systematic [racism or discrimination] actually is, which even in the United States we’ve pretty much avoided dealing with, but that’s the first step,” she says.

However, Beaman knows that it can be challenging to achieve accountability in France. It is illegal to compile racial statistics in France, for example. “Without an infrastructure to talk about race, you can’t talk about racial profiling,” she says.

Read moreFrance sees itself as colourblind – so how do the French talk about race?

Lack of statistics

What’s more, police in France are not obliged to keep a record of pedestrian stops they make. “Police only fill in a stop form if they deem the information they gathered relevant or interesting [for another case],” says Purenne. “We need more transparency.”

NGOs and anti-racist activists have made countless suggestions to combat police violence and racial profiling in France. In low-income neighbourhoods like the one young Nahel was from, for example, there is talk of “proximity police”. French sociologist Julien Talpin told FRANCE 24 in a TV interview that “residents are asking for ‘proximity police’, officers who are in the neighbourhoods on a daily basis and who can actually build trust with residents”.

In July 2021, six NGOs including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch filed a class action suit with France’s highest administrative court to finally put an end to racial profiling, given authorities’ inaction on the issue. They alleged that French police target minorities when choosing who to stop and check, saying the practice is rooted in a culture of systemic discrimination.

The case is still pending.

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Black or ‘Other’? Doctors may be relying on race to make decisions about your health | CNN

Editor’s Note: CNN’s “History Refocused” series features surprising and personal stories from America’s past to bring depth to conflicts still raging today.


When she first learned about race correction, Naomi Nkinsi was one of five Black medical students in her class at the University of Washington.

Nkinsi remembers the professor talking about an equation doctors use to measure kidney function. The professor said eGFR equations adjust for several variables, including the patient’s age, sex and race. When it comes to race, doctors have only two options: Black or “Other.”

Nkinsi was dumbfounded.

“It was really shocking to me,” says Nkinsi, now a third-year medical and masters of public health student, “to come into school and see that not only is there interpersonal racism between patients and physicians … there’s actually racism built into the very algorithms that we use.”

At the heart of a controversy brewing in America’s hospitals is a simple belief, medical students say: Math shouldn’t be racist.

The argument over race correction has raised questions about the scientific data doctors rely on to treat people of color. It’s attracted the attention of Congress and led to a big lawsuit against the NFL.

What happens next could affect how millions of Americans are treated.

Carolyn Roberts, a historian of medicine and science at Yale University, says slavery and the American medical system were in a codependent relationship for much of the 19th century and well into the 20th.

“They relied on one another to thrive,” Roberts says.

It was common to test experimental treatments first on Black people so they could be given to White people once proven safe. But when the goal was justifying slavery, doctors published articles alleging substantive physical differences between White and Black bodies — like Dr. Samuel Cartwright’s claim in 1851 that Black people have weaker lungs, which is why grueling work in the fields was essential (his words) to their progress.

The effects of Cartwright’s falsehood, and others like it, linger today.

In 2016, researchers asked White medical students and residents about 15 alleged differences between Black and White bodies. Forty percent of first-year medical students and 25% of residents said they believed Black people have thicker skin, and 7% of all students and residents surveyed said Black people have less sensitive nerve endings. The doctors-in-training who believed these myths — and they are myths — were less likely to prescribe adequate pain medication to Black patients.

To fight this kind of bias, hospitals urge doctors to rely on objective measures of health. Scientific equations tell physicians everything from how well your kidneys are working to whether or not you should have a natural birth after a C-section. They predict your risk of dying during heart surgery, evaluate brain damage and measure your lung capacity.

But what if these equations are also racially biased?

Race correction is the use of a patient’s race in a scientific equation that can influence how they are treated. In other words, some diagnostic algorithms and risk predictor tools adjust or “correct” their results based on a person’s race.

The New England Journal of Medicine article “Hidden in Plain Sight” includes a partial list of 13 medical equations that use race correction. Take the Vaginal Birth After Cesarean calculator, for example. Doctors use this calculator to predict the likelihood of a successful vaginal delivery after a prior C-section. If you are Black or Hispanic, your score is adjusted to show a lower chance of success. That means your doctor is more likely to encourage another C-section, which could put you at risk for blood loss, infection and a longer recovery period.

Cartwright, the racist doctor from the 1800s, also developed his own version of a tool called the spirometer to measure lung capacity. Doctors still use spirometers today, and most include a race correction for Black patients to account for their supposedly shallower breaths.

Turns out, second-year medical student Carina Seah wryly told CNN, math is as racist as the people who make it.

The biggest problem with using race in medicine? Race isn’t a biological category. It’s a social one.

“It’s based on this idea that human beings are naturally divided into these big groups called races,” says Dorothy Roberts, a professor of law and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, who has made challenging race correction in medicine her life’s work. “But that’s not what race is. Race is a completely invented social category. The very idea that human beings are divided into races is a made-up idea.”

Ancestry is biological. Where we come from — or more accurately, who we come from — impacts our DNA. But a patient’s skin color isn’t always an accurate reflection of their ancestry.

Look at Tiger Woods, Roberts says. Woods coined the term “Cablinasian” to describe his mix of Caucasian, Black, American Indian and Asian ancestries. But to many Americans, he’s Black.


“You can be half Black and half White in this country and you are Black,” says Seah, who is getting her medical degree and a PhD in genetics and genomics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. “You can be a quarter Black in this country — if you have dark skin, you are Black.”

So it can be misleading, Seah says, even dangerous, for doctors to judge a patient’s ancestry by glancing at their skin. A patient with a White mother and Black father could have a genetic mutation that typically presents in patients of European ancestry, Seah says, but a doctor may not think to test for it if they only see Black skin.

“You have to ask, how Black is Black enough?” Nkinsi asks. And there’s another problem, she says, with using a social construct like race in medicine. “It also puts the blame on the patient, and it puts the blame on the race itself. Like being Black is inherently the cause of these diseases.”

