H1N1 and Racism

H1N1, also known as the “swine flu,” is becoming the latest front in the battleground of racial politics (h/t to reader Residente Visitante).   There are two distinct angles to this story.

In the first, there is the disproportionate impact this epidemic is having on people of color in the U.S.   A recent NYDaily News story notes that city and federal health officials have been virtually silent about the outsize impact the pandemic appears to be having on blacks and Hispanics.  Although the Centers for Disease Control report made a passing mention in their analysis which revealed that of the first H1N1-related deaths among U.S. children, 33% (12 of 36) were among Hispanics. All told, half of the H1N1 children’s deaths between April and August were among African-Americans and Hispanics.

Perhaps quite predictably for those who are familiar with the illogic of white-framed thinking, this fact about racial disparities in health gets quickly, easily and widely misunderstood by those wishing to promote racism. Thus, enter the talking heads of the right-wing for the second angle.

Talk radio hosts Michael Savage and Neal Boortz, radio and Fox TV personality Glenn Beck, and columnist Michelle Malkin are spreading lies about the H1N1 virus through their various public media outlets, as Bonnie Fuller (admittedly, an unlikely source) points out in a recent piece at the Huffington Post. Here are just a few of the examples Fuller cites:

“Illegal aliens are bringing in a deadly new flue strain. Make no mistake about it,” blares Michael Savage.

“I’ve blogged for years about the spread of contagious diseases from around the world into the US as a result of uncontrolled immigration,” writes Michelle Malkin.

“What happens if there’s a rash of deaths in Mexico… and if you’re a family in Mexico and people are dying and Americans are not, why wouldn’t you flood this border?” announces Glenn Beck.

What these kinds of comments reveal, in addition to rank racism, is a complete lack of understanding about racial disparities in health.  The facts are these:  H1N1 is not being spread by immigrants to native-born U.S. citizens.  Early in the epidemic, some U.S. college students traveled to Mexico, got sick, and came back to the U.S. and they spread the disease.   Why aren’t Savage, Malkin and Beck blaming college students for the spread of this disease?     Furthermore, the fact that Blacks and Latinos are dying at higher rates than whites from H1N1 is a consequence of institutionalized racism, not the cause of the epidemic.   Once again, hate-mongers with network contracts rather than robes and hoods, find a way to inject racism into the national discourse.


  1. In addition to right-wingers taking the second angle, sometimes left-wingers take the second angle as well and infer that such news releases about racial minorities being more susceptible to certain diseases are promoting a right-wing political agenda.

    It seems like the general public (people who do not regularly follow social science and health research news) simply are not aware that racial disparities in health are accepted by most scientists as due to social conditions. The general public is less scientifically literate than you may assume, as many seem to assume that all science research on people is about biology and innate predispositions.

  2. Captainchaos

    Would any of you actually be willing to live in the Congo or Mexico, or even inner-city Detroit or Los Angeles for that matter; to have your children live there? Of course you wouldn’t. You only wish to force that upon the rest of us. Nor would you expect Tibetans to endure the theft of their homeland, as you do us. The common denominator of it all is your anti-White genocidalism. Lazar Kaganovitch, the Jew who oversaw the liquidation of six million Ukrainians, would be proud.

  3. Lurker

    It seems like the general public (people who do not regularly follow social science and health research news) simply are not aware that racial disparities in health are accepted by most scientists as due to social conditions.

    I’m sure you desparately want that to be true but perhaps you could point to some research that backs that up?

    What role do social conditions play in making skin cancer more likely amongst whites than blacks? And what pray are the social factors at work in the case of sickle cell? I suppose its also social conditions that make it difficult for white women to give birth high up in the Andes but allow indigenous women to do so.

  4. Lurker

    A reasonable person would concede that sometimes health disparities could have environmental (those nebulous “social conditions”) causes. And sometimes these disparities could be genetic in origin. Of course often its going to be a mixture of both.

    But your strict racial egalitarianism doesnt allow for that. No, its all or nothing, everything is environmental. You cant really concede even my three examples earlier. To concede one exception is to open the way for more and we cant have that. Who knows we might start talking about IQ and then where would we be?!!

