Chief Sheriff Deputy Kontos’s Letter of Insult to Stevens Pointers: Part II – Deconstructing White Supremacist Canon

On Oct. 24 2021, former Portage County Chief Deputy Sheriff Dan Kontos (retired) published a letter of insult to non-conservative people of Stevens Point and the County at large: “I tell you this because I love you.” He goes on, in psychological abuser style, to post several dozen insults to the residents, repeatedly calling them “Useful Idiots” (UIs).

In Part One we laid out 16 “Questions” (attacks) on Portage County residents, calling them “Useful Idiots” if they believed these points were true, and we offered a short refutation on each one, coming from the cosmology of Reality A in the USA today. We’ll refer to the School Board Disruptors/Anti-Diversity movement throughout this part as “Reality B” in keeping with the Atlantic piece we cited before: “Our Consensus Reality has Shattered.”

Here’s Part One of our Screed

Now Part One wasn’t a formal “Deconstruction” in the sense that Jacques Derrida may have used the term.

“Deconstruction may be seen as a means to understand the relationship between text and meaning, institution and nature, dichotomies and the hierarchies created by language. It stands as a form of literary and philosophical analysis that has been derived from the works of the post-structuralist philosopher Jacques Derrida. His work asserts that meaning is not static and instead continually evolves and varies across time and space. Furthermore, he maintains that language is derivative, i.e., words derive meaning from other words rather than from some absolute truth.”

From: Sociology Group: Jacque Derrida’s Deconstruction Theory – Explained
By Pragati Kalive

Moving into the real meat of the “Freedom Fighters” and “Liberty Leaders” groups which Kontos is seeking to assert leadership over…He moves into Insult Question 17 in our numbering system:

Q 17: Add one point if you believe that school boards have the children’s best interest at heart more than their parents do.

The meaning in Kontos’s text here is that school boards have become antithetical to the parents of the schools over whom the boards have jurisdiction. The meaning is that the voters who went to the polls and elected these school board members are “useful idiots” in Kontos’s worldview. (Please note that only a small minority of voters even know anything about the persons running for school boards when they go to the polls.)

Over the past many months, a nationwide movement which we’ll call here the “School Board Disruption” movement has been crafted by the remnants, the leftovers, the residue, of the President 45 administration. The intent is to take over as many school boards nationwide as possible and run them under Trump Cosmology.

Here are some cites to back up this assertion.

National Public Radio reporter Anya Kamenetz, on October 26, 2021, has this piece to share:


A look at the groups supporting school board protesters nationwide

As national and Trump affiliated forces, she cites:

“The Manhattan Institute, one of the most established conservative think tanks, and Citizens Renewing America, founded by President Trump’s former budget director Russell Vought,”

among the national drivers of these Disruptors’ school buses. She further notes

“Parents Defending Education, founded earlier this year, provides resources to activists, pursues litigation, and publishes “incident reports” on districts around the country. President Nicole Neily previously worked at the libertarian Cato Institute.”

Additionally:

“Turning Point USA, a group closely allied with Trump through its leader, Charlie Kirk, started School Board Watchlist,”

“The Proud Boys, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls an extremist hate group.”

“PragerU is a nonprofit media company founded by the conservative radio host Dennis Prager.”

Unicorn Riot Ninja has this up on their website:
School Board Disruptions Escalate, Funded By Conservative Dark Money

by Jordan Hopkins, Contributor September 27, 2021

Some journalists have been poking around in the activities of a January 6 co-conspirator, Scott Presler, who has recently morphed from a “Stop the Steal” organizer into a Stop the School Boards organizer, apparently.

Sidney Blumenthal, in The Guardian, had this piece
What did Jim Jordan know about the insurrection and when did he know it?


In the piece, Blumenthal makes these mentions of Presler’s activities around Jan. 6Th

“Two days after the election, Jordan was a speaker of a “Stop the Steal” rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, before the state capitol. The rally was organized by Scott Presler, a former field director for the Virginia Republican party, speaker at the 2020 Conservative Political Action Conference, and activist for ACT for America, cited by the Anti-Defamation League as an anti-Muslim hate group and labeled an “extremist hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

“The private Facebook page used to organize the events was full of extreme anti-Muslim and white nationalist rhetoric and went unpoliced despite the fact that new ACT hire Scott Presler was an administrator for the group,” the SPLC reported.

