In This Episode
DeRay, Sam, and De’Ara dive into the underreported news of the week, including protest data, Black-owned business partnerships, and Harriet Tubman. Netta Elzie gives an update on what’s happening with the nationwide protests. DeRay sits down with Dr. Daniel Laroche to discuss why glaucoma disproportionately impacts the Black community.
DeRay Hey, this is DeRay, I I’m going to say the people in this episode, it’s me, Sam, and De’Ara. Kaya is off for this episode. And we talk about all the news that you didn’t know for the past week and Netta, Johnetta Elzie gives us updates on what’s happening across the country with the protest. And then I sit down with glaucoma specialist Dr. Daniel Laroche to learn my vision issues impact the black community more than the general population. I learned so much about glaucoma. You probably don’t know a lot about glaucoma. Neither did I. Learn ya’ll, change of behavior. We got to do it. My advice for this week is about the interview, like one of the piece of advice that I had to tell myself was ask the question. Just ask it. I saw something about racial disparities with glaucoma, I didn’t know anything about Glaucoma and it was like bring somebody on to ask the question, read about it, ask the question, like ask the question. It’s the only way you’ll know. Let’s go.
De’Ara Family, family. Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I am De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @dearabalenger.
Sam And I’m Sam Sinyangwe @samewey on Twitter.
DeRay And this is DeRay @deray on Twitter.
De’Ara So you know what we have going on this week? We’ll definitely have the impeachment second impeachment trial of the Donald Trump ending in another acquittal.
De’Ara It was day after day of very organized making of a case on on on the part of the Democrats. A lot of footage we hadn’t seen really disturbing. Also, just a lot of news coming out this week. Just, you know, continued discussion of what the aftermath of January 6th. I know there there were actually a couple of Capitol Police officers that committed suicide, which was obviously sad to hear. And who knows what other subsequent things will we’ll see or hear about after this January 6th insurrection. I think what I’m taking away from all of it is just the continued divide in the country, and I don’t even know if it’s necessarily a political divide at this point. I mean, I think it’s either you are living and breathing and being privileged by white supremacy and continuing to ensure that it grows and is fed or you’re not. And so I see so much of what is happening here is just kind of, you know, a repeat of the past in so many ways. I don’t know how hopeful I am necessarily around this kind of like unity talk that we continue to hear and we’ve heard since Inauguration Day. I just don’t know how unification can happen when people are so, you know, even Mitch McConnell ending it with we know it happened. We know he’s responsible, but we’re not going to impeach him. We’re just not going to do it.
De’Ara So I think when people, you know, even know the facts, know the implications and still decide to do what the immoral choice is, I’m just interested to see how it’s going to play out during the Biden’s administration.
Sam Yeah, I mean, you mentioned a divide, De’Ara. And I think, you know, we hear the term divide so often, and it is a stark divide between people who believe in democracy and people who do not. It’s not just sort of like a difference of opinion. It is like either we have a democracy in which everybody’s voice is heard, in which the way the people vote and the way the people believe has some sort of influence on what the policies are of the government. Or we live in a place where a handful of super wealthy and well-connected white men predominantly can control every single outcome or strike down every single law or get elected, even though they didn’t win the majority of votes. There are two different models that are in contention. And what is wild about it is seeing how our existing political system sort of empowers that anti-democratic model to have the power to block anything that we want to pass democratically. And now we’re in this position. I mean, you see this in the impeachment trial where we got 57 votes, which is, you know, there’s it’s historic in that it is more than any other margin in terms of the bipartisan conviction vote. But at the same time, you see the Republican senators and they genuinely, despite believing that this was an insurrection, that this was a high crime and misdemeanor, they were like, no, we were not willing to hold this man accountable. We’re just not willing to do it. And some of them, I think, genuinely believed in the insurrection. They sided with it. They helped organize with it. They promoted the big lie. And then for some of them, it was you could tell that they were scared, right? Like they were genuinely like there was cowardice. And you could see it on their faces. Right. Like they were scared to go home to their states, predominantly in the south and confront the same lynch mob that just stormed the Capitol because most of them didn’t get arrested. I mean, they’re they’re back home. Right. And so you could see how this sort of block now in the Senate blocked the ability of our elected officials to hold Trump accountable. And they shouldn’t have had that power. And our system gave them the power to do that. Even though there was a majority vote to convict, it still wasn’t enough. And so we have to change the system. We have to get more people involved in the process. We have to make sure that D.C. is a state. We have to make sure that we are passing the Voting Rights Act. You know, we need to be dramatically shifting the balance of power because we cannot keep negotiating with people who don’t believe in our ability to just exist and be in a society where our voices can be heard.