Naomi Nkinsi is a third-year medical and masters of public health student at the University of Washington in Seattle. She has been advocating for the removal of race correction in medicine.

After she learned about the eGFR equation in 2018, Nkinsi began asking questions about race correction. She wasn’t alone — on social media she found other students struggling with the use of race in medicine. In the spring of 2020, following a first-year physiology lecture, Seah joined the conversation. But the medical profession is nothing if not hierarchical; Nkinsi and Seah say students are encouraged to defer to doctors who have been practicing for decades.

Then on May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis.

His death and the growing momentum around Black Lives Matter helped ignite what Dr. Darshali A. Vyas calls an “overdue reckoning” in the medical community around race and race correction. A few institutions had already taken steps to remove race from the eGFR equation. Students across the country demanded more, and hospitals began to listen.

History Refocused BLM White Coats

Four days after Floyd’s death, the University of Washington announced it was removing race correction from the eGFR equation. In June, the Boston-based hospital system Mass General Brigham where Vyas is a second-year Internal Medicine resident followed suit. Seah and a fellow student at Mount Sinai, Paloma Orozco Scott, started an online petition and collected over 1600 signatures asking their hospital to do the same.

Studies show removing race from the eGFR equation will change how patients at those hospitals are treated. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Penn Medicine estimated up to one in every three Black patients with kidney disease would have been reclassified if the race multiplier wasn’t applied in earlier calculations, with a quarter going from stage 3 to stage 4 CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease).

That reclassification is good and bad, says Dr. Neil Powe, chief of medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. Black patients newly diagnosed with kidney disease will be able to see specialists who can devise better treatment plans. And more patients will be placed on kidney transplant lists.

On the flip side, Powe says, more African Americans diagnosed with kidney disease means fewer who are eligible to donate kidneys, when there’s already a shortage. And a kidney disease diagnosis can change everything from a patient’s diabetes medication to their life insurance costs.

Dr. Neil Powe says by simply removing race from the eGFR equations,

Powe worries simply eliminating race from these equations is a knee-jerk response — one that may exacerbate health disparities instead of solve them. For too long, Powe says, doctors had to fight for diversity in medical studies.

The most recent eGFR equation, known as the CKD-EPI equation, was developed using data pooled from 26 studies, which included almost 3,000 patients who self-identified as Black. Researchers found the equation they were developing was more accurate for Black patients when it was adjusted by a factor of about 1.2. They didn’t determine exactly what was causing the difference in Black patients, but their conclusion is supported by other research that links Black race and African ancestry with higher levels of creatinine, a waste product filtered by the kidneys.

Put simply: In the eGFR equation, researchers used race as a substitute for an unknown factor because they think that factor is more common in people of African descent.

Last August, Vyas co-authored the “Hidden in Plain Sight” article about race correction. Vyas says most of the equations she wrote about were developed in a similar way to the eGFR formula: Researchers found Black people were more or less likely to have certain outcomes and decided race was worth including in the final equation, often without knowing the real cause of the link.

“When you go back to the original studies that validated (these equations), a lot of them did not provide any sort of rationale for why they include race, which I think is appalling.” That’s what’s most concerning, Vyas says – “how willing we are to believe that race is relevant in these ways.”

Vyas is clear she isn’t calling for race-blind medicine. Physicians cannot ignore structural racism, she says, and the impact it has on patients’ health.

Powe has been studying the racial disparities in kidney disease for more than 30 years. He can spout the statistics easily: Black people are three times more likely to suffer from kidney failure, and make up more than 35% of patients on dialysis in the US. The eGFR equation, he says, did not cause these disparities — they existed long before the formula.

“We want to cure disparities, let’s go after the things that really matter, some of which may be racist,” he says. “But to put all our stock and think that the equation is causing this is just wrong because it didn’t create those.”

In discussions about removing race correction, Powe likes to pose a question: Instead of normalizing to the “Other” group in the eGFR equation, as many of these hospitals are doing, why don’t we give everyone the value assigned to Black people? By ignoring the differences researchers saw, he says, “You’re taking the data on African Americans, and you’re throwing it in the trash.”

Powe is co-chair of a joint task force set up by the National Kidney Foundation and the American Society of Nephrology to look at the use of race in eGFR equations. The leaders of both organizations have publicly stated race should not be included in equations used to estimate kidney function. On April 9, the task force released an interim report that outlined the challenges in identifying and implementing a new equation that’s representative of all groups. The group is expected to issue its final recommendations for hospitals this summer.

Race correction is used to assess the kidneys and the lungs. What about the brain?

In 2013, the NFL settled a class-action lawsuit brought by thousands of former players and their families that accused the league of concealing what it knew about the dangers of concussions. The NFL agreed to pay $765 million, without admitting fault, to fund medical exams and compensate players for concussion-related health issues, among other things. Then in 2020, two retired players sued the NFL for allegedly discriminating against Black players who submitted claims in that settlement.

01 race correction Kevin Henry Najeh Davenport SPLIT

The players, Najeh Davenport and Kevin Henry, said the NFL race-corrected their neurological exams, which prevented them from being compensated.

According to court documents, former NFL players being evaluated for neurocognitive impairment were assumed to have started with worse cognitive function if they were Black. So if a Black player and a White player received the exact same scores on a battery of thinking and memory tests, the Black player would appear to have suffered less impairment. And therefore, the lawsuit stated, would be less likely to qualify for a payout.

Race correction is common in neuropsychology using something called Heaton norms, says Katherine Possin, an associate professor at the University of California San Francisco. Heaton norms are essentially benchmark average scores on cognitive tests.

Here’s how it works: To measure the impact of a concussion (or multiple concussions over time), doctors compare how well the patient’s brain works now to how well it worked before.