Presler mobilized support for the 6 January “Stop the Steal” rally. “I will 100% be in DC on January 6th to support President Trump. Who’s going?” he posted on his Facebook page on 22 December. He tweeted a video showing his presence in the crowd on 6 January before the Capitol.

Who funded the Harrisburg rally? What is Jordan’s relationship to Scott Presler? What are the communications between Jordan, his staff and Presler?

A search string on your search engine “Scott Presler involvement in school board disruption” will turn up over ten thousand citations. Take all the time you need.

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The “text” which Chief Deputy Kontos and his “Freedom Fighters” are proselytizing, is devoid of “meaning” in the sense of “normal” school board practice, and indeed, in the sense of the field of education for Reality A in the USA. Their crew inhabit Reality B, in which the text has meaning, to them. Kontos continues with another insult:

Q18: Add one point if you believe that people should be treated differently merely because of the color of their skin, rather than what they actually do.

Here we see Kontos moving into the meat of the White Supremacist Canon, particularly as it impacts on school boards: The attempt to block Critical Race Theory being taught in K-12 schools, despite the glaring fact that it is a college-level curriculum piece.

The “meaning” which the “Freedom Fighters” think the “text” of Critical Race Theory carries, is that “black people should be treated differently” (that is, BETTER than white school kids) “merely because of the color of their skin.” The is the construction over in Reality B. Now, let’s examine the reality of the construct, over in Reality A, where the majority of us Americans dwell.

What Is Critical Race Theory, and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?

Columbia Law School professors explain this method of research for legal scholars and how it’s being misunderstood.

July 01, 2021

Critical race theory was a movement that initially started at Harvard under Professor Derrick Bell in the 1980s. It evolved in reaction to critical legal studies, which came about in the 70s and dissected the idea that law was just and neutral. Over time, the movement grew among legal scholars, mostly of color, at law schools across the country, including at UCLA, where Crenshaw lectured on critical race theory, civil rights, and constitutional law, and later at Columbia, where she was appointed a full professor in 1995, alongside Williams, a former student, research assistant, and lifelong mentee of Bell’s, and who is now professor of law emerita.

Although the scholarship differs in emphasis and discipline, it is united by an interest in understanding and rectifying the ways in which a regime of white supremacy and its subordination of people of color in America has had an impact on the relationship between social structure and professed ideals such as “the rule of law” and “equal protection.”

Q 19: Add another point if you think that minorities can’t make it without governmental help, except for Asians trying to get into college.

Aside from the clever effort to divide minority peoples (cleaving off “Asians trying to get into college” from “regular minorities who can’t make it without governmental help,”) this is not very original “text,” but is the same tired old stuff that has been bombarding America’s working class, from the top-down, since the Nixon years and Nixon’s “southern strategy” to divide the white working class against the black working class. Nothing original in this “cute question.”

You will often hear us use the phrase “xenophobic-nationalist-populist-white supremacy” here on the blog to describe the form of fascism growing in these United States, and in many of the nations of the world, and Question 19 above has that sort of meaning behind the text. Because, you see, if minority folks cannot make it in the Peak Inequality nation which the white-supremacist U.S. ruling class has built (or call them the “1%” or “the billionaire class” as Senator Sanders calls them) then they don’t deserve to “make it,” because the intent is to cut “governmental help” to the bone–in fact, down to zero.

It’s called the Austerity Juggernaut, and is the machine that the USA’s plutocrats are gearing up to let loose on our working-class and permanently poor people –whether minority or white.

Q20: Add one point if you think the United States is a systemically racist nation.

Here we have Kontos “dispensing text” which flies in the face of tens of thousands of pieces of *peer reviewed* social science and academic literature. It’s pretty hard to assign meaning to words so far divorced from consensus reality, isn’t it?

Let’s get ourselves ridiculed by Sheriff Kontos for using Google Scholar (because only HE and the “Freedom Fighters” know where the peer reviewed social science lit. is stashed, we suppose) as the search engine on this search string-this turns up over 17,000 results–on merely ONE aspect of “systemic racism” in the U.S. political ecosystem.

Search String: systemic racism in HUD policy and home lending

Q21: Add one point if you believe the United States was founded on slavery.

Again, this is the (red) meat of the matter for the white supremacists of Kontos’s clique.

As Anya Kamenetz, in the NPR story cited above, notes this:

“Constitutionalism” is a far-right ideology that means, in essence, that people don’t have to recognize any laws or authorities that they don’t like beyond the Constitution itself. The video continues at a local restaurant, where Greco and some of the others who had just declared themselves the new school board explain that they then “voted” to remove Critical Race Theory from the school — though it is not being taught — and to stop requiring masks. Later, Greco and four others filed notarized oaths of office with the San Diego County Clerk.

