The Grey Lady, our nation’s journal of record, is so much like the best of our great nation itself. The evil institutions that undergird the well-to-do status quo are seldom addressed in any depth in the pages of the Times, it seems to me. The Times has a reputation for even-handedness, which is well deserved, especially if you are an educated, relatively prosperous citizen. It portrays the world through a distinct point of view, the point of view of the upper middle class professional. The articles and editorials are written at the reading level of a high school graduate, a much higher reading level than most of our public discussion is held at. Exposition in The Times is refined. The editorial standards are high, rarely will you read a speck of bad prose in the NY Times.
I don’t want to write much more about why I dislike this fine publication. My father loved the NY Times, a paper he read cover to cover daily. I know he took certain things with a grain of salt, read other publications to cover the gaps left by Times coverage, but he basically trusted the Times to give him his news. I may just be a fucking malcontent, a professional underachiever, a person who cannot accept much of what has long been institutionalized here. But tell me if I’m crazy after you read this randomly selected article. In fairness, remember that it’s a report on findings from a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control, so there’s also that.
The article purports to give the good news that the recent CDC study shows blacks are now living, on average, only three and a half years less than whites. Black life expectancy is going up, in part, because blacks who (against the odds) live to be 65 (“weathered” blacks, according to the CDC) have a longer life expectancy than whites of the same age.
Why have blacks been dying so much younger than whites for all these years? Poverty and an unhealthy lifestyle, junk food and cigarettes, as well as an off the charts homicide rate, are killing many blacks in America. The article notes the homicide rate among blacks is nine times (900%) the homicide rate for whites in the 18-34 demographic, then it goes down to only five times (500%) higher for blacks 35 and older. The recommendation, more healthy food and more consciousness about the grievous harms of smoking. Hard to argue those are not good ideas, yet the story remains incomplete.
Reading the short article reminded me of searching my pocket copy of the Constitution for the legal foundations of American slavery, skillfully and marginally inserted between other clauses in the blueprint for our democracy. At one point I searched the index for “African” “slave” “black” “involuntary servitude” and every other term I could think of. Nada. “The importation of such persons as the States shall see fit to admit”  was one of three or four subtle yet irrefutable pillars of a century of violent, perfectly legal, race-based slavery at law.
Could the stress of being born into a despised, formerly enslaved minority whose people emerged from slavery with nothing but sometimes well-intended promises similar to the ones America gave the Native Americans have anything to do with the alarmingly high death rates for younger blacks? Not if you read the Times, reporting objectively on the CDC study. The Times article makes no mention of factors like widespread racism or the unbearable stress of being born into generations of hopeless poverty and the violence often attendant thereto. Living longer is a matter of eating more green vegetables and making smarter health choices, says the Grey Skank sensibly.
Here are the factors the NY Times sets out in its Health Section piece, citing the CDC:
Black Americans as a group have lower levels of education and homeownership as well as higher rates of poverty and unemployment, all factors linked to poorer health.
Individual behaviors like smoking are more common among younger blacks, compared with whites, and they contribute to higher death rates in younger age groups.