“Fixing” curves and bringing history into focus

Dear President Trump,

This morning I had nada for you. All I could muster was the date and the salutation – I was so blank I thought I’d probably end up just writing a haiku. Well, you’re in luck because that was the then but now I have not one thing to tell you about, but two (and yes, I recognize that you, or really, your threat detector, would probably prefer the 17 syllables of a haiku than the however many hundreds of syllables I’ll generate writing a full letter – too bad).

The first thing to bring to your attention concerns Governor Kemp’s fancy foxtrot with his state’s covid-19 rates – truly a new low in using (descriptive) statistics to lie. Holy cow was it bad. Here’s Dana Milbanks’ (WP) description of the dastardly deed:

“Last week, Georgia’s Department of Public Health released a graph showing a dramatic, steady decline in cases, deaths and hospitalizations in the state’s five most affected counties, from a peak on April 28, just before the state’s restrictions were eased, to near zero two weeks later. But on closer inspection, the dates on the chart showed a curious ordering: April 30 was followed by May 4; May 5 was followed by May 2, which was followed by May 7 — which in turn was followed by April 26. The dates had been re-sorted to create the illusion of a decline. The five counties were likewise re-sorted on each day to enhance the illusion.”

I left in the hyperlink because it goes to a blog that captured a screen shot of the graph before it was yanked from Georgia’s website. It’s truly a wonder to behold. You’d think that who ever went to the trouble to misrepresent the data like this would have just gone all in and changed the dates too. Maybe some small part of their superego made them miss this tell (i.e., they couldn’t completely go through with the deception). I bet they’re hoping that Georgia’s unemployment website is up and running ok. It gives me the chills to see shit like this – horrible, horrible, horrible.

The other thing that feels important to share today is something I learned sitting in on a live panel discussion entitled “Conversations on COVID-19 & Black Communities: Historical Trauma.” I don’t know how many people were in the audience, but there was one moderator, one medical doctor who gave clinical updates specifically relevant to black communities and covid-19, and two panelists, one of whom was from the UW. Fairly late in the discussion, the UW professor, Dr. Michele Andrasik, responded to an audience member question about what might be helpful going forward to address systemic racism and health disparities. She started by reminding us of the specter of so many of the central protagonists in the civil rights movement having been jailed and/or murdered.

When she said it I felt like all the air got sucked out of the room – I think I even gasped. It’s such a f*cking obvious historical trauma with such strong implications for today – look what they did to Malcom, look what they did to Martin, look what they did to those who dared claim their rightful places in American society, look what they are still doing to black men out for a jog or trying to protect themselves from covid-19 by wearing masks.

I felt horrible about not having seen it before, but Andrasik was clearly aware that most of us focus further in the past when we think of historical trauma for black communities as she dubbed the civil rights assassinations as the elephants in the room, the ones we have to get used to calling out, the ones we have to reckon with as we figure out how to make tangible headway in dismantling systems of oppression.

May we be safe when we organize, rally, and push for justice.
May we be willing to reckon with all the history.
May we form coalitions that are big and strong enough that we can’t be quashed.
May we accept that this work is not without risk.

Tracy Simpson

4 thoughts on ““Fixing” curves and bringing history into focus

  1. Just one question. I will be thinking about a few things and maybe comment more later but, for right now: Why didn’t you redo their flawed graph?


    • Hi — If you go to the linked blog you’ll be able to see the graph with the days correctly ordered. My blog skills are too rudimentary to be able to embed pictures so I just stick to written descriptions of things, but fortunately the other blogger, Joey deVilla is far more adept and has shared both the original, messed up graph, and what it would look like mostly corrected (he said he didn’t have time to put the counties in a fixed order every day rather than the manipulated always from highest to lowest covid rates meant to add to the illusion of a consistently descending trend. Thanks for asking. Have a good night. Tracy

      Liked by 2 people

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