Friday’s (Sept. 29) episode of “REVOLT Black News Weekly” continued to broach important topics affecting communities of color. Global news anchor Mara S. Campo guided feature stories examining the lack of Black doctors in the nation and the disturbing trend of inmates dying in jail. “RBN” also conducted an extensive interview with rising Hollywood star Halle Bailey.
Getting arrested should not equate to a death sentence. However, yearly, thousands of people die in jail custody, sometimes without even being convicted of crimes. For example, the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta has become infamous for deceased inmates. Since last year when Lashawn Thompson was reportedly found eaten to death by bed bugs, 10 more inmates have died in the facility. The latest was Shawndre Delmore, 24, who was arrested for burglary in April. In August, he was found unresponsive in his cell and taken to a local hospital before dying from cardiac arrest three days later. The family is seeking answers as are the kin of other people who died in custody — like Noni Battiste-Kosoko, 19, who passed away under suspicious circumstances.
These deaths occurred in a jail where often, the only thing stopping a detainee from going home, when compared to prison, is posting bail. The deaths shine a light on the controversial cash bail system that leaves people — many who didn’t even commit a violent crime or who have yet to be charged — behind bars because they simply can’t afford to go home. Local jails have only become more dangerous and violent with at least a 5 percent increase in deaths since 2018, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. “Some people that are in custody cannot afford to make cash bail,” explained attorney Gerald Griggs, president of Georgia NAACP. “And even on low-level misdemeanors, the cash bail may be exorbitantly high.”
Most unfortunate is that Fulton County Jail is not unique. Across the country, jail deaths are on the rise with people being beaten and even starved to death in some cases. The alarming number of deceased inmates at Fulton County Jail has triggered an investigation by the Department of Justice. It’s a start, but little consolation to the family members of those who have died in custody. “RBN” discussed the topic further with Griggs, Keith Taylor, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Dr. Topeka Sam, founder of the Lady of Hope Ministries. They talked about the horrid conditions and solutions to this ongoing problem.
Another issue the nation is facing is an apparent lack of Black doctors. It’s another cause for concern when considering concepts like “culturally competent care,” which means the Black community is healthier when the people taking care of them look like them and are better able to relate culturally. Unfortunately, over the last four years, the number of Black doctors has gone down, which can contribute to a medical crisis since the Black population has only gone up.
A most jarring example of Black people’s health concerns being dismissed was Susan Moore, who was ill with COVID-19 and begging for help. “If I was white, I wouldn’t have to go through that,” said Moore, who described waiting over two hours for pain medication she requested. Moore herself was a doctor, but her pleas about pain were reportedly dismissed by Indiana University Health. Sadly, she died from COVID complications a few weeks after she made her alleged mistreatment public.
“There’s so much distrust among the Black community for healthcare in general,” said Dr. Stacy Mitchell Doyle, who has practiced medicine for over 20 years. She noted her observation that Black patients don’t get the testing other people do. “And we have a lot of history. We come by that distrust pretty honestly,” Dr. Doyle added. She also explained that Black folks are more likely to be sent home despite chest pain or other serious medical conditions because the doctor treating them has an unconscious bias, or doesn’t believe them or take their symptoms seriously.
Interestingly, a study in April found Black people live longer in areas with more Black doctors. So why don’t more Black folks go to doctors who look like them? Unfortunately, there aren’t enough to go around. While the Black community reportedly makes up about 13 percent of the population, Black doctors stand at only 5.5 percent. And in the last 40 years, the latter number has been declining. Becoming a medical doctor is a 13-year commitment that also includes six-figure education debt and potential racist roadblocks like bias from white patients or even other doctors. There are ongoing efforts to address these deficiencies, and it’s a long road, but Black Health Matters, too.
Switching gears, “RBN” correspondent Kennedy Rue spoke to singer and actress Halle Bailey, 23, who is fast becoming one of Hollywood’s leading ladies. Halle spoke about her solo career, relationship with her sister Chlöe Bailey, hair and more. “I’ve had my locs since I was little, and our crowns are really important to us,” said Halle, who wore her natural hair in The Little Mermaid. “Especially as Black women. I felt that was a piece of me, of Halle, that I was bringing to this new Ariel as well. It’s so important for us to be able to see that because as children, as babies, you can see somebody that’s similar to you with your hair texture. It’s so beautiful when you’re like, ‘Wow, I see myself in this person.’”
Halle is now part of a small group of Black women who made the leap from teen sensation to adult movie star, putting her in the company of names like Dorothy Dandridge and Beyoncé. Not a bad club to be a member of.
For more, be sure to watch new episodes of “REVOLT Black News Weekly” every Friday at 5 p.m. ET via REVOLT’s app.
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