The meaning, to the “Freedom Fighters”, of Kontos’s Q 21 insult above, is that the United States was founded on words, on ideas, rather than upon an economic foundation, the expenditure of energy in the form of work, first by human beings, enslaved on plantations, then soon in U.S. History, by this slave labor vastly amplified by the work done by machines burning coal.

As we noted in Part I of this take-down of the Kontos letter, to the “Freedom Fighters,” the Constitution is a “dead document,” not a “living” document. The “original intent” is all that matters today in the 21st century, 230 years after the ratification process. That intent was that the USA be ruled by white males, predominantly the plantation-owner class owning vast tracts of land in the deep southern U.S. States, who also were the human-owner class of slavemasters.

That, my friends, was the “originalist” Constitution.

What was the originalist economy of the early United States like? The base, the foundation for the “immense superstructure” of the new nation’s politics, society, culture?

The U.S. economy was primarily agricultural in the early 19th century. Westward expansion plus the building of canals and the introduction of steamboats opened up new areas for agriculture. Much land was cleared and put into growing cotton in the Mississippi valley and in Alabama, and new grain growing areas were brought into production in the Midwest. Eventually this put severe downward pressure on prices, particularly of cotton, first from 1820 to 1823 and again from 1840 to 1843.

Before the Industrial Revolution most cotton was spun and woven near where it was grown, leaving little raw cotton for the international marketplace. World cotton demand experienced strong growth due to mechanized spinning and weaving technologies of the Industrial Revolution. Although cotton was grown in India, China, Egypt, the Middle East and other tropical and subtropical areas, the Americas, particularly the U.S., had sufficient suitable land available to support large scale cotton plantations, which were highly profitable.[77] A strain of cotton seed brought from Mexico to Natchez, Mississippi in 1806 would become the parent genetic material for over 90% of world cotton production today; it produced bolls that were three to four times faster to pick.[77]: 114  The cotton trade, excluding financing, transport and marketing, was 6 percent or less of national income in the 1830s.[78] Cotton became the United States’ largest export.

Sugarcane was being grown in Louisiana, where it was refined into granular sugar. Growing and refining sugar required a large amount of capital. Some of the nation’s wealthiest people owned sugar plantations, which often had their own sugar mills.

Southern plantations, which grew cotton, sugarcane and tobacco, used African slave labor. Per capita food production did not keep pace with the rapidly expanding urban population and industrial labor force in the Antebellum decades.[79] (Cited from Wikipedia, for which Mr. Kontos will no doubt assign us a “Useful Idiot” trophy. Also, we’ve donated to keep Wikipedia going. Add another point).


We’ll close out this diatribe with an insult/question taken out of order, but which highlights the White Supremacist doctrine espoused by Mr. Kontos quite clearly.

Q22: Add one point if you believed the 2020 riots committed by BLM and Antifa were either mostly peaceful or were in some way justified.

Here we can really get down to some “deconstructing.” The meaning of Kontos’s text here is that Black Lives Don’t Matter. That the whole Black Lives Matter movement was naught but unjustified riots committed by black thugs, and that the on-video murder of George Floyd was just, well, nothing.

Kontos may have missed the point that Stevens Point, Wisconsin, hosted a Black Lives Matter vigil/march, totally peaceful except for some rightie-tightie kids in pickup trucks who showed up on the public square to make some sort of conservative “point” in Point.

Nationwide, the narrative that Black Lives Matter was nothing but a set of riots, looting and arson events, and that indeed, no protests were needed, whatsoever. That Derrick Chauvin should have walked free. You could call that “White Chauvin-ism” if you like. Not nearly enough investigative journalism has been done with regard to how many of the arson and looting events were instigated by POLICE agents-provocateurs, who have been around protest movements for centuries now, in nations large and small. The term itself is from France, if that gives you a hint.

The “meaning” behind Kontos’s text is described above as it is understood by Reality B dwellers in the USA.

On the other hand, those of us living in Reality A believe that indeed, black lives matter and that the movement will continue, until the raging inequality conditions in the USA are finally abolished.That is our meaning, behind the text “Black Lives Matter.”

Thanks for dragging your brain all the way through this! Disclaimer: The author is an old retired machinist/CAD-CAM designer, former member of the industrial proletariat, a critically-endangered class in the U.S. industrial ecosystem. Not a Master’s in Sociology nor Political Science, nor Philosophy (apologies to Jacques Derrida).