DeRay Now, I was one of the people who was pretty frustrated at finally getting to the point where we might be able to call witnesses and then, you know, there were no witnesses. And then I looked up and The Washington Post reported the hostage situation that the Republicans put them under. So if you remember, most often the confirmation of the cabinet moves rather quickly in the beginning, because we need everybody sort of agrees we need a functional government. In this administration, the Republicans have been really focused on making sure that the confirmations go slowly. We realize now that that was a key part of the leverage around processes like these. What The New York Times reporter excuse me, not The Washington Post, is that the Republicans who were pissed about the trial, they warned that any effort to do this trial, they would block every nomination. They would block all pandemic relief. And anything else you want to do until was over. Senator Joni Ernst, the Republican from Iowa, is quoted as saying, “if they want to drag this out, we’ll drag it out. They won’t get their noms, they won’t get anything.” And that is what forced the Democrats to just let it go. And that New York Times reports that the impeachment managers and the Trump defense team had up to two hours each to present their closing arguments and like that sort of wrapped it all up at the witnesses sort of went out because the Republicans were like if
DeRay You want to play, then we will just block every single thing from happening in there, is there just like a really dangerous gangster vibe that you get from the Republicans, that they’re like, we will literally watch the government crumble. We will let people die. We don’t care about the vaccine. We don’t care about whether people can eat or not. All we want is power. And there’s there’s a part of that that’s like you can’t negotiate with that. You can’t, like, indulge. You got to beat that. That’s all you can do. You got to beat it. You can’t play with that. And I and I hope that, you know, if they cave on this, that they come back firing once we get the cabinet because you just can’t play with this that Trump is going to carry this as like a win that he wasn’t impeached again, that blah, blah, blah. And like, he’s not playing that. Those people are like not playing a game and we can’t play with that kind of energy. The other thing is that there was a report on Morning Consult that blew my mind and it showed it was a chart that showed what the Democrats saw as news and what the Republicans saw as news.
DeRay And it was fascinating because it helped me understand much better that like a lot of this is people just choosing ignorance and being racist and knowing full well what they’re doing in some of it, not letting any anybody off the hook. Some of it literally is that the Republicans are just not seeing the news that this is like news suppression. So things like Trump won’t commit to leaving. If you remember when Trump wouldn’t commit to leave, only like 15 percent of Republicans heard that, like heard a lot about that, whereas 50 percent of Democrats heard that.
Sam So my news is actually good news. And in particular, it’s about a new study that just came out. And it’s called “Black Lives Matters Effect on Police Use of Lethal Force” by Travis Campbell at the University of Massachusetts. Now, before I get into this study, let’s talk about the context since we’ve been getting tracking data. You know, you’ll recall that prior to 2014 or so, we had no comprehensive data at national level on people killed by the police. Government still doesn’t track it to this day comprehensively. But we built mapping police violence in 2014 and 2015. Washington Post built a database, you know, the Guardian built a database. And now we have some comprehensive data on killings by police going back about to 2013 to the present day. And we’ve learned a lot more about fatal police violence in the context of the analyzes that have been done using these data sets over the past few years. In particular, one of the things that the data demonstrates is that when you go back to about 2013 and you look at the trajectory of the landscape of police violence over that time period to the present day, you see a pretty substantial decline in people being killed by the police, particularly in big cities. Now, over that time period has been about a 30 percent reduction in killings by police in big cities, about the 30 largest cities in the country during that time period. And also during that time, we see an increase in killings by police in suburban and rural areas that offsets that reduction in the city. So the national trend line looks like the same number of people are being killed by police every single year. About eleven hundred people. Now, there’s been a lot of research over the past couple of years that has sought to explain why those dynamics appear to be happening. Why were we seeing such a reduction in the cities where things are moving in the right direction in big cities, the wrong direction, seemingly everywhere else? Now, a couple of research studies have sought to answer this question. So there was a study that came out last year that identified body cameras as one potential factor, that the departments that implemented body cameras were the ones that had larger reductions in killings by police during that time period. Similarly, in the research that we’ve done in focusing on the map and police violence data set, one of the things that is apparent in the data as well is that the departments that have seen the largest reductions in killings by police have also been the departments that have implemented things like new use of force, policies that are more restrictive on the police. They’re also departments that have, many of which have received Department of Justice interventions that have forced them to implement new accountability structures and policies. They’ve also been departments that have seen pretty substantial reductions in arrests, particularly arrest for low level offenses, which suggests a strategy that is decriminalizing things like marijuana and de prioritizing these types of LOW-LEVEL arrests for things that are often functions of poverty and mental health issues and certainly not a public safety threat. So we know all of these different things are happening and tend to be concentrated in the places where we’ve seen the best results. And now this study comes out and in Travis Campbell’s study, focusing on the effect of Black Lives Matter protests, what he’s able to demonstrate is that it’s, in fact, the places that have had more protests against police violence that have been the ones that have seen the largest reductions in killings by police, in fact, when you look at the trajectory in this paper, you can see that it’s places that have had Black Lives Matter protests. Again, they track this by relying on a database that is posted on [00:12:06]Elaframe [0.0s] managed by activists tracking thousands and thousands of protests since 2014. And they’re able to show that, you know, the places that have had protests, particularly places where the protests have been larger and in longer duration, have seen reductions about 15 to 20 percent fewer killings by police in their difference in difference analysis compared to other places which they estimate to be about 300 lives, 300 fewer killings by the police over the five year period following those initial protests. So that’s huge, right? Because what this piece of the puzzle does is it helps us understand the relationship between protests, which then informed the implementation of particular policies, things like more restrictive policies around use of force, reducing arrests for low level offenses, the implementation of different accountability processes that now seem to be producing results in terms of actually saving lives. So powerful, powerful research. This is, of course, preliminary. There’s a whole bunch that would continue to be learning seemingly every single month as new research comes out. But this is powerful. I’m interested to hear what you all have to think about it.
