Groups discuss state of Louisiana families of color

Nearly 100 religious leaders, elected officials, civic leaders and academics held a summit, Feb. 28, in Baton Rouge to begin organizing their response to a newly released report on “Structures of Inequality” in Louisiana. The summit, which was called the State of Louisiana Families of Color, was hosted by The Micah Project, PICO Louisiana, and the Southern University Ag Center.

The Summit expanded organizing initiatives to address mass incarceration in order to insure the well being of Louisiana’s children, including an emphasis on children of color.  The leaders developed a strategy to engage hundreds of faith leaders in Louisiana called “Thriving Families and Healthy Communities.”

The groups discussed the new report identified several systems of structured racism in the state which are having profound negative impacts on children. The systems are mass incarceration,  increased risk for obesity, asthma, ADD/ADHD, and other health problems.

Children of color in Louisiana face an uphill road from the day they are born, organizers said. Black babies are twice as likely as White babies to be born with a low birth weight. As children, one quarter have a chronic medical condition (compared with just 16% of white children). 47% of them are overweight or obese, compared to one third of their White classmates. And tragically, these children of color are almost twice as likely to die before the end of their childhood.

“These facts point to a deep and abiding inequality. As people of faith in Louisiana, we must come together to confront this moral crisis and strive to dismantle the systems that perpetuate such pervasive injustice,” said Lue Russell, D.Th., consultant and faith leader, PICO Louisiana.

Racial differences in health outcomes result from structural racism. Simply put, Black children and White children may grow up in the same state, but they live in different worlds.

One vector of this injustice is the system of mass incarceration, which looms large in the lives of the Black community. Black kids are twice as likely to have a parent in jail or prison. Black youth are four times more likely to serve time in the juvenile justice system. Living in communities with gun violence, Black children are five times more likely than white children to die from an assault, and ten times more likely to be killed by a firearm. To say that this exposure to violence and incarceration disrupts health and education is an understatement.

The report by Southern University was commissioned by The Micah Project, a faith-based organizing initiative centered in New Orleans with growing alliances in Baton Rouge and across Louisiana.

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