“The best way to get that baseline was to test you 10 years ago, but that’s not something we obviously have for many people,” Possin says. So doctors estimate your “before” abilities using an average score from a group of healthy individuals, and adjust that score for demographic factors known to affect brain function, like your age.

Heaton norms adjust for race, Possin says, because race has been linked in studies to lower cognitive scores. To be clear, that’s not because of any biological differences in Black and White brains, she says; it’s because of social factors like education and poverty that can impact cognitive development. And this is where the big problem lies.

In early March, a judge in Pennsylvania dismissed the players’ lawsuit and ordered a mediator to address concerns about how race correction was being used. In a statement to CNN, the NFL said there is no merit to the players’ claim of discrimination, but it is committed to helping find alternative testing techniques that do not employ race-based norms.

The NFL case, Possin wrote in JAMA, has “exposed a major weakness in the field of neuropsychology: the use of race-adjusted norms as a crude proxy for lifelong social experience.”

This happens in nearly every field of medicine. Race is not only used as a poor substitute for genetics and ancestry, it’s used as a substitute for access to health care, or lifestyle factors like diet and exercise, socioeconomic status and education. It’s no secret that racial disparities exist in all of these. But there’s a danger in using race to talk about them, Yale historian Carolyn Roberts says.

We know, for example, that Black Americans have been disproportionally affected by Covid-19. But it’s not because Black bodies respond differently to the virus. It’s because, as Dr. Anthony Fauci has noted, a disproportionate number of Black people have jobs that put them at higher risk and have less access to quality health care. “What are we making scientific and biological when it actually isn’t?” Roberts asks.

Vyas says using race as a proxy for these disparities in clinical algorithms can also create a vicious cycle.

“There’s a risk there, we argue, of simply building these into the system and almost accepting them as fact instead of focusing on really addressing the root causes,” Vyas says. “If we systematize these existing disparities … we risk ensuring that these trends will simply continue.”

Nearly everyone on both sides of the race correction controversy agrees that race isn’t an accurate, biological measure. Yet doctors and researchers continue to use it as a substitute. Math shouldn’t be racist, Nkinsi says, and it shouldn’t be lazy.

“We’re saying that we know that this race-based medicine is wrong, but we’re going to keep doing it because we simply don’t have the will or the imagination or the creativity to think of something better,” Nkinsi says. “That is a slap in the face.”

Shortly after Vyas’ article published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the House Ways and Means Committee sent letters to several professional medical societies requesting information on the misuse of race in clinical algorithms. In response to the lawmakers’ request, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is also gathering information on the use of race-based algorithms in medicine. Recently, a note appeared on the Maternal Fetal Medicine Units Network’s website for the Vaginal Birth After Cesarean equation — a new calculator that doesn’t include race and ethnicity is being developed.

Dorothy Roberts is excited to see change on the horizon. But she’s also a bit frustrated. The harm caused by race correction is something she’s been trying to tell doctors about for years.

“I’ve taught so many audiences about the meaning of race and the history of racism in America and the audiences I get the most resistance from are doctors,” Roberts says. “They’re offended that there would be any suggestion that what they do is racist.”

Nkinsi and Seah both encountered opposition from colleagues in their fight to change the eGFR equation. Several doctors interviewed for this story argued the change in a race-corrected scores is so small, it wouldn’t change clinical decisions.

If that’s the case, Vyas wonders, why include race at all?

“It all comes from the desire for one to dominate another group and justify it,” says Roberts. “In the past, it was slavery, but the same kinds of justifications work today to explain away all the continued racial inequality that we see in America… It is mass incarceration. It’s huge gaps in health. It’s huge differences in income and wealth.”

It’s easier, she says, to believe these are innate biological differences than to address the structural racism that caused them.

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As Nahel is buried, Macron cancels trip to Germany

President Emmanuel Macron has scrapped an official trip to Germany after a fourth straight night of rioting in France.

Macron postpones trip to Germany

President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday scrapped an official trip to Germany after a fourth straight night of rioting and looting across France in defiance of a massive police deployment. Hundreds turned out for the burial of Nahel, a  17-year-old boy, whose killing by police triggered the unrest.

France’s Interior Ministry announced after Friday night’s violence that 1,311 people had been arrested and 45,000 police officers had fanned out in a so-far unsuccessful bid to restore order. On Tuesday, the fist night of the unrest, around 2,400 arrests had been made.

The protesters and rioters turned out on the streets of cities and towns, clashing with police, despite Macron’s appeal to parents to keep their children at home. About 2,500 fires were set and stores were ransacked, according to authorities.

The violence in France has damaging Macron’s diplomatic profile. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s office said that Macron phoned on Saturday to request a postponement of what would have been the first state visit by a French president to Germany in 23 years. Macron had been scheduled to fly to Germany on Sunday evening for the visit to Berlin and two other German cities.

Macron’s office said he spoke with Steinmeier and, “given the internal security situation, the president (Macron) said he wishes to stay in France over the coming days.”

Given the importance of the French-German relationship on the European political scene, the scrapping of the official trip was a clear sign of the gravity of France’s unrest. Earlier this year, King Charles III cancelled his first foreign visit as U.K. monarch, initially planned for France, because of intense protests over Macron’s pension reform plans.

Nahel’s Funeral

Hundreds of mourners attended Nahel’s Saturday afternoon – his killing by a police officer has so far resulted in four nights of rioting in many urban areas across France.

Rituals to bid farewell to Nahel with a viewing of his open coffin by family and friends and ended with his burial in a hilltop cemetery in that town.

At the cemetery’s entrance, with central Paris visible in the distance, hundreds of people stood along the road to pay tribute to Nahel. The crowd carried his white casket above their heads and into the cemetery for the burial, which was barred to the media. Some of the men carried folded prayer rugs. Before the burial, prayers were held at a mosque.