De’Ara Sam, you know you know, I like this because oftentimes when there are tactics like protests or tactics like anything around, you know, narrative change when it comes to like humanizing black people, funders, nonprofits, like they all, you know, they use these metrics are like, you know, we have to be metrics driven and we have to have these particular outcomes to get funding to get this, to get that. So I think this is helpful and insightful for organizations to continue to be resourced because, you know, if you can get data on, you know, obviously like the results of organizing and now get data on the results of protesting, it just helps to continue like this. I guess that’s how I thought about it. I just thought this data can also be used to help continue to resource movement and also to highlight the other areas where there are gaps. Right, where those data gaps, because once you just feel like you learn things and then you’re also learning what you still don’t know. And so I thought that was also insightful, too. And hopefully this is what the study can be used to continue to to further the movement in terms of funding and resources. So that was my take.
DeRay It reminded me, too, that so much of the stuff that comes out of the protests is from the police. Right. So it’s like the protests caused a spike in retirement. The protests cause a spike in murders. The protests cut like they just put out all this stuff, just like the protests were in the world. And you’re like, oh, I don’t really think that’s true. But there in the past, there doesn’t seem to have been a lot of research about like what were the positive impacts of the protests, knowing that the things that the police called the negative impacts are normally things that they just made up. And that actually really that was really powerful to me. I was like, wow, this is like it’s good to see this. It also makes sense, right? That like, I think about even with the use of force after we did the summer. They were just so many people in communities who didn’t know they didn’t know that the policy in their city was bad. They didn’t know that, you know, witht he NO Knock Campaign. And they didn’t know that the no knock rules in their community were not helpful. And they said no. And the protest is what brought awareness about the issue. So it makes sense to me that, like more people being aware might lead to changes like that is like a that is a good thing. And like the pressure of that also probably matters a lot. So so this was both an affirmation that it matters and and, you know, the same, obviously, because it was your research that helped us understand the suburban and rural communities. It’s always interesting to to think about how these results track in those communities, because as we know, so much of the activism has been in cities, especially in 2014. And what this last wave did is that it seems like the protests spread so much more than just the major cities. It’ll be interesting to see the impact of that over time.
De’Ara So, yeah, my news this week is from The Advocate, from a paper, I think I’m not sure if it’s New Orleans or Baton Rouge, but I will that I do know that you all will let me know, because that’s what you did with my statistic last week on Mississippi. So thank you to those in our audience that reached out. I said that I don’t even remember what I said. But the correct statistic is Mississippi has the highest percentage of black people per state, which is 38 percent. So go ahead and Google black people in Mississippi again, because I’m listen, I’m happy y’all did OK. So continue to do that to see what’s going on in Mississippi. This story also just been on a Deep South kick recently.
De’Ara I’ve had some great conversations and the last couple of weeks to with folks who are trying to organize around getting our folks to the vaccine drive through. So I’m just going to continue to try to amplify what I can to keep you all Googling around the South.
De’Ara But anyhow, this this particular story talks about how Hope Enterprise Corporation, which is also partly a credit union that helps folks, you know, small Black businesses get loans and resources, etc. They partnered with Goldman Sachs. Now it looks like the only partnering on the Goldman Sachs side is giving one hundred and thirty million dollars. But we’ll take it hopefully next time it’s a billion. But what they’re doing is they’re creating this collaborative where they’re tapping in to Black, HBCUs. And this article talks particularly about those those HBCUs in Louisiana that we love Xavier, Dillard, Southern. And so those HBCUs are really used for a hub for for resources to teach Black businesses about, you know, procurement, government contracts, you know, other things around, you know, scaling your business, growing your business, moving to e-commerce, et cetera. Just really helping Black businesses in particular pivot during covid and what that you know, what that’s meant to so many Black businesses. The article also talks about, you know, just that what’s happening to black businesses right now as a result of covid. And we’re seeing 22 percent of businesses nationwide have closed. But it’s far worse for minority owned businesses, 41 percent of black owned businesses and 32 percent of Latinx owned businesses have closed, and that’s compared to 17 percent of white owned companies. So we’re seeing that obviously business owners of color are suffering more due to covid, which I’m sure we all probably assumed. So I just got excited when I saw this and wanted to share because one, I thought this collaborative, which is called the Deep South Economic Mobility Collaborative, it’s going to operate in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Birmingham, Montgomery, Little Rock, Jackson and Memphis. For black communities, black businesses are so, so, so, so, so deeply important and particularly deeply important during a pandemic, I would presume. And so knowing how hard black owned businesses and therefore black owned communities have been hit by covid, I just see this as one good policy, good planning, good collaboration, good injection of resources. But I see it happening places that really, really, really need it and places that have a high concentration of black folk. So hoping to see more collaborative actions like this with HBCUs. But I just saw this and it was, you know, hopeful news. And so I thought I’d talk about it.