Sheriff Kontos’s Letter of Insult to Stevens Pointers: Deconstructing the Conservative Dogma

On Oct. 24 2021, former Portage County Chief Deputy Sheriff Dan Kontos published in his column in “SP Metrowire,” an online medium in Stevens Point, WI, a letter of insult to non-conservative people of Stevens Point and the County at large: “I tell you this because I love you.” He goes on, in psychological abuser style, to post several dozen insults to the residents, repeatedly calling them “Useful Idiots” (UIs).

First, claiming a degree in Political Science, he makes this gross error: “Vladimir Lenin was credited with reviving the term (Useful Idiots) in the early 1940s and using it to describe people of a non-community country sympatheci to communism who were regarded as gullible and susceptible to manipulation for propaganda or other purposes.” Setting the McCarthyite tone with a glaring error of history (Lenin died in 1924), he also failed to do the “impartial fact check” that he claims gullible Useful Idiots are doing all the time:

Origin

The phrase useful idiot has often been attributed to Vladimir Lenin, but he is not documented as ever having used the phrase.[3] In a 1987 article for The New York Times, American journalist William Safire investigated the origin of the term, noting that a senior reference librarian at the Library of Congress had been unable to find the phrase in Lenin’s works and concluding that in the absence of new evidence, the term could not be attributed to Lenin.[3][4] Similarly, the Oxford English Dictionary in defining useful idiot says: “The phrase does not seem to reflect any expression used within the Soviet Union”.[1]
–Wikipedia, the “Useful Idiot Libs” go-to for fact checking

After the gross historical error and sketchy attribution, Kontos dives right into exposing the “Shattered Consensus Reality” that Atlantic author J.M. Berger writes about.

See “Our Consensus Reality has Shattered” by J.M. Berger
October, 2020, The Atlantic magazine online







<!– @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } A:link { so-language: zxx } –>
“Sadly, many of our fellow citizens have fallen into the role of a UI. This explains how normally right-thinking members of our own society can pursue lines of “reasoning” that run contrary to all actual evidence or logic. The have been sold the big lie, and they believe it wholeheartedly.”

Kontos’s opening paragraph to his conservative meta-narrative gets straight to the shattered reality, by stating something that non-conservatives and anti-conservatives are saying ALL THE TIME about the conservatives:

“Sadly, many of our fellow citizens have fallen into the role of a UI. This explains how normally right-thinking members of our own society can pursue lines of “reasoning” that run contrary to all actual evidence or logic. The have been sold the big lie, and they believe it wholeheartedly.”

This is coming from a local leader in the anti-masks-for-covid, anti-vaccinations, anti-accurate-history-teaching in schools (they call it “Critical Race Theory”) movement in Portage County / Wisconsin / the nation. Speaking of lines of “reasoning that run contrary to actual evidence or logic…


All this reminds us of a famous episode in Seinfeld,–one particular episode borrowed an entire plot device from Superman – the Bizarro World, where everything is the opposite of Earth. Where Seinfeld and friends have somehow slipped into an alternate reality called “Bizarroworld” in which everything about them is exactly opposite to themselves.

Kontos then goes on to craft a “Quiz of Insults” against Portage County Libs. Each point is a Bizarroworld reflection of what anti-conservatives and non-conservatives’ belief system and value system looks like.

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Q1: First, add one point if you believe that the U.S. Constitution is a “living document.”

Here, Kontos is trying to establish a “Dead Document” concept of the Constitution. Thrusting the USA backward in time to the late 18th century, where the Founders crafted a document intended to codify the rule of the white male slaveowning plantation owner for all time to come. Bizarro America 2021, let’s call it. . A “Republic, if you can keep it,” in which women, and black folk, would never be able to vote for representation.

Strangely enough, the point that the Founders put a method for Amending this “dead document” into the dead document, is a crucial part of the Conservative Bizarroworld.

Q4: Now add one point if you thought the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was a success in any way. Add one more point if you didn’t realize that American citizens are still involuntarily trapped there today. Subtract one point if you know that your government is actively fighting efforts by private citizens to rescue them.

This is a sort of “Bizarro Afghanistan Mission Accomplished” piece of the conservative dogma. See, if only President 45 had won that election (he didn’t, by the way, but lost by millions of votes), then the withdrawal from Afghanistan would have gone perfectly, and Prez 45 could have stood on an aircraft carrier with a giant banner overhead reading “Mission Accomplished.”