Applause resounded as Nahel’s mother Mounia M., dressed in white, walked through the gate and toward the grave. Earlier in the week she told France 5 television that she was angry at the officer who shot her son, but not at the police in general.

“He saw a little Arab-looking kid, he wanted to take his life,” she said. “A police officer cannot take his gun and fire at our children, take our children’s lives,” she said. The family has roots in Algeria.

The police officer was given a preliminary charge of voluntary homicide, meaning that investigating magistrates strongly suspect wrongdoing, but need to investigate more before sending a case to trial. Nanterre prosecutor Pascal Prache said that his initial investigation led him to conclude that the officer’s use of his weapon wasn’t legally justified.

Nahel was shot dead during a traffic stop Tuesday in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. Video showed two officers at the window of the car, one with his gun pointed at the driver. As the teenager pulled forward, the officer fired once through the windshield.

Anger over Nahel’s death erupted in violence in Nanterre and in many major cities, including Paris, Marseille and Lyon – and even in French territories overseas) where a 54-year-old died after being hit by a stray bullet in French Guiana.

Hundreds of police and firefighters have been injured, including 79 overnight. Authorities haven’t released injury tallies for protesters.

Discrimination and deprivation

The reaction to the killing was a potent reminder of the persistent poverty, racial discrimination, unemployment and other lack of opportunity in neighbourhoods around France where many residents trace their roots to former French colonies – like where Nahel grew up.

“Nahel’s story is the lighter that ignited the gas. Hopeless young people were waiting for it. We lack housing and jobs, and when we have (jobs), our wages are too low,” said Samba Seck, a transportation worker in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.

Clichy was the birthplace of weeks of riots in 2005 that shook France, prompted by the deaths of two teenagers electrocuted in a power substation while fleeing from police. One of the boys lived in the same housing project as Seck.

Like many Clichy residents, he lamented the violence targeting his town, where the remains of a burned car stood beneath his apartment building, and the town hall entrance was set alight in rioting this week.

“Young people break everything, but we are already poor, we have nothing,” he said, adding that “young people are afraid to die at the hands of police.”

France’s national soccer team — including international star Kylian Mbappe, an idol to many young people in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods where the anger is rooted — pleaded for an end to the violence.

“Many of us are from working-class neighbourhoods, we too share this feeling of pain and sadness” over the killing of Nahel, the players said in a statement.

Early on Saturday, firefighters in Nanterre extinguished blazes set by protesters that left scorched remains of cars strewn across the streets. In the neighboring suburb Colombes, protesters overturned garbage bins and used them for makeshift barricades.

Looters during the evening broke into a gun shop and made off with weapons in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille, police said.

Buildings and businesses were also vandalised in the eastern city of Lyon, police said.

Despite the escalating crisis, Macron held off on declaring a state of emergency. But government ratcheted up its law enforcement response, with the mass deployment of police officers, including some who were called back from vacation.

The rioting puts new pressure on Macron, who blamed social media for fueling violence.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has ordered a nationwide nighttime shutdown of all public buses and trams, which have been among rioters’ targets. He also said he warned social networks not to allow themselves to be used as channels for calls to violence.

“They were very cooperative,” Darmanin said, adding that French authorities were providing the platforms with information in hopes of cooperation identifying people inciting violence.

Thirteen people who didn’t comply with traffic stops were fatally shot by French police last year. This year, another three people, including Nahel, died under similar circumstances.

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Would reparations lead to irresponsible spending? Studies on other cash windfalls suggest not, new report says.

The perception that people often succumb to misfortune and bad decision-making after suddenly receiving large amounts of cash isn’t based in fact, researchers said in a report published Thursday by the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive think tank.

That means potential reparations payouts to Black Americans are unlikely to result in reckless spending, financial ruin and reduced labor productivity, the report’s authors wrote after undertaking a review of prior research concerning consumer behavior after lottery windfalls and inheritances, as well as more minor cash transfers through tax refunds and guaranteed-income programs. 

“There’s what we really describe as kind of an urban myth … that people who receive lottery winnings squander the money very quickly,” reparations scholar William “Sandy” Darity, a Duke University professor of public policy and economist who co-authored the report, said in an interview. “The best available evidence indicates that that’s not the case.”

Whether Black residents and descendants of enslaved people in the U.S. are owed reparative payments has been debated for centuries. But as the country has grown more economically unequal while a stubborn racial wealth gap persists, the reparations movement has picked up traction.

In California, a first-of-its-kind state task force on reparations approved a slate of recommendations for lawmakers this month that, if implemented through legislation, would potentially provide hundreds of billions of dollars in reparative monetary payments to Black Californians to address harms caused by factors including racial health disparities, housing discrimination and mass incarceration. San Francisco, which has its own reparations task force, is also considering one-time reparative payments of $5 million for eligible people.

Read more: California task force approves sweeping reparations potentially worth billions of dollars

Still, detractors say that granting reparations to Black Americans — as was done for Japanese Americans incarcerated in internment camps during World War II and, on a state level, for survivors who owned property in the town of Rosewood, Fla., before a race massacre destroyed it — is unwise.

Some argue that giving people reparative payments without requiring certain parameters or personal-finance courses could result in irresponsible spending behavior, or that reparations proposals are themselves racist in suggesting that Black people need “handouts.”

‘One of the important things that lottery winners do with the money is that they frequently set up trust accounts or the equivalent for their children or their grandchildren.’

— William ‘Sandy’ Darity, a leading reparations scholar

The authors of the Roosevelt Institute report, for their part, said the assumption that Black Americans would be unable to handle sudden windfalls is rooted in racism — noting the racial wealth gap wasn’t created through “defective” spending habits but through policies that pumped money into white households, including unequal land distribution and subsidies for homebuyers.