De’Ara You know, De’Ara, this was wild reading some of the statistics in this article around, you know, how black owned businesses have fared during the pandemic. You know, I wasn’t aware that 41 percent of black owned businesses closed in the immediate onslaught of the pandemic, 41 percent and 32 percent of Latino owned businesses closed as well, compared to 17 percent of white owned companies. And so, you know, I mean, that’s almost half of black owned businesses closing right in the immediate onslaught. That’s wild to me. And then just thinking back, you know, just to last year with those initial rounds of covid relief and the PPP program and how, you know, 95 percent, according to estimates, 95 percent of black owned businesses weren’t able to qualify for PPP loans given the structure of that program. Right. And so folks getting left out of government assistance, seeing this massive, massive, massive decline in black owned businesses which are now being closed across the country, I’m sort of, you know, reflecting on on the conversation that we’re hearing around covid relief in the current moment where so much of the conversation is focused on whether it’s we’re at two thousand dollar checks or fourteen hundred dollar checks or whether it’s going to be checks at all or, you know, whether we’re going to have 15 dollar minimum wage or not, whether we’re going to get student loan debt relief of 10000 dollars or not. And those are all critical fights that we need to be talking about. And obviously, we need all of those things. But the specific targeted relief for black people that specifically deals with the ways in which black businesses and black families have been left out of the recovery from the previous packages of the recovery and have been left out for so much longer before that. That piece of the conversation, I feel like, gets lost in sort of the national news and, you know, what you hear on the radio. So so I hope that for the Biden administration, for, you know, the Democratic Party now as they think about, you know, what comes next, now that, you know, this impeachment situation appears to be, at least for the moment, adjourned. You know, I hope that they start to focus on this, that this is an explicit part of that relief package that that is funded at the level that it needs to be and that we can specifically address these issues that are targeting disproportionately black families and businesses.
DeRay You know, Sam, I, too, was I remember these stats from the beginning of the PPP loan conversation, but didn’t realize how smart they were and Didn’t realize that the 41 percent drop in Black businesses was compared to a 17 percent drop that white businesses experienced like it was vastly disproportionate. I didn’t realize that about the bank loans.
DeRay You know, you think about how many of our businesses need loans to start, especially small businesses.
DeRay Only one percent of Black business owners see their request for a loan approved in their first year business, one percent, which is wild. And then when we think about PPP loans or SBA loans, there was a study conducted by the NCRC that showed the systemic discrimination that black people faced with PPP loans. And what they did is that they had a black and white mystery shoppers to apply for the loan from a set of banks.
DeRay And the study revealed that Black, and I quote this is from Forbes, “The study revealed that Black participants were treated worse than their white counterparts and offered different information. But the banks did not cross a line that would put them in violation of fair lending laws.” And you’re like, here we go with the legally encoded and validated racism. So I’m excited about this. One. It’s not enough money. There needs to be triple, quadruple this amount of money at the very least to make an impact. But you see it and you’re like, wow, at the Forbes article did a good job of saying, like, yes, we know the racism is there. No, it’s not illegal. And the question becomes like, why is there a chance in the administration to actually fix that now?
DeRay So my news is about Harriet Tubman. I feel like there’s been like a resurgence of Harriet Tubman news in the past couple of years, if not mostly because of a couple of things. One is at the National Museum for African-American History has like her Bible, so in a sash of hers. And then, as you know, Obama wanted to put her on the 20th. It was a twenty dollar bill. Right, on the twenty dollar bill. Yep. So the latest news is that Harriet Tubman was recently inducted into the Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame, that she is being recognized for being one of the most successful spies in American history. And they are trying to uncover this part of her legacy that has been lost.
DeRay So there is a quote from Christopher Costa, the ED of the International Spy Museum in D.C. and what he says is “what most Americans don’t know is down in South Carolina, she was part of a small scouting unit that collected intelligence behind enemy lines on the Confederacy. She was not only involved with spying and scouting, she almost operated like a special operations specialist. It is an extraordinary story.” And like that’s true, most people know her for the Underground Railroad, the process of helping to free people across this coast. But a lot of people don’t think about like what she did in that time period. So the article starts with talking about the June 1st, 1863, where she led troops from the Sea Islands up to Black waters of South Carolina’s Komaki River with a plan to destroy bridges, raid Confederate outpost and rice plantations, cutting off supplies to Confederate troops. And this is both just a reminder that like without black people, there is no this. So like we were key to all this even being a country in the first place.
DeRay The second is that it’s taken, you know, 100 years plus to recognize Harriet Tubman. And I don’t know if she necessarily wanted to be recognized by the same government that, you know, has tried its best to destroy black people. But it is important that we uncover this part of her. I will just say I feel like I know a lot about her. I didn’t know I did know that her real name was Araminta Ross. I knew that I didn’t know that her nickname was Minty.
DeRay So I learned that in this article, you know, we are always proud of her because Maryland claims her because she spent a part of her life in Maryland. There are a lot of stops on the Underground Railroad that are in in Maryland. So I feel like I grew up learning a lot about Harriet Tubman, but I just thought I’d bring it here. It was really interesting. I didn’t know the extent to which she was a spy and how important that was.
De’Ara So I was very much familiar with this part of Harriet’s brilliance. And I think that’s why, you know, I think there needs to be another movie done on Harriet Tubman actually was a lucky person to read a script of Harriet, the movie that ended up coming out.
De’Ara So brilliant performances, incredible human beings. But I think, you know, the Hollywood version of Harriet Tubman story, obviously, like many things, like had to have a love, you know, relationship in the movie, like Harriet had to, you know, be in love with somebody, blah, blah, blah.