Q5 Add one point if you think elected and other high-ranking government officials have an inherent superior understanding of where our nation should be heading.

This negates the whole concept that America’s people elect representatives because they think they know where to lead the nation. See, we do not have direct initiative and referendum for federal (nor most of the 50 states’) legislation. Nor do activist groups on either side–be they Proud Boys or Citizen Action groups–determine the direction of the nation. Activist environmentalists, for example, get a severe beat-down when they attempt to stop crude oil pipelines such as the Dakota Access Pipeline. They do not get to prevail, and very often, elected officials help with the legislative beat-down of the environmentalists with “felonizing protest” legislation.

In fact, anti-conservatives (progressives) tend not to think that elected and other high-ranking government officials of EITHER side, “red nor blue” have an “inherent superior understanding.” Most progressive activists think that elected officials are doing the bidding of corporate executives, who most certainly have NOT got an inherently superior understanding of where our nation should be heading–although they’re definitely leading the nation to consume more fossil fuels.

Q6 Add one point if you think our country is headed in the right direction.

See, here’s the thing about the shattered consensus reality of our nation: All during the Trump era, anti-conservatives and non-conservatives would have been asserting that our country is headed in the wrong direction. As Kontos is clearly stating in his “question.” Also, during the George Bush the Lesser administration. Similarly, the non-conservative would have said the same about the G.H.W. Bush admin. and of course, the eight years of Ronald Reagan.

It’s a Bizarroworld flip.

Q.7 Add yet one more point if you trust the mainstream media to be unbiased

Here we have a mainstream conservative contesting the “unbiased” nature of non-conservative media (i.e., those which are NOT WSAU-AM 550 in Wausau (the hate radio channel), or OAN, or Fox News or “The Epoch Times” in print, or the online newswire where his column appears.

Apparently the Sheriff doesn’t realize that many (many) non-conservatives, and anti-conservatives, do NOT rely on “mainstream media” (which we often call “the corporate media”) but instead rely on indie journalism. Or news aggregator sites like Popular Resistance or Black Agenda Report, which pull news from literally all over the planet, from the oppressed populations, workers, women’s liberation movement and so forth.

Shall we give him one “UI” point for that? LOL.

Q8 “Add one point if you still have a Biden/Harris sticker on your vehicle.”

Here’s the meat of the January Sixers’ message: “H8 Joe Biden.” Or as they like to say, cutely, “Let’s Go, Brandon.”

Pssst, by the way: Most of the progressives we know do NOT have such a bumper sticker. They strictly “held their noses” and voted Biden/Harris so as to prevent an authoritarian, xenophobic-nationalist-populist-white supremacy regime being installed in 2021 at inauguration day.

Q9: “Add one point if you believe that “my body, my choice” should apply to women who want to abort their unborn baby, but should not apply to people who want to control what substances are injected into their bodies.

Here we see the classic “two separate realities” of the Divided States of America. No matter what medical scientists say, that an unborn fetus is not a “baby,” we see that the Evangelical Pastor at your right-wing church is The Scientist you Believe.

We see the real intent of conservative America, which is to maintain the patriarchy for all time to come. The complete abolition of the women’s liberation movement. The “Handmaid’s Tale State” as it’s now being called.

The second half of his Q9 sentence shows the essence of the local “Freedom Fighters” or “Liberty Leaders” perspective on how Covid-19 should have been handled: Public Health be damned. There is no public. This is not a society; it’s just you and your Fam against everyone around you.

Q 10: Add one point if you support the government and businesses firing employees for not becoming vaccinated.

Here again Mr. Kontos lives in Bizarroworld where there is no longer “public health,” and measures to protect public health are viewed as encroachments on one’s “freedom” or “liberty” because there is no society, no public. Just you and your Fam against the world. May the most heavily-armed Bizarroworld Fam prevail.

Q 11: If you just added a point, then add one more if you also have no concerns that untold illegal aliens and Afghan refugees are permitted into the country without being vaccinated.

Here we see Sheriff Kontos parroting Tucker Carlson with the xenophobic idea of “untold illegal aliens permitted into the country.”Because they want to REPLACE the “good white people” like Dan. This is straight out of the Trump xenophobe-nationalist-populist-white supremacist propaganda playbook.

Q 12: Add one point if you believe that “the science” supports the proposition that wearing a mask will protect you from Covid-19.