“Widely held, inaccurate, and racist beliefs about dysfunctional financial behavior of Black Americans as the foundation for racial economic inequality leads to a conclusion that monetary reparations will be ineffective in eliminating the gap,” they wrote. “According to this perspective, if eligible Black Americans do not change their financial mindset and behavior after receiving financial reparations, the act of restitution will be empty.”

How people spend lottery winnings and inheritances

Even so, there’s not really “any carefully drawn-out study of what has happened to folks who have received reparations payments,” Darity said. It’s “impossible to understand” the impacts of such programs, because there haven’t historically been “systems in place that give money directly to individuals” — allowing “anecdotal cynicism and urban mythology” to drive the narrative, the report’s authors wrote.

“The best that we could do is try to think about other types of instances in which people have received windfalls where there has been some follow-up on what the consequences have been,” Darity said.

To see how people really react when they’re granted new amounts of money, the authors examined outcomes both from people who had received “major” windfalls — ones that immediately and majorly change a person’s wealth status, like winning the lottery — and “minor” windfalls, or those that affect a person’s income but don’t meaningfully shift their wealth status, like the stimulus checks doled out earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Darity, who directs Duke University’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, worked alongside the report’s lead author, Katherine Rodgers, a former research assistant at the Cook Center who currently works as a senior associate at the consulting firm Kroll, as well as Sydney A. Grissom, an analyst for BlackRock. Lucas Hubbard, an associate in research at the Cook Center, was also an author of the report. 

They found that while a person’s behavior can vary based on the windfall amount and how it’s framed to the recipient, as well as their previous economic status, their reactions tend to buck stereotypes. 

For example, only 11% of lottery winners quit their job in the findings of one 1987 study that examined 576 lottery winners across 12 states — and none of the people who got less than $50,000 left work, according to the Roosevelt Institute report. However, people were more likely to quit their jobs if they won a sum worth $1 million, had less education, were making under $100,000 a year, and hadn’t been in their job for more than four years.

Studies of lottery winners in other countries have found similarly muted labor responses, the report said. A separate U.S. study from 1993 of the labor effects on people who had received inheritances ranging from $25,000 to $150,000 or more also found that only a “small but statistically significant percentage of heirs left their jobs after receiving their inheritance,” with workers most likely to leave their jobs if they got a big payout. 

But it’s still “less than what the stereotype would say,” Hubbard said in an interview: 4.6% of individuals quit their jobs after receiving a small inheritance of less than $25,000, compared to 18.2% of workers who got an inheritance of more than $150,000, he noted.

Instead, studies have shown that people who get windfalls may be more likely to become self-employed, participate in financial markets, save, and spend money on necessary goods like housing and transportation, the report’s authors wrote. 

“One of the important things that lottery winners do with the money,” Darity said, “is that they frequently set up trust accounts or the equivalent for their children or their grandchildren.”

Small windfalls, including those offered through monthly checks from guaranteed-income pilot programs, have also been shown to be used for essentials like food and utilities without negative effects on employment. The framing of the money received can also have an effect on how it’s spent, the authors said: People who get a payout from bequests or life insurance tend to have more negative emotions about the money and will use it for more “utilitarian” purposes, according to one 2009 study

From the archives (March 2021): Employment rose among those in California universal-income experiment, study finds

Reparations wouldn’t unleash ‘flagrant spending,’ researchers say

Despite their findings, “windfalls are not magical panaceas for all financial woes,” the authors emphasized.

For example, a 2011 study cited in the report found that among people who were already in precarious financial positions, lottery winnings delayed, rather than prevented, an eventual bankruptcy filing. Another report from 2006 found that “large inheritances led to disproportionately less saving,” the researchers noted in the Roosevelt Institute report.

“Research over the past two decades has demonstrated that their bounties are not limitless, and, crucially, that informed stewardship of received assets is still necessary (albeit, not always sufficient) to achieve and maximize long-term financial success,” the authors wrote.

But they added that reparations, particularly if “framed not as handouts but rather as reparative payments” to Black Americans, would not unleash “flagrant spending on nonessential goods” based on studies on windfalls, and could instead improve recipients’ emotional well-being and financial stability. 

“Of course, the merits of making such payments should not be assessed solely on the basis of the anticipated economic effects,” the authors said. “Moreover, using the absence of evidence of this type as a justification for delaying reparative payments, such as those to Black descendants of American slavery, is inconsistent with the fact that other groups previously have received similar payments in the wake of atrocities and tragedies.”

From the archives (January 2023): How to pay for reparations in California? ‘Swollen’ wealth could replace ‘stolen’ wealth through taxes.

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Ron DeSantis Wants Very Own Chinese Exclusion Act

Fresh on the heels/heel turn of his stupid fight with Disney, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis seems to have found another strategy to be awful to Floridians and to damage Florida’s economy in the pursuit of the 2024 GOP nomination. The Florida state House yesterday passed a bill aimed at preventing the Chinese Communist Party from buying land in Florida, but goes well beyond that by forbidding anyone who’s “domiciled” in China from owning any real estate in Florida, unless they’re a US citizen or permanent resident. The bill also includes other restrictions on some foreign ownership of properties near military bases or “critical infrastructure,” but the blanket ban on owning any property in Florida applies only to Chinese nationals.

By golly, it’s a throwback to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, when America decided it could admit loutish Irish, swarthy sex-crazed Italians, and anarchist Rooshians, but Chinese immigrants were some kinda threat.

Supporters of the measure, Senate Bill 264, claim it’s absolutely necessary for US national security, and for that matter some say that anyone opposing it is probably a Chinese agent too.

That’s exactly the kind or rhetoric that has led real estate interests and Asian Americans in Florida to say that the bill is rooted in xenophobia, and will lead to anti-Asian discrimination, particularly since, as the Miami Herald explains,

it would require home and land buyers to sign an affidavit that they’re not prohibited from buying land. Realtors would be subject to “civil or criminal liability” if they have “actual knowledge” that the transaction violates the law.