  5. ellen says

    @ Captain Chaos:
    > I personally do not abide Haters of Any Race. I am also decidedly not a white genocidalist..cause for one reason..I’m white and so are my grandchildren!
    > Historically, Man’s inhumanity to Man Cuts Across all Class Lines and Across All Races. Relevant question: Who do You Hate Captain? Obviously Jews for one…well you aren’t alone at Occidental.
    >On Occidental Dissent, I see Many Hate Filled Comments about Every Race Except Whites. Why is that? Some commentators want to start ‘a new country’ that excludes all races except anglo-saxon whites. Would this include Himmler? How naive you are to believe Only Whites are Not Culpable of evil. All races have commited atrocities. Please Take a Course in World History and then come back here and talk like an educated man!
    >Today there are 27 million people living in Slavery across the globe. Absolute slavery..and all races are responsible. So why do you propose the Ludicrous argument that White Men get a stamp of Approval from the UN and all other races are culpable. Your lack of global knowledge is So Sad.
    >This site is dedicated to stopping the castigation of racism in all forms. In America {which is where we live..Duh!} it’s been the black man who has actually taken the brunt of racism evidenced by whites. >Trying to alleviate this condition hardly constitutes white genocide. You and your silly buddies at Occidental are the ones who Advocate Genocide of All Races except whites. Plus, what about the comments over there regarding Catholics, Slavs, Native Americans, Latinos, Episcopalians!? You guys are Too Funny.
    >Nobody yet has answered my question about Exactly who gets to ride the Conestoga wagon trains to the Promised Land. Could you explain this please? Would I get to go..cause I’m Catholic?
    >Any one ever tell you that you sound like a religious fanatic like thatWhite Jim Jones guy in Jonestown, Guyana? He finally forced {with the help of his cabinet at gun point} 800 people to commit suicide. What about the crimes of the White Fanatics in Waco, Texas. What about the White Mormon enclave in Texas where under-age White girls {some as young as 13} were forced to marry White men in their 50’s and 60’s? The government went in there are and totally cleaned house.
    >Alot of crime and enslaving of Whites {especially underage whites} by Whites has been the result of religious/sociological fanatics like you Captain. Please stop pretending you’re Moses and take a course in World History and Economics. Thanks.

    >One study says that there are 27 million people (but others say there could be as many as 200 million) in slavery today, everywhere.[3]


  6. ellen says

    A few choice History Observations for Captain Chaos:
    >Stalin {a white man!} had millions of Russians murdered for opposing his policies.
    >Henry VIII had thousands of Catholics murdered for not embracing the Church of England new religion he began because the Pope wouldn’t allow him to obtain a divorce from his then wife to marry Ann Bolyn.
    >The Vikings {they’re about as Nordic as you can get! } were absolutely ruthless conquerers of White Men and would sometimes practice cannibalism of their victims in an especially Cold {br-r-r-r-!} winter.
    >I got tons more stuff of White on White atrocities.Lemme know if you wanna hear more. Like I said: All races are capable of man’s inhumanity to man. You better need a Strong Military Police Force if you white supremacists try to start a Colony in Montana cause {I’ll give it 2 weeks} by the time you guys say Jack-in-the-Box, you’ll be at each other’s throats! Yeah, good luck though!

  7. Dear Racism Review,

    I am an avid reader of your blog, which I find highly informative and often post links of your articles on Facebook, in the hope of drawing attention to developments and incidents of racism in the US. Education after all, can be an effective weapon against ignorance and bigotry.

    I am based in the UK and thought you might be interested in a commentary I posted on my website today so that you can observe and judge for yourself how racism may operate on different levels in the UK and US, but still remains pervasive.

    The URL to the article is: http://www.peoplewithvoices.com/articles%2Fwhy-bbc-strictly-wrong-over-come-dancing-race-row

  8. Jenni M.

    @ Lurker – I’m not sure if I should lump you in with the white nationalists who’ve been posting on the site as of late, but perhaps you are actually interested in engaging in a dialogue on this matter that is based on actual evidence – I don’t know – but I’m writing lest any of the good readers on this site actually think you or these folks have put a nail (or even a tack, a staple or a piece of scotch tape) in/on the coffin of race being a fundamentally biological matter.

    You reasonably note that health disparities are most likely the result of both environmental (or social) and genetic factors, but offer three examples which suggest that, of the two, you think genetics (and thus “race”) is the more important in influencing outcomes. It would appear you believe these examples are incontrovertible proof of this point. Obviously, since you later introduce the construct of IQ, we should all understand that this argument re: health disparities and genetics (and “race”) is really a proxy for a larger conversation re: all racial disparities and genetics (and “race”). We, good readers, should understand these biologically deterministic arguments as an attempt to defend the idea that race is a biological matter – that disease and IQ and I’m sure a slew and that since it is so, disparities are somehow the result of the natural, biological order of the universe.