De’Ara So I feel like in the Hollywood I’s version of Harriet Tubman life, what is left out is the fact that she is a civil war hero and a hero in so many ways to black folks in particular, but also just as an American. And so I just felt there should be the type of historical telling and storytelling of her that exists for like Abraham Lincoln, like as many stories as we hear, as many movies as they are, as many documentaries as there are. We should have the same for Harriet Tubman, because I think, to your point, would bring to life all of these many things that she did and not, you know, obviously to free black folks, but also just to really shape what this country ought to be. I love that you brought this to the pod.
De’Ara I’ve been basically as much as I can in my in my small ways trying to figure out how to tell more stories about her and more complete stories.
DeRay Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People’s coming.
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DeRay And now let’s check in with Johnetta Elzie as she gives updates on what’s happening with the nationwide protests,.
Johnetta Here everybody, it’s me, Netta, so happy to be back again with you all this week.
Johnetta Work is work. Sage is at the tail end of her heat, finally. And I get my playful, happy puppy. She’s definitely returning back to her old self and I’m so, so happy.
Johnetta I also bought her this really great calming shirt for her anxiety, a whole different dog.
Johnetta I wish I would have thought about this earlier to even Google. Hey, is there something else I can put on her? Like a like a weighted blanket is how I feel. This calming shirt works for her, so I just greatly appreciate it. If your dog is suffering with anxiety, Google that.
Johnetta So and I’m not sure of anyone else’s family likes to call and discuss the weather, but my grandparents love to watch the weather or go somewhere outside and call me immediately.
Johnetta Tell me what the weather is like. Ask me what the weather is in D.C.. No, they’re not coming to visit. They just love discussing the weather.
Johnetta So with that, because of the snowstorm in St. Louis right now, I’m keeping everyone back home in my thoughts. And so now onto the news.
Johnetta First up, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and the Pheonix Police Department are being called out repeatedly facing allegations of discriminatory arrests and political prosecutions during the uprisings last summer.
Johnetta Body camera footage from protests last summer have exposed multiple Pheonix police department officers talking about how they wish they could have gassed and stomped on a group of protesters. And then they kept complaining about having to wear body cams on the job.
Johnetta It took nearly four months for the local ABC station to obtain the body camera footage following an October protest. But better late than never, because this could make a stronger case for the group of protesters who are fighting multiple charges filed against them from that very same protest after they were arrested.
Johnetta A truly heartbreaking story coming out of Rochester, New York. A nine year old black girl in the midst of a domestic and mental health crisis was handcuffed by Rochester police and pepper sprayed in her face. Instead of treating her with patience and respect, they maced her. And it was just beyond heartbreaking to hear the girl say, “Officer, please don’t do this to me” only for the officer to respond. “You did this to yourself, hun.” And according to the president of the Rochester Police Union, the police officers did not lack compassion.
Johnetta So, of course, this is making me think of Tamir Rice and Ayana Stanley Jones and countless other black children who have been killed or demonized or dehumanized by police only for the police to gaslight them, even in their deaths or even in the midst of their trauma and blaming them for their own inhumane treatment that were really, really touched me hearing that little baby scream and plead out for her own humanity.
Johnetta WHO like I don’t know how we listen to that. And, you know, at.
Johnetta Onto the next story, do you remember when police in Charleston took the white supremacist mass shooter by the name of Dylann Roof to Burger King after he murdered nine black churchgoers?
Johnetta Well, apparently the 18 year old accused of fatally shooting two people during a police brutality protest last summer is casually out and about having beers at a bar in a pandemic instead of, you know, following the conditions of his bail. That’s right. Kyle Rittenhouse is out and about to be more specific, this is a teenager who rode from Illinois to Wisconsin to shoot people protesting the shooting death of Jacob Blake. Blake, a Black father who had three of his children in the car with him, had already been tasered when he was shot in the back multiple times by Kenosha police officers.
Johnetta A judge refused to issue a new arrest warrant and also refused to increase Kyle’s bail, even though he violated his bail conditions by not telling the judge that he had physically moved to a new permanent address. Reminder that Rittenhouse faces multiple charges, including two homicide counts.
Johnetta We don’t even have to go into what would happen if Kyle was anything but a young white man in 45’s America last summer. So this was short and sweet this week. But to be honest, my heart just cannot move away from that little black girl having to defend her own childhood against those officers. There is a point in the video where the officer tells her you’re acting like a child. And then the little girl replies, I am a child. And it just pains me to know that this baby even knew to assert herself in that way. She knew. I’m praying to help create a world that this does not happen in anymore and a world where black children get to be happy and whole and well resourced. So that’s just heavy on my heart this week. And I hope we all take this experience with us into this next week. How can we make a world where this no longer happens?
Johnetta Talk to you all next time.
DeRay Hey, you are listening to Pod Save the People don’t go anywhere.
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DeRay Dr. Daniel Laroche is a glaucoma specialist from New York who sat down with me to discuss why glaucoma impacts the black community more than any other group. Both slavery and white nationalism play into this. And Dr. Laroche has practical advice for how to combat vision issues.
DeRay Let’s go. Dr. Laroche, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.
Dr. Daniel Laroche Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
DeRay So, you know, I was excited to have you because I’ve always been interested about teeth and eyes to parts of the health conversation I feel like, you know, we don’t talk about enough. And because you specialize on glaucoma, I was like, you know, I just have a lot of questions. So, you know, I’m excited, excited for you to be here. Can you start by telling us how did you get to eyes? Like, how did you and how did you get to glaucoma as the thing that you, like, specialize it? I’m fascinated with that.