Almost from Day One of the giant Pandemicon convention we all got our tickets to, the right wing have been peddling “their science” against “everyone else’s science.” We have “dueling scientists” in our nation because the nation is fractured beyond repair. Rather than presenting a Review of Peer-Reviewed Literature, the “Freedom Fighter” crew began searching-up “scientists” who would present a narrative that would support them doing whatever the freak they like, without any public health restrictions on them. Welcome to the Science of the Selfish. Ayn Rand would be super-proud of these folks.

Q13: “Add even one more point if you wear a mask so people will not confuse you for a Republican, an anti-vaxxer, or simply so that people will leave you alone.”

Again, here we our with “Our science Trumps YOUR science, you Libs.” Also, you are more likely to be bullied by Trumpsters than you are to be left alone if you wear a mask in public now that we’re in Month 22 of the Pandemic.

Q. 14: Add one point if you believe Googling something and reading online opinion articles and blogs is actual research.

We’re eager to discover what the source of Sheriff’s deep “actual research” might be. Hopefully the letter “Q” is not involved in the sources he’s using.

Also, please note: In our series “Our deteriorating economy pages” we’ve relied upon Google Scholar searches to turn up peer-reviewed academic / scientific articles so as to form a Review of the Literature section to inform the writing. You know, like you’d use in a Master’s Degree. I realize that “Google” Scholar is a hot red flashing warning to Mr. Kontos.

Here’s a Google Scholar search on the string “do face masks protect against Covid-19?”

Out of the 114,000 results (since 2020) you are going to discover a wide range of “findings” on this topic.
https://scholar.google.com/scholar?as_ylo=2020&q=do+masks+protect+against+Covid-19&hl=en&as_sdt=0,50

If you’re Sheriff Kontos or a Freedom Fighter soldier, you’re going to want to Cherry-Pick thru those pieces until you have a strong anti-mask narrative.

That’s how “science” works, right?

Q 15: Add one point if you believe in the use of vaccine passports as proof of vaccine status. Q 16: Add an additional point if you oppose voter ID requirements as proof of voter eligibility.

In Q 16, here we see the Crafty Sheriff craftily rolling from “vaccine passports” straight into white supremacist calls for voter suppression of Voters of Color in the most unequal communities in the nation, who have great difficulty (which White Freedom Fighters don’t have) in securing their spot at the voting booths on election day. Well Done, Sheriff !


Our economy deteriorating pages– a collapsed economy already, for unequal communities

In this series on “Our economy deteriorating,” we’ve been focusing on the factors that can be leading up to “economic collapse” as is being ever-more frequently discussed in the alternative social science and economics literature.

People often ask, “What would that collapse look like? What would its characteristics be?” The further we delve into this question, the more it looks like a matter of how people who are in the middle range of the inequality spectrum would expect a collapse to look like, from their vantage point. However, from the perspective of people trapped at the very bottom ranges of the inequality spectrum or pyramid, it seems like a “privileged question.” Conditions at the bottom of inequality in the peak inequality economy/society look like those of an economy/society which is already in the midst of collapse, or has already collapsed.

That’s what this blog post will get at. Any updates and revisions will appear at bottom of the page.

Is Racism a Fundamental Cause of Inequalities in Health?

Jo C. Phelan and Bruce G. Link
Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 41 (2015)

Abstract
We previously proposed that socioeconomic status (SES) is a fundamental cause of health inequalities and, as such, that SES inequalities in health persist over time despite radical changes in the diseases, risks, and interventions that happen to produce them at any given time. Like SES, race in the United States has an enduring connection to health and mortality. Our goals here are to evaluate whether this connection endures because systemic racism is a fundamental cause of health inequalities and, in doing so, to review a wide range of empirical data regarding racial differences in health outcomes, health risks, and health-enhancing resources such as money, knowledge, power, prestige, freedom, and beneficial social connections.

We conclude that racial inequalities in health endure primarily because racism is a fundamental cause of racial differences in SES and because SES is a fundamental cause of health inequalities. In addition to these powerful connections, however, there is evidence that racism, largely via inequalities in power, prestige, freedom, neighborhood context, and health care, also has a fundamental association with health independent of SES.


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In searching the scholarly, peer-reviewed literature, we looked up the phrase “life expectancy by U.S. zip code.” This is where the real cost of wealth and income inequality clearly shows, and the cost is in terms of years of life, as well as a person’s general health conditions during their shorter life than the people higher up the wealth scale. Someone suggested this story to me, and I found this the best place to start in this brief review of the literature on inequality of mortality in the United States.