    OK – that said, the primary error of logic here is the conflation of “genetics” and “race” – as if the groupings we think of as “races” – white, black, Asian, etc. – somehow map perfectly onto easily distinguished genetic profiles. What *actually* maps genetically is geographic region. So, sickle cell anemia, though often thought of as a “black disease” is actually related to people who carry sickle cell trait. And sickle cell trait is more prevalent in people with a historical ancestry connected to malarial regions of the world – this includes, for example, the Mediterranean Basin (as well as Arabia, South Asia and, of course certain – though not all – parts of Africa). In Greece, for example, up to 30% of the population carries the sickle cell trait. In the course of human history, sickle cell was a genetic adaptation for people living in malarial regions because it makes people less likely to develop malaria, and for those who do, less likely to develop dangerous complications or die from the disease.

    We could do the same tracings with the other two examples re: skin cancer and reproduction in high altitudes. We assume we can easily see race, and the distinctiveness of one race from another, but take even skin color – what we think of as the sine qua non of race – as a geneticist well-remarks in one of the best documentaries on the topic, “Race: the Power of an Illusion,” if you were to start in Norway and walk south down into Africa you would see a gradual change in skin color and there would be no place where you could say, “OK – HERE’S the place where we transition from the white race to the black race.” Skin color (which is determined by only six or seven genes), is also connected to geographic region – so while I don’t have the statistics I would imagine that South Asian Americans (e.g., from India, Pakistan), like black Americans, probably have lower rates of skin cancer than whites. Lurker is right this is a genetic difference – he is wrong in suggesting this is proof of “racial” difference – it is a geographic adaptation rooted in our ancient ancestry.

    We are among the most genetically similar of all species – more genetically similar to one another (irregardless of race) than even fruit flies, who have 10 times the genetic difference of humans comparing one to another (anyone ever tried telling fruit flies apart?). There is no genetic marker that is found in everyone of a certain race (e.g., in all white people) and nobody of another race (e.g., no Asian people) – again, even skin color fails this test. The genetic differences that we think of as racial (skin color, hair texture, eye shape, etc.) – are coded in our DNA, but (1) do not “map” onto distinct racial groupings; (2) are more appropriately described as related to ancestral geographic region; (3) make up a relatively small number of genes in our total genome. And MOST IMPORTANTLY, to the extent that complex traits (e.g., what we think of as “intelligence”) are influenced by genes if at all, most geneticists agree that (1) the interplay of genes in these matters is complex and would have involved genes that adapted exceedingly early in course of human history, much earlier than relatively more recent adaptations connected to geography like those I mentioned above; (2) thus, complex traits are not genetically concordant (connected) with the genetic traits we think of as racial; and, (3) the interplay of the environment – or social factors – with our genome is exceedingly important in the development of such complex traits.

  9. MOM

    If H1N1 is hitting harder on different ethics groups; then other ethnic groups need to be informed, regarding, universal percussion. Very simple, wash your hands, cough in your arm rather then you hand, don’t share drinks with your friends. Schools throughout the country need to have hand sanitizers in every classroom, so when the children come into that room they could sanitizes their hands, first thing. If a child is sick their parents needs to take their child to either the doctor, or emergency room, if they do not have insurance. Very simple rules to follow, and must be followed or communicated throughout the country. My grand-daughter was just diagnosed with H1N1, and her Mother took her to the Doctor’s as soon as she was feeling sick with flu like symptoms. The problem is that most people ignore simple rules, and complain? We’ve had several schools shut down in the northeast and cleaned because of REPORTED cases of swine flu. There have been several people that died from this flu including school administration. The first to be inoculated will be children, high risk patients, and medical professionals. Some doctors who have been inoculated still where masks when treating people that have the swine flu. Nothing to play with.

  10. Captainchaos

    “…ethnic groups need to be informed [of H1N1], regarding, universal percussion.”

    I wonder what the implications of globalism are in the spread of these kinds of things? Hmmm.

  11. MOM@Captainchaos

    Hi Captain, I feel that it’s very important to inform the US general public about some ways in preventing the spread of H1N1. I also would ask every Teacher to wipe down their students desks and seats of with bleach towlets at the end of the day.. Also, children should not drink out of water fountains. As far as globalism?? I don’t understand your question, but the US needs to protect their children/own first.