Dr. Daniel Laroche When I was in medical school, I was doing a variety of rotations during my third year, clinical internal medicine, surgery, psychiatry, and I like the surgical aspect of it. I thought about general surgery training, but some of that training was a bit brutal, a bit militaristic during that training period. And I stumbled upon ophthalmology, which is surgery of the eyes. When I did a rotation and frankly, before that, I wasn’t even aware of the specialty as much. I was very fascinated that during a specialty, when I was seeing patients, you can look inside the eye and see various disease processes like hypertension, diabetes, glaucoma. You can see how the disease affects the person by looking inside their eye. At the same time, you can go to the operating room and operate to restore vision, to take out a cataract, to restore vision, to create a new drain, to treat glaucoma and do lasers for diabetic retinopathy. And so I found a combination of treating patients in the office medically and being able to go to the operating room and doing surgery was fascinating. I fell in love with the profession. And I never looked back. Now, why did I go into glaucoma? When I went into my ophthalmology residency at Howard University in Washington, DC, I saw that a leading cause of blindness at Howard University, particularly in the black community with glaucoma. And I saw so many people going blind from glaucoma, being afflicted with this within our communities that I wanted to make a difference and I wanted to specialize in this and see if I could, you know, do something to help address this, how to prevent blindness and try to really make a difference in this particular specialty, because that affects our community so much. Glaucoma affects the African-American community in terms of rates of blindness, about seven to 15 times higher, depending on where you are on the planet. That led to my interest in specializing in glaucoma.
DeRay Let’s sort of zoom out for a second, can you explain to people, what is glaucoma and how glaucoma is not the same thing as cataracts, right? I think they are two different things, but since you’re here, I might as well just ask.
Dr. Daniel Laroche Yes. A cataract is when the lens in the eye becomes pacified and blocks of vision that usually occurs as part of aging and usually starts around age 50. When your hair becomes gray, the lens in the eye becomes yellow. So the natural part of the aging process occurs. And so when it becomes a very cloudy, we can do surgery to remove the lens place and intraocular lens in your eye to restore vision. So that’s a reversible cause of blindness. Cataract surgery is one of the most successful surgeries that we do the United States. We do a hospital and outpatient basis. We go into the hospital for a couple hours, a procedure take about 15 minutes and you go home. Now, glaucoma, that’s a leading cause of irreversible blindness that can lead to permanent damage inside the eye. Now, when you touch your eyeball, you have a normal eye pressure, usually around 15. That’s normal pressure. But with glaucoma, the eye pressure goes up to about 18, 19, 20. And when that pressure goes up, damage starts to occur to the nerve that connects the eye to the brain. OK, that’s called the optic nerve. And when that nerve gets damaged, you can have permanent loss of vision. Unfortunately, you don’t feel that. So you have to get checked, get your eyes checked for glaucoma because you don’t feel that slow elevation of pressure in the eye. And nowadays we recommend everyone gets checked, particularly when you’re over the age of 40 or 50 years of age to get your eye pressure checked, get your lens should get your vision checked so we can check to see if there’s any damage to the optic nerve. Check the retina to make sure the retina is OK as well. What causes the glaucoma? Well, the lens I was telling you about and some people the lens gets too large for the eye. The lens grows with age by about 20 to 30 percent. And the people with glaucoma, the lens goes a little bit more towards a 30 percent side. And that starts to narrow the drainage angle, rub up against the iris and cause pigment liberacion that blocks the drain and cause elevation of eye pressure. In the past, I used to treat that with eye drops to lower the pressure for early laser treatment to lower the pressure. But we’ve noticed over the years studies have come out that despite drops and laser, people still tend to get worse with glaucoma. And so to really try and stop the vision loss that occurs, we have to take this large lens out by doing early cataract surgery and a small micro surgical procedure culture trabecular bypass to restore the outflow to the drain. By doing that earlier, we can bend the course of blindness in patients and actually improve vision, because once we take the cloudy lens out, we put a nice new clear implant in and sometimes a multifocal implant so people can read without glasses and see without glasses. And that’s making a huge difference to really bending the curve of blindness and glaucoma.
DeRay Why are the racial disparities present with regard to glaucoma? Is it that because you said you can’t feel it so like if you don’t go to the doctor, you won’t even know this is really happening to you until it’s too late? Is it because black people get their eyes checked out like later or less frequently, or is it like where black people live? Is it diet? I don’t know. Like, what’s why do we know why the racial disparities are present?