At hearings on the Senate version of the bill last month, the Herald notes, more than 100 people testified that they’ve been subjected to racist slurs already as paranoid rhetoric about China “gobbling up” huge tracts of US land has ramped up in rightwing media. On Saturday, Asian Americans across Florida rallied against the bill, arguing that it will lead to stereotyping and more acts of discrimination, and that it could imperil their own small businesses if they run afoul of the law, which requires Chinese “domiciled” owners to divest their Florida properties within two years.

We are not a real estate lawyer, but we can imagine how that could screw with a small business that’s operated by a Chinese American family but owned by a relative in China. If the American branch of the family can’t come up with the capital to buy out the relative, or the relative doesn’t want to sell — or give it as a gift and eat the tax losses — well, here come the fines, and the forfeiture of the property. The LA Times notes that such property grabs were a common feature of anti-Asian laws back in the 19th Century, too.

In an editorial yesterday, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel argued that DeSantis’s push for the property ban and other anti-immigrant legislation will “cast a spotlight on anyone who talks with an accent. Or wears clothes that reflect a different heritage. Or speaks a language other than English,” regardless of their actual citizenship or immigration status, which of course is the point for DeSantis.

The editorial argues that the impact of the bill will be pretty obvious:

Anyone who looks Asian will become much more likely to be questioned or turned away from financial transactions, and potentially have their homes or businesses seized. We can’t imagine anything in modern law that comes close to that.

Now, sure, realtors who simply refuse to sell to Asian Americas may then face discrimination lawsuits, but they may end up trying to balance which set of potential legal penalties they’d rather face. Discrimination suits have only civil penalties, while knowingly selling land in violation of the law would also have criminal penalties.

As we mention, the prospect of being in jeopardy for good faith business transactions has the Florida real estate bidniss worried too, and those folks have some serious economic interests in the state.

Bizarrely, some Florida pols are suggesting that the bill is actually super popular with Chinese Americans, but that you’re only seeing protests by opponents because that’s exactly what the CCP wants, and welcome back to McCarthyism. State Rep. David Borrero (R) insisted that “Chinese Americans and Chinese residents who are here in Florida have been silenced, likely by China, for merely speaking out in support of this bill,” and Democratic co-sponsor Katherine Waldron

told lawmakers that she heard the protesters were bused in from Texas. She and Borrero said they know of Chinese Americans who have been threatened from speaking in favor of the bill and silenced on WeChat, the dominant phone app in China.

“Do not be intimidated by the vocal and aggressive actors we’ve seen in the past few weeks, who do not have our country’s best interests in mind,” Waldron said. “The communist threat to our nation is real.”

Ergo, no “good” Asian Americans really oppose the bill; those people saying it’ll lead to discrimination are OUTSIDE AGITATORS AND COMMUNIST AGENTS TRYING TO WHIP UP FEAR BECAUSE THEY HATE AMERICA. Please remain calm and purge them, so we can institute government by conspiracy theory.

The Miami Heraldhelpfully fact checks that claim about non-Floridians testifying against the bill, noting that

Records from the meeting show that nearly all of the opponents of the bill listed Florida addresses, and several were quickly verified through home ownership records. Several of the speakers said they were professors at Florida universities.

DeSantis has not yet demanded an investigation into whether the Miami Herald is secretly run by the Chinese Communist Party, but for all we know he’s too busy drafting a ban on any cast members at Walt Disney World depicting characters from Mulan.

SB 264 doesn’t only direct its fear toward China, although Chinese nationals who “domicile” in China are the only people outright banned from owning property in Florida. The bill originally prohibited nationals of “countries of concern” — Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, and North Korea, just in case there are any property moguls from Pyongyang — from owning land within 20 miles of any “military installation or critical infrastructure,” like airports, refineries, or power plants, but the House amended that to just one mile, so the Senate will have to pass the revised version again before it goes to DeSantis for a signature. Current targeted owners of such properties would also have to divest them within two years of the bill becoming law.

Yr Wonkette would say more about what a terrible idea this law is, but we have to hurry up and meet with our CCP spymaster soon, comrades. Why don’t you play some solitaire to pass the time?

[National Archives / Miami Herald / Sun-Sentinel / LAT / Florida SB 264 / Photo: John Spade, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Viral TikTok video causes Italy to reckon with racism

A “culture of impunity” towards discrimination and the country’s failure to come to terms with its colonial past has fuelled racism, say experts.

Mahnoor Euceph was travelling on a train in Italy’s Milan when she suddenly noticed a group of women making fun of her boyfriend and his mother.

The American tourist filmed the incident on her phone and then published it on TikTok, where the clip soon went viral. 

“I was on the train from Lake Como to Milan on April 16th with my half-Chinese boyfriend, his Chinese mom, and his white dad. I am Pakistani. We are all American,” she wrote on the social media platform.

“I noticed these girls sitting across from us staring me down and laughing and speaking Italian. At first, I ignored it. Then I stared back at them,” she continued. 

Euceph says she then took a nap but when she woke up, the women had not stopped staring. 

“I asked them, ‘Is there a problem?’ They said, ‘No, there isn’t a problem’. At that point, they started saying ‘Ni hao (hello in Mandarin)!’ in an obnoxious, racist, loud voice, along with other things in Italian I couldn’t understand.”

Euceph said their taunts grew more aggressive until she took her phone and started filming. After that they slightly toned it down. 

“Never in my life have I experienced such blatant racism. My boyfriend said the same thing,” she wrote, adding other Asian friends had reached out to her, sharing similar experiences of racism in Italy and Europe.

The video has fuelled an ongoing national conversation on racism within Italy, with its society becoming increasingly multicultural in recent years, especially in the biggest cities.

How common are episodes of racism in Italy?

Episodes of racism are quite common in Italy, often sparking widespread public condemnation in their aftermath.