  12. Captainchaos

    It is my contention that the interconnectivity of the contemporary global economy, which facilitates the transfer of biodiversity from one more or less contained ecosystem to another, makes for a raised level of virulence globally. Organisms which have co-evolved with a pathogen in one ecosystem will most likely have evolved at least a more effective resistance to the latter than organisms in another ecosystem which have not co-evolved with said pathogen – and novel exposure to such a pathogen could prove most disagreeable to organisms which have not co-evolved with it. To count on medical technology to stay in front of these things is to court disaster, a change of course is called for.

  13. MOM@Captian

    And your point? If the contemporary global economy transfers of biodiversity, regarding, contained ecosystems makes a raised level of virulence globally, then organisms will always and have and will mutate into other forms’ that’s just common sense. However, if nothing is done to try to control the spread of virulent transfers then everybody will be exposed, and die. However, when virulent transfers, or rather people are exposed to these virulent transfers, and the virus’s mutates, which is always the case, then technology will have to catch up, and which is usually the case. However, if nobody is exposed, which is rare, then there would not be a chance for immunity. So, although I agree with what your are saying, your are not saying anything to stop or contain the transfers.. So, again what’s the point other then the fact the you may or may not have a Master’s or Ph.D in Biology? What I’ve been proposing is Universal Precautions, which everybody should be practicing anyway without any virulent transfers.

  14. Kimsue

    According to many reports H1N1 is affecting minority and poor communities more that it seems to be affecting others. I could argue that H1N1 is a very bias virus that for some reason is attacking the healthy African-Americans and Hispanics population. But who would believe that?
    What is quiet evident is the fact that information about H1N1, as well as access to affordable health care to treat exposure to, is limited among these particular groups, thus a virus that spreads as easily as Tuberculosis is quickly killing a population. One of the contributing factors include the fact that many individuals being infected with H1N1, especially in New York City is because this city is suffering from over crowdedness. We have read about it in the days when Tuberculosis was rampant, but because of the economic situation and the loss of jobs, a two bed-room house that was for a family of four is now for a family of six or more, just to make ends meet. An air bourn virus such as H1N1 takes limited effort to spread especially when we are a city that depends of mass transit and caters to word travelers.
    Am I to believe that H1N1 is not affecting affluent communities? There is a great possibility that it may not be affecting them as much as it is affecting others and are the numbers accurate in reporting. Is there a difference in a private physician on the Upper-East Side of Manhattan treating and reporting a case of H1N1 compared to a physician working at Kings County Hospital Emergency Room?
    H1N1 and racism is about to be more clearly as preventing H1N1 with a new vaccine is targeting populations at risk namely African-American and Hispanics. The effects of this drug will be seen as many New Yorkers at this point do not have a choice of whether to get immunized or not.

  15. Captainchaos

    Serious medical researchers cannot and do not ignore human bio-diversity as it applies to epidemiology. Put another way, there is no epidemiology worthy of the name without consideration of human bio-diversity – this includes mental traits and cultural variation as well.

  16. Mom

    There was talk in class yesterday about forcing everybody to carry health care on themselves across the country or be fined. And, of course, when I looked around the classroom everybody sat in their appropriate seats (all by ethnic class). I sat in the back because of the fact, I just had to do CE credits, and kept asking the girl next to me what time it was every 15 minutes. LOL However, the Teacher brought up the topic about everybody carrying health care on themselves, and of course, I became involved in the that discussion, as well, as some of the other students. And, my Teacher stated, that most people spend their money on things that don’t matter, and they need to spend their money on health care. When I asked how do you expect people to buy health insurance when they can’t even afford food for their children; she stated that those people spend their money foolishly, as well.. As I was asking the question some of the other students were agreeing with me, surprise! However, we got shot down because after all she was the Teacher, and she even got pissed off at me for bringing the topic up in the first place, as well as some other topics that was a spin off, but that’s to long of a story. LOL I don’t understand why Teacher’s always get mad about my questions? I just wanted to learn…Anyway, I fell back into a dream land stupor, and the other students bitterly fell asleep. I am truly getting to see the “white frame” at work, at it’s finest. Oh, the Teacher also stated that Doctor’s should just go to work without being paid because that’s what’s going to happen if the health care reform goes through. Well, my last Doctor’s visit was about 15 minutes, and they charged me $195 dollars. (Humm I’m in the wrong business). As mentioned before, the last people that would want to see any change with the Health Care Reform would be the AMA ,or the Ins. Industry. After that discussion, I focused real hard on that Teacher and to no surprise, she didn’t understand the exact workings of what goes on in lower social economic environment because of the fact she stated that she loves her $1,000 dollars purses..I think there were some hypercritical statements being made by this Teacher. JEEEZZZ!!!!