Dr. Daniel Laroche You know, that was a question that really also stimulated me to go into glaucoma. Like, why is our community having such high rates of blindness from this and having, you know, practiced this over the last 25 years in New York City, having traveled to the Caribbean, having traveled to many countries in Africa and examining patients and trying to better understand this. The main reason that I find that blacks have higher rates of blindness and glaucoma for like two major reasons. One, and all these places that I’ve spoken to about the United States, the Caribbean, Africa, you know, blacks have been victimized by slavery and Jim Crow, colonialism and segregation, you know, for decades and decades. You know, Caucasians have been able to go to medical school, OK? And blacks were not allowed to go to medical school. Only recently, blacks have been able to go into medical school. So, for example, in the United States to 40 million blacks in the United States. But there’s only 400 black eye specialists like myself to about twenty six thousand other eye specialists. And they practice mostly in white areas. And all the black communities you go to across the United States, there’s very few black eye doctors and the communities to provide access to care and education to the community about glaucoma. And this doesn’t just apply to my specialty, but this applies to all other medical specialties. And that’s why you see higher death rates of two to four times from covid-19 in large part to a lack of access to health care. And due to the high prevalence of comorbidities, due to the lack of access to health care providers, we have to train a lot more black doctors to take care of the patients in the communities. And that’s just not the United States, but also in the Caribbean, where like in Haiti, for example, with a population of nine million, there’s only 50 ophthalmologists and only about 50 of them actually operate.
Dr. Daniel Laroche Yeah, and Africa and Ghana, the ratio of ophthalmologists to the population is about almost 110 million. So there’s a huge shortage of doctors.
Dr. Daniel Laroche I mean, this whole concept of white supremacy and colonization and all that stuff has really set us back by a long time. It’s quite ironic because the first physician was an African named Imhotep from about 3000 B.C. and cataract surgery was initially developed in the Nile Valley by Africans with a technique called couching that still performed today in remote areas in Africa, where they take a compass needle and inserted inside the eye and dislodge the lens into the vitreous cavity to restore vision. This technique is an old technique that has a lot more complications in a new techniques that we have today. But still, that was something that they had back then back in like 2500 B.C. So we have to train a lot more Black doctors. We have to educate the community a lot more as well. That’s the main reason. And then also the other reason is that we don’t do early enough surgery. The standard of care is using eye drops and laser. And we know over time these eye drops are very expensive. They can be anywhere from 30 to 50 dollars per bottle for one eye drop and some patients, maybe three or four eye drops because of the economic difficulties in the community. The average net worth of a white family is about one hundred seventy one thousand dollars. Average network of a black family, about seventeen thousand dollars. Now, when people are trying to pay for food, housing, and then all of a sudden you need expensive eye drops, a lot of people in our community can’t afford some of these drugs and then they have a hard time putting it in their eyes. And we know compliance is poor When you taking two or three eye drops and we’re not doing surgery early enough, we need to do earlier cataract surgery, earlier trabecular bypass surgery to help preserve vision. And so that’s one of the things that I try to do. And I teach my residents and student doctors to try to become an excellent surgeon, to get excellent surgical outcomes, because with the newer, safer cataract surgery techniques that we have and trabecular bypass techniques, the complications are far fewer than they were 25, 30 years ago. We can actually improve vision, lower the pressure, and we do the surgery early enough we can get 80 percent of people off of eyedrops and really bend the curve of blindness.
DeRay Have you seen anything about eye health with covid like, ah, you know, I have to imagine people are probably visiting the doctors even less now, is there? I don’t know. Is there any covid impact on our health?
DeRay Yeah, there’s a tremendous amount of impact on our health. When we had to shut down in New York, eye doctors had to sit down to we could just do virtual visits because we were very close proximity with patients. And so there’s a higher risk of transmission. So many patients were delaying their care to the eye doctor and because of that delayed care sometimes of some people progressed with their glaucoma if they couldn’t get access to medications of the glaucoma got out of hand. The good thing is that now that we’re back open, we have all kinds of covid-19 protocols with plexiglass masking handwashing and hygiene and cleaning, social distancing and spacing. So the risk of transmission is very low in the office now, extremely low. So people should go out to the doctor’s and get their eye exams and their routine examinations to make sure that they’re not losing vision and to keep on top of their eyes. And now we have the vaccine that’s outside do encourage everyone in the community to get the vaccine. I got my shot, my first one. I’m doing my second one tomorrow. And so I do encourage people to make arrangements to get that because blacks are being affected at two to four times higher rates than whites would covid-19. But whites are getting vaccinated at about two to four times higher than the rates of blacks. And we want to, you know, bridge that gap because we are at high risk, because we tend to be on the first line in front lines, essential workers. And also we have a higher rate of comorbidities. So that contributes to higher death rate.
DeRay We should get our eyes checked twice a year?
Dr. Daniel Laroche Once a year.
DeRay Once a year.
Dr. Daniel Laroche Yeah, once a year is fine. And when you get close to age forty one, you may start to need reading glasses or computer glasses because presbyopia develops with the lens a focus as well too. You want to get your eye pressure checked to make sure I push OK, which would mean normal’s about 15. You want to get your visual acuity checked to see if you need any glasses. Get your optic nerve, check the retina check to make sure you have no retinopathy. We have a high rate of obesity in the community and hypertension, and sometimes that can lead to retinopathy, hypertensive retinopathy, diabetic retinopathy that can lead to loss of vision. You want to get checked for that? The best medicine is healthy food, lots of salads, lots of vegetables, baked chicken, big fish that will keep you healthy. Try to stay away from too much rice, too much bread, try to exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day, walking, running to stay healthy, to avoid diabetes or avoid obesity, avoid high blood pressure, those will all protect your eyes as well. And but getting I checked once a year after they pick something up like glaucoma or cataracts or diabetic retinopathy or something like that, then you may need to see eye doctor more often. It could be six months or four months or three months, depending on what’s going on.