In February, during a popular music contest, volleyball player Paola Egonu, who was born in Italy to Nigerian parents, said the country is racist, “but it’s getting better“.

Only a few weeks ago, her optimism wasn’t shared by French former professional footballer Lilian Thuram, who told Italian TV channel La7 Italy is “much more racist than it used to be before this government was in power.” 

Thuram was talking about Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing coalition government, which won last year’s election.

Only last week, Turin filed 171 restraining orders against Juventus fans after they subjected rival football player Romelu Lukaku to racist chants.

However, the Italian government does not collect statistics about race and ethnicity, meaning there is less data on racism compared to other European countries. 

In 2021, some 60% of young people in Italy admitted to having some unconscious racist bias, as shown by a UNICEF poll. The survey also found that 74% of migrants interviewed by the agency reported had been subject to discrimination in Italy.

“There is a stronger awareness among recently settled communities and migrant communities about the growth, in the past two years, of episodes of daily racism,” Francesco Strazzari, professor in International Relations at the Pisa-based Scuola Universitaria Superiore Sant’Anna, told Euronews. 

These incidents can be subtle, like a person subtly clutching their bag when they see a Black or Brown person entering a shop, or evident verbal and physical abuse.

“There have been recent episodes of totally gratuitous violence by far-right groups that intimidated migrants, and episodes of apparently unrelated street violence which still targeted migrants,” Strazzari said. 

“There was a case in Rome of a Roma mother carrying a baby, and the baby was harmed by someone passing by and shooting. And in these cases, it’s hard to clearly determine whether it’s a racist act or not.”

According to Strazzari, a culture of impunity has developed alongside recent racist episodes in Italy. 

There is racism that comes in the form of “public behaviour which hides behind mass behaviour or anonymity,” he said. 

The racist chant of Juventus fans against Lukaku is one example, while social media is flooded with “cynical comments written under a false name” every time a migrant boat sinks in the Mediterranean, he adds.

“These are… very widespread or common forms of racism that you see in Italy, which are not sanctioned in any way,” Strazzari said. “And this culture of impunity, I think, legitimates the fact that there are more intangible forms in daily life which escape the attention of the daily citizen, but shift the attention of those who experience them.”

One of the three women in Euceph’s video later reached out saying the situation had been misunderstood and their behaviour wasn’t racist. 

She apologised to her and her family, though the American tourist called it an attempt to manipulate the situation.

The ghost of Italy’s colonial past

Strazzari thinks Italy’s complex past and its official approach to history and identity impact debates around racism, as well as people’s attitudes. 

“Italy remains a country with a colonial past which was never properly addressed,” he said.

One of the worst massacres of the colonial period was committed by Italians in Ethiopia in February 1937, when an estimated 19,000 locals were murdered in what’s known as the Addis Ababa massacre. 

Italian forces in the East African country committed what would now be considered war crimes, including using chemical weapons. 

“Italy never formally apologised,” Strazzari said. “It’s important because Meloni visited Ethiopia recently.”

He pointed out that Rome had tried to reconcile with Ethiopia by returning the Obelisk of Axum, which was taken in 1937. 

While Italy’s President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro expressed displeasure and sorrow for the crimes perpetrated in Ethiopia during the war in 1997, there was never a formal apology.

The roots of racism in Italy are to be found in this unresolved past, Strazzari said. 

While Germany went through a process of scrutinising its history, values and identity after World War II, Italy “despite being another loser of the war, never had this kind of reckoning,” he said. 

“In Italy, there’s the beloved cliché that Italians are always ‘brava gente’ (good people) – who even during World War II or colonial times, were always animated by a sense of empathy.”

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Montana Silences Zooey Zephyr

The Montana Legislature this week took up a raft of legislation aimed at eliminating trans people. One bill would write transgender people out of the state’s legal code, requiring that birth certificates, drivers licenses, and even death certificates list only a person’s sex at birth. Another would allow public school teachers to deliberately misgender trans students, with no provision for parents to instruct schools to use the child’s preferred pronouns. A third would amend an anti-porn bill to ban “acts of transgenderism” from any website that doesn’t require age verification, treating most LGBTQ sites as if they were porn.

Finally, both houses passed a final version of Senate Bill 99, which not only bans gender-affirming medical care for minors but also will require trans minors to immediately stop taking their medication, forcing them to begin detransitioning. (At least, unlike in Missouri, adults will be able to continue their medical care. For now.) That’s to “protect” them by forcing them to experience puberty as the sex with which they don’t identify. The bill provides for both civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution against any healthcare provider who “harms” a trans youth by giving them the care recommended by virtually all medical and mental health professional organizations in the US.

PREVIOUSLY: What IS Gender Affirming Health Care For Kids Anyway, Because Texas Is Super F*cking Lying About It Right?

Missouri Attorney General Singlehandedly Bans Care For Trans Adults Too, No Law Required

SB 99 passed both houses once, but Gov. Greg Gianforte sent it back with amendments that, among other things, got rid of the word “procedures” to ensure that all medical treatment was banned — get it, because your medication isn’t a “procedure” — and more extensively defined “sex” more comprehensively around reproductive organs, declaring, “In human beings, there are exactly two sexes, male and female, with two corresponding types of gametes,” do not pass GO, do not collect a tiara if you have a dong. The amended bill passed Wednesday and went to Gianforte for his signature, once more over the protests of pediatricians and other medical professionals who warned again that trans kids will be harmed.

That, after all, was the point.

Blood On Their Hands

It was, finally, too much for first-term state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, Montana’s first trans legislator, who gave a blistering condemnation of the bill, as well as the cover letter Gianforte sent the House regarding his requested amendments. Please watch this speech, since it may well be the last time the Republican supermajority allowed Rep. Zephyr to speak in defense of the trans community.