  17. siss

    This discussion makes me so frustrated! Rather than discussing h1n1 and it’s implications….what we should be doing is working to get unviersal health coverage for every single American.

    I know that it’s off topic but why can’t our country see that!!!!!

    *steps off soap box*

  18. Captainchaos

    The idea that all the people of the world, all six and a half billion of them, can eventually be brought up to a first world standard of living, is absurd, even more so with the global population projected to reach nine billion by 2050 (although projected to undergo a gentle decline thereafter), from the perspective of carrying capacity alone. America can be considered considered a window into what is to come, with its population projected to reach 450 million by 2050, it is not arguable that will not entail a decrease is the quality of life. Those that complain about the recent decline in our standard of living must realize it is not a temporary drop in the curve, but a trend that will proceed relatively inexorably – and should be somewhat humbled by the fact that those in the Third World have it much worse as a matter of course. After all, is it not our principles that teach us a leveling is just, only it will not be a rising tide, but an ebbing one.

  19. JT

    Oh the irony… Racists pointing out other people’s supposed “RAAAAAAAACISM”.

    Screaming RAAAAAAAACIST got you Barky but it can’t make him an honest man. He’s still a liar and so are you.

    Point is, in your perpetual victimhood, you would cease to exist if you did not find racism in everyone, except yourselves of course. So much so that you manufacture “RAAAAAAACISM” where it doesn’t even exist because you are the racist.

    The existance of this blog dimishes the word. Exploiting everything and turning it into RAAAAAAAAAAAACISM becasue you are racist is as obvious as the nose on your face.

    Racism is an illness, instead of spreading your racism, you should seek counsel for deep therapy. It’s sad to see a suffering racist in this much pain because they are so racist.

  20. ellen says

    @ JT:

    > Oh the irony… White Teachers {I’m one of those} and White Serious Students pointing out RAAAAAAACISM!
    >Screaming RAAAAAACISM during the Civil Rights Movement got us {please explain the very intellectual term Barky} the fact that:

    >1.”Coloreds” can now drink from the same drinking fountains as whites {Hope this Doesn’t Scare Ya Bud!} 2. “Coloreds” can now use the same restroom facilities 3. Blacks cannot be legally turned away from a job based on their race alone

    >4. Blacks can dine at the same restaurants as whites 5. Black children can attend the same schools as whites 6.SOMETIMES qualified blacks can live in the same neigborhood as whites {But We’re Still Working On This One cause Realtors Don’t Show Blacks Neighborhoods Where They’re Not Welcome}
    cuz of RAAAAAAACISM.
    >7. Many companies hire a few token blacks but deliberately refuse to hire any more Perfectly Qualified blacks because of RAAAAAAAAACISM. 8.Many white suburban country clubs refuse to accept black members cause of RAAAAAACISM”.
    >9. Many whites make ridiculous misinformed silly statements about minority groups such as “Blacks don’t value education” or “Blacks like living in all-black neighborhoods cause that’s where they feel comfortable” or “Blacks like basketball but not soccer” or “Black women would rather be with white men and black men would rather be with white women” or “Blacks have terrible tempers so be careful of making a black person angry..you could get killed” or “Never turn your back on a black person..they might steal from you..they’re all Genetically Dishonest…..Because of RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACISM.

    > But you do have a point. Let’s all continue to hate each other based on specious arguments of ignorant people and thus continue to fight with each other so we will continue to illustrate to the Rest of the World how backward and primitive and provincial we are. Divide and conquer. If I were a foreign terrorist, I’d be laughing all the way to the plutonium bank!
    >Also, please explain what Deep Therapy means. I tryed that once with Vicks Vapor Rub for a sore ankle and it worked fairly well. But how does deep therapy apply to psychology? I mean there’s therapy and then there’s Deep Therapy? Please explain Dr. JT.

  21. Though you all may be interested in a presentation i gave about H1N1, class and nations (i.e. racism) last week at Montreal’s Native Friendship Center: http://sketchythoughts.blogspot.com/2009/10/class-nation-and-health-with-some.html

    In Canada this summer, white people made up less than half of those who became critically ill from H1N1. Indigenous people – defined by Statistics Canada as making up 4% of the population – made up almost one in four of those who became critically ill.


  1. Posts about Huffington Post as of October 9, 2009 » The Daily Parr
  2. racismreview.com » Blog Archive » H1N1 and Racism « Swine Flu

Leave a Reply