DeRay Got it now. But a magic wand. What would you fix about eye care, health in the United States? Would it be insurance that you fix? You already talked about that We would equitably distribute our doctors and eye care practices much more. What, like what’s the fix? What should we do better as a country that we haven’t done?
Dr. Daniel Laroche Well, I’ve got a list of things. First, we have to have a universal health care system so everybody has access to health care. Right now, we don’t have a universal health care system. We have many people that are uninsured and don’t get access to health care. So we have to have a universal health care system. Two, We have to eliminate structural race based practition capitalism and structural poverty. And that affects many different things that can housing, education, criminal justice, health care, workforce. This leads to adverse outcomes. We also have to address the wealth gap. Like I mentioned before, the average net worth of a white family is about one hundred seventy one thousand, compared to 70000 a Black family. And that gap is a big reason for lack of access to health care and affordability of health care. Some of the steps we can do to take that they’re working on this now is increasing the minimum wage to about fifteen dollars an hour. That helps to provide a living income and stipend to poor people. For those people that are unemployed, perhaps they can get a minimum type of stipend of seven dollars an hour so they can have access to food to reduce malnutrition and poor health outcomes from that. Right now, as you can see politically, one of the biggest issues in America is domestic white terrorism also. So this domestic terrorism causes us stress to all Americans. We’ve been experiencing domestic terrorism for decades. But now that the domestic white terms are going to the capital, it’s making news every day. So that causes a lot of stress, which can lead to blood pressure, diabetes, retinopathy, strokes in the eye and things of that nature. The government spends billions of dollars on research. All these medical schools and medical institutions and educational institutions get billions of dollars in research. OK, but that’s not tied to diversity, OK? That’s not tied to the amount of Black research that’s out there or Black people getting mentored to become future researchers. And we have to relook at that and tie that to diversity because we have 40 million black Americans here who are also taxpayers that pay into this and they don’t receive their fair share of research, funding, research, training and research development. And the same thing with the medical corporations all the medical corporations or corporations on Wall Street making billions of dollars on drugs, medical devices, things that Americans use all the time. But there’s a complete lack of diversity at the executive level and each of the levels coming down. And we have to make sure that corporate America takes a look at themselves and their leadership to make sure that diverse and reflect the fabric of America. We have to work to increase the number of black and Latino physicians. Right now, we make up about 13 percent of the population. We would only make up about four percent of physicians. And my specialty of ophthamology, we only make up about one percent of opthamology as well. These are some of the things that I think we need to do to help bridge the gap.
Dr. Daniel Laroche Overall, if I had a magic wand.
DeRay And are there any other I related things that we should talk about that we don’t that like we are not even considering, is it like. I don’t know. I’m sure I haven’t I know nothing about eye care besides my own. I used to wear contacts for a long time and glasses. I got Lasik a couple of years ago. I don’t know. What else should we be talking about then. I don’t know. We don’t know.
Dr. Daniel Laroche Well, right now we’re in a covid-19 environment. So many people or at home on their computers. Those people are spending a lot of time with the computers, you want to make sure you get an eye exam so you have the appropriate spectacle correction that you can see. OK, see the computer clearly. When you are seeing the computer, you want to do the twenty, twenty, twenty rul.? After you look at the computer for twenty minutes, take a twenty second break and look at something twenty feet away to give your eyes a rest to reduce the strain on your eye. That’s one two, at night you don’t want to spend too much time on a computer or phone because the light from the computer your phone can disturb your sleep cycle and the melatonin sleep cycle in your body and the hormonal sleep in your body that occurs because you know your body when it’s dark in a room, your body wants to go to sleep and shut down. But when you’re looking at your computer, it starts to think it’s daytime and that can change the rhythm, the dial rhythm of the night. Most of the diseases take place usually occur along the elderly range, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy in that respect. So getting an eye exam is very important to check for those things. Macular degeneration, also the elderly, so the most important thing is despite the fact there’s covid-19, you know, take the proper precautions, keep your appointment with the doctor, wear your mask do social distancing. Most medical offices are covid-19 safe. And then if you can’t get out, you could do telehealth as well. Most doctors do telehealth appointments over the phone and or by computer. So you can do that as well and take care of yourself. Those are some of the tips and pros for you.
DeRay Where can people go to stay in touch with you and stay up to date with what you’re doing?
Dr. Daniel Laroche On my website, www.advancedeyecareny.com. I Have some materials and get in touch with me. Educational videos. Also on my YouTube page, Daniel Laroche media educational videos on glaucoma and surgery as well. Our office number in New York is 718-217-0424. We do do telehealth consults also. The Manhattan office, 212-663-0473. And I do encourage people to make sure to take care of the health and systemic body health as well.
DeRay Well, we consider you a friend of the pod and can’t wait to have you back. So thanks so much.
Dr. Daniel Laroche Thank you, thank you very much for having me. And I just want to say I appreciate all the work that you do with the protests and educating people and education as well. So, you know, keep up the good work that you’re doing.
DeRay Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure that you rate it wherever you get your podcast with this Apple podcast or somewhere else. And we’ll see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by Brock Wilbur and mixed by Bill Lancz, executive producer Jessica Cordova Kramer and myself, special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Sam Sinyangwe and our special contributor Johnetta Elzie.