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TikToker offers a simple, clear metaphor for systemic and structural inequality

When we talk about systemic, structural, or institutionalized inequality, it can be hard for some to understand what those terms even mean. In a racial context in the U.S., the idea is that oppression like slavery and Jim Crow laws, racist policies like redlining, and the racism in scientific, medical, and educational and other fields erected various barriers for Black Americans. The laws or policies may have changed, but those changes didn't automatically dismantle all the barriers that went along with them.

Such barriers are invisible, though, and when you aren't impacted by them you might not even see them at all, or understand what it's like to be on the other side of them. That's where analogies come in handy.

TikTok creator @tavitalkstrash shared a video skit that illustrates how systemic inequality works with a metaphor of a fence and fruit trees.


Watch:

@tavitalkstrash

The fence #fyp

Many commenters pointed out that the analogy works for all kinds of issues, from racial inequality to wealth or class inequality. Those who have the power and advantage are often blind to the barriers that exist for those who don't, and even if they do see a barrier, they may actually end up reinforcing it. After all, that barrier isn't hurting them; in some ways, it actually makes life easier for them.

The video also highlights how bias and prejudice can result from such barriers. "You should just come over here!" As if it's that simple. "Lazy AND impatient," as if the challenges posed by the barrier aren't real.

A person recognizing the barrier and exercising empathy would listen to the person on the other side and try to see their perspective. A person exercising compassion would toss over some fruit and then help tear down the fence.

The tradition of having the fence there wouldn't matter as much as the harm it's causing on the other side. The fact that an occasional person manages to get over the fence wouldn't matter, since the majority aren't able to. Telling the person to plant their own trees or tear down the fence themselves would be recognized as a cruel response, not a helpful one, considering the lived reality on the other side. The idea of what's "fair" would take the full reality and history into account.

One key takeaway here is that the person on the fruit tree side needs to listen to the person limited by the barrier when they tell them how it has affected them and what they need to remedy the situation. The solutions offered from the fruit tree side might not make sense from the other side of it. Such solutions might not be possible, or they might not actually be as helpful as they sound.

Another point made in the comments is that the hungry person's ancestors were probably the ones who planted those fruit trees in the first place. That works whether you look at the metaphor through a historical racial lens (so much of the foundation of this country's wealth was built on the backs of unpaid, enslaved Black people) or a wealth inequality lens (underpaid working class laborers being exploited by obscenely wealhty business owners in the name of capitalism).

Some might argue that such barriers don't actually exist anymore, that this is the land of opportunity and equality where we're all on equal footing. But statistics do not bear that out. As of 2016, the average white family's net worth was ten times that of the average Black family in the U.S. What is the explanation for that?

If you argue that it is not because structural or systemic racial barriers have made it more difficult for Black Americans to build wealth, then what explanation are you left with? That Black Americans are consciously choosing to live with such a wide economic disparity? Why would they choose that? If they aren't choosing it, do you think there is some inherent quality that makes Black people unable or unwilling to do whatever it is white people do to build wealth? Isn't that idea just blatantly racist?

Hopefully, this analogy makes the concept of systemic, structural, and institutionalized inequality easier for people to unpack. Complex social realities aren't easily simplified, so when someone manages to make a clear visual metaphor, it deserves to be celebrated.


Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


At 1:30 am on Monday morning an AMBER Alert went out in southern Louisiana about a missing 10-year-old girl from New Iberia. It was believed she had been kidnapped and driven away in a 2012 silver Nissan Altima.

A few hours later at 7 am, Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine, sanitation workers for Pelican Waste, were on their daily route when they noticed a vehicle that fit the description in the alert.

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Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

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Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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