Why Americans Die So Much

U.S. life spans, which have fallen behind those in Europe, are telling us
something important about American society.
by Derek Thompson
The Atlantic, Sept. 12,2021

I’m talking about the past 30 years. Before the 1990s, average life expectancy in the U.S. was not much different than it was in Germany, the United Kingdom, or France. But since the 1990s, American life spans started falling significantly behind those in similarly wealthy European countries.

According to a new working paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Americans now die earlier than their European counterparts, no matter what age you’re looking at. Compared with Europeans, American babies are more likely to die before they turn 5, American teens are more likely to die before they turn 20, and American adults are more likely to die before they turn 65. At every age, living in the United States carries a higher risk of mortality. This is America’s unsung death penalty, and it adds up. Average life expectancy surged above 80 years old in just about every Western European country in the 2010s, including Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the U.K., Denmark, and Switzerland. In the U.S., by contrast, the average life span has never exceeded 79—and now it’s just taken a historic tumble.

…“Europe has better life outcomes than the United States across the board, for white and Black people, in high-poverty areas and low-poverty areas,” Hannes Schwandt, a Northwestern University professor who co-wrote the paper, told me. “It’s important that we collect this data, so that people can ask the right questions, but the data alone does not tell us what the cause of this longevity gap is.”

…Europe’s mortality rates are shockingly similar between rich and poor communities. Residents of the poorest parts of France live about as long as people in the rich areas around Paris do. “Health improvements among infants, children, and youth have been disseminated within European countries in a way that includes even the poorest areas,” the paper’s authors write.

.But in the U.S., which has the highest poverty and inequality of just about any country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, where you live is much more likely to determine when you’ll die. Infants in the U.S. are considerably more likely to die in the poorest counties than in the richest counties, and this is true for both Black and white babies. Black teenagers in the poorest U.S. areas are roughly twice as likely to die before they turn 20, compared with those in the richest U.S. counties. In Europe, by contrast, the mortality rate for teenagers in the richest and poorest areas is exactly the same—12 deaths per 100,000. In America, the problem is not just that poverty is higher; it’s that the effect of poverty on longevity is greater too.

Concludes Derek Thompson:

For decades, U.S. politicians on the right have resisted calls for income redistribution and universal insurance under the theory that inequality was a fair price to pay for freedom. But now we know that the price of inequality is paid in early death—for Americans of all races, ages, and income levels. With or without a pandemic, when it comes to keeping Americans alive, we really are all in this together.


In Thompson’s Atlantic piece he references this study in National Bureau of Economic Research:

Archived here in he blog files–and downloadable to you–The NBER paper notes improvement in the gap between black and white child deaths over the decades from 1990 through 2018. Nonetheless, there were still two black children dying for every white child, in 2018.

The NBER study is archived here on the blog files, and should be downloadable to you here:


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When we zoom in to the Zip Code level, geographically mapping out inequality of differences in life expectancy, we can focus more on inequality as Professor Dorling of Oxford University has done in the United Kingdom, contributing to his book “Peak Inequality: “Britain’s Ticking Time Bomb.”

For example, let’s look at this study —

Life Expectancy at Birth in Milwaukee County: A Zip Code-Level Analysis

J Patient Cent Res Rev. 2017 Fall; 4(4): 213–220.
Published online 2017 Nov 6. doi: 10.17294/2330-0698.1576

By Erica S. LeCounte, MPH and Geoffrey R. Swain, MD, MPH


Methods

To calculate life expectancy, death count data and population estimates were entered into an abridged life table using the Chiang methodology. Data were linked with measures from the American Community Survey to examine the relationship between life expectancy and zip code characteristics.

Results

Life expectancy varies greatly across zip codes in Milwaukee County. Overall, there was a 12-year difference in the life expectancy of children born into zip codes with the lowest and highest life expectancy: 53206 (71.3 years) and 53217 (83.2 years). There was a strong positive correlation between life expectancy and median household income (r=0.784, P<0.0001), educational attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher (r=0.741, P<0.0001) and the socioeconomic index combining education and income (r=0.819, P<0.0001).

Conclusions

Disparities in life expectancy within Milwaukee County are stark and correlate with differences in social and economic factors. To improve health outcomes such as life expectancy, health care practitioners and health care systems must become more involved in activities at the social and policy levels to improve social and economic conditions that would allow their patients to live healthier and longer lives.