Zephyr rejected Gianforte’s assertion that SB 99 would “protect” Montana children, saying that forcing puberty on a trans young person amounts to torture. She also rejected his notion that the bill still allows “psychotherapy to treat young Montanans struggling with their gender identity.” But without the transitional medical care that’s actually the proper treatment for gender dysphoria — puberty blockers, with the option of hormone treatment later (most people delay surgery until after they’re 18 anyway) — Zephyr correctly pointed out that the only “psychotherapy” that remains would be “conversion therapy, which is torture.”

But the real fire of Zephyr’s comments was reserved for the state Legislature and for the fraud of SB 99 itself, with its attempt to legislate all humans into a gender binary, an idea as ridiculous, Zephyr said, as legislating that the Earth is flat. As for the claim that “life altering” medical treatment must be delayed until adulthood, Zephyr said,

“If you are forcing a trans child to go through puberty when they are trans, that is tantamount to torture. This body should be ashamed.”

House Majority Leader Sue Vinton (R) objected to that, saying that her caucus “will not be shamed.”

Nevertheless, Zephyr persisted.

“Then the only thing I will say is that if you vote yes on this bill and yes on these amendments, I hope the next time there’s an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.”

Vinton and nearly all the other Republicans stood to object, and Vinton said that Zephyr’s comments were “inappropriate, disrespectful and uncalled for.”

Freedom’s Just Another Word For Shut Up And Sit Down

Within hours, the “Montana Freedom Caucus” tweeted out a call for Zephyr to be censured, claiming that the Legislature is a place for “civil discourse” while deliberately misgendering Zephyr in both the tweet and the attached press release, and lying that her comments had been “threatening.” We suppose that actually recognizing the blood on their hands might scare them, though.

Zephyr also tweeted a letter from an ER doctor who recently wrote to her that a colleague had treated a suicidal transgender teen who said that they mostly wanted to die because the were constantly being told that their very existence was wrong. The teen

“referenced the current legislative session and told my partner, ‘My state doesn’t want me.’ Please consider that statement and let it sink in. This young teen is so distressed by the laws that you all have been discussing and passing, that they were driven to want to kill themselves.”

Zephyr prefaced the letter by saying, “When I said there is blood on their hands, I meant it.”

This Isn’t Legislating, This Is Genocide

Then yesterday, the House finished debate on SB 458, which enshrines in state law that binary definition of “sex” as either male or female, and nothing else. The law — which is probably unconstitutional, as if that matters anymore — effectively writes trans people out of 41 sections of Montana law. For instance, it specifies that the state’s law against discrimination now means that “a person may not be subjected to discrimination because of sex, as defined in 1-1-201, race, creed, religion, age, physical or mental disability, color, or national origin.” That section, of course, is the bit saying “there are exactly two sexes, male and female,” etc.

Another clause notes that the state’s “fair campaign practices” code means that candidates will pledge to “not make any appeal to prejudice based on race, sex, as defined in 1-1-201, creed, or national origin” — in other words, campaigning on prejudice against trans folks is apparently 100 percent ethical in Montana.

Housing and job discrimination against trans people? Completely legal now. And birth and death certificates and drivers licenses can only list the person’s sex at birth. You’ll be permanently misgendered even in the grave.

You get the idea.

We’re Republicans, We Can Do What We Want

As Zephyr stood to voice her objections to the bill, House Speaker Matt Regier (R), refused to recognize her, which prompted a formal objection from Minority Leader Kim Abbott (D) and other Democrats. Regier said that as speaker, he decides who will speak and who won’t, and that’s that: “It is up to me to maintain decorum here on the House floor, to protect the dignity and integrity, and any representative I don’t feel can do that will not be recognized.”

The Democratic objection led to a meeting of the Rules Committee, where after some debate, the Republicans voted that Regier does indeed have the power to decide who can participate in debate, or not. But before that, the Rs tossed in an incidental threat to also silence Native American Rep. Sharon Stewart Peregoy (D), for warning that the Legislature was headed down a slippery slope to fascism, how dare she.

Regier later told reporters that unless Zephyr properly apologizes for her rude behavior, she won’t be allowed to speak again for the remainder of the 2023 legislative session, which is likely to run for another two weeks or so.

Zephyr made clear that she has nothing to apologize for, because these bills are going to kill trans kids, just as hatred has already killed trans people:

“I have lost friends to suicide this year,” she said. “I field the calls from multiple families who dealt with suicide attempts, with trans youth who have fled the state, people who have been attacked on the side of the road, because of legislation like this. I spoke with clarity and precision about the harm these bills do. And they say they want an apology, but what they really want is silence as they take away the rights of trans and queer Montanans.”

The Montana Democratic Party and the Montana American Indian Caucus both issued statements condemning the silencing of Zephyr, as well as the Montana Freedom Caucus for misgendering her. The latter statement also praised Zephyr for “speaking up for the Montana trans, nonbinary, and Two-Spirit community,” and condemned the legislature’s passage of laws that “spread disinformation and fear, prevent them from receiving life-saving health care, ban their self-expression, and erase them from all public life.”

Fascist Creeps And Creeping Fascism

Montana’s silencing of Zooey Zephyr is proof that Republicans haven’t learned anything at all from the backlash to Tennessee Republicans’ attempt to silence two Black Democrats who spoke up (without permission, egad!) against gun violence.

Or maybe the Montana GOP did learn something. The House speaker silenced her even though there was no censure resolution at all. Just to add to the farce, the Montana “Freedom” Caucus celebrated Zephyr’s silencing with another press release that flat out lied, claiming that the Legislature had “officially” voted to censure Zephyr. Of course, no such vote happened, just the Rules Committee vote affirming that Regier can silence anyone he wants.

Not like anyone will be allowed to call that a lie in the House. Wouldn’t be civil.

[Erin in the Morning / Daily Montanan / Montana Free Press]

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