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3. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. County profile: Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. [Accessed June 28, 2017]. Published 2016. http://www.healthdata.org/sites/default/files/files/county_profiles/US/2015/County_Report_Milwaukee_County_Wisconsin.pdf.
4. Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health. Mapping life expectancy. [Accessed May 30, 2017]. Published September 26, 2016. http://www.societyhealth.vcu.edu/work/the-projects/mapping-life-expectancy.html.
5. Jackson County Health Department, Division of Community Health Promotion. Place matters: life expectancy in Eastern Jackson County. [Accessed May 30, 2017]. Published January 2017. http://jacohd.org/files/place-matters/place-matters-2017.pdf.
6. University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. 2017 County Health Rankings key findings report. [Accessed May 30, 2017]. Published 2017. http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/reports/2017-county-health-rankings-key-findings-report.
7. Hood CM, Gennuso KP, Swain GR, Catlin BB. County health rankings: relationships between determinant factors and health outcomes. Am J Prev Med. 2016;50:129–35. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2015.08.024. [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]
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11. Ngui E, Michalski K, LeCounte E, Mohr A. 2017 City of Milwaukee Fetal Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) Report: Status Report on 2012–2015 Stillbirths and Infant Deaths. Milwaukee: WI: City of Milwaukee Health Department and Zilber School of Public Health; Apr, 2017. [Google Scholar]
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The entire Google Scholar search by the string “Life expectancy varies by U.S. Zip code” can be found here, approx. 15,000 entries from 2017.

Given what we have read so far, we may ask ourselves, “has the response to the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a big and wide national reform movement to overcome the peak inequality impacting on the standard of living of black, indigenous, and people of color communities as measured quantitatively and qualitatively in the USA?”

This paper published by National Center for Biotechnology Information-National Library of Medicine located on the National Institutes of Health website provides an answer to that question.

Online at

National Disparities in COVID-19 Outcomes between Black and White Americans

Michael Poulson, Alaina Geary, Chandler Annesi, Lisa Allee, Kelly Kenzik, Sabrina Sanchez, Jennifer Tseng, Tracey Dechert

National Center for Biotechnology Information
National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health website

Here is what these authors found:

Abstract

Background: There is very limited comprehensive information on disparate outcomes of black and white patients with COVID-19 infection. Reports from cities and states have suggested a discordant impact on black Americans, but no nationwide study has yet been performed. We sought to understand the differential outcomes for black and white Americans infected with COVID-19.

Methods: We obtained case-level data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on 76,442 white and 48,338 non-Hispanic Black patients diagnosed with COVID-19, ages 0 to >80+, outlining information on hospitalization, ICU admission, ventilation, and death outcomes. Multivariate Poisson regressions were used to estimate the association of race, treating white as the reference group, controlling for sex, age group, and the presence of comorbidities.

Results: Black patients were generally younger than white, were more often female, and had larger numbers of comorbidities. Compared to white patients with COVID-19, black patients had 1.4 times the risk of hospitalization (RR 1.42, p < 0.001), and almost twice the risk of requiring ICU care (RR 1.68, p < 0.001) or ventilatory support (RR 1.81, p < 0.001) after adjusting for covariates. Black patients saw a 1.36 times increased risk of death (RR 1.36, p < 0.001) compared to white. Disparities between black and white outcomes increased with advanced age.

Conclusion: Despite the initial descriptions of COVID-19 being a disease that affects all individuals, regardless of station, our data demonstrate the differential racial effects in the United States. This current pandemic reinforces the need to assess the unequal effects of crises on disadvantaged populations to promote population health.

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This particular posting on the blog has been drawing together two meta-narratives: The deterioration of the economy of our United States of America, coupled with the “peak inequality” of wealth, income, and the inequality of political-personal power derivative from that peak wealth inequality. We should also recognize that mapping “unequal communities” for example by County or more micro, by zip code data, will reveal that many of the unequal communities now living in a collapsed economy are also majority-white-person communities. This is the uncomfortable truth which national politicians trafficking in white supremacist narratives would prefer not to see the light of day.

met·a·nar·ra·tive /ˈmedəˌnerədiv/
noun

  • 2. an overarching account or interpretation of events and circumstances that provides a pattern or structure for people’s beliefs and gives meaning to their experiences:

Any readers of the blog who would be interested in contributing future posts on topics such as these, or to take part in a podcast series called “Abolish Inequality Podcast” may contact us here:
greenpeoplesmedia@gmail.com