Event, VideoApril 17 2020

The Fact of Blackness

COVID-19, Medical Data, and the Racial Design of Public Health

Network Talk

For this Data & Society Network Talk, public health expert Kenyon Farrow and sociologist Tamara K. Nopper discuss racial disparities in COVID-19’s impact, reporting, and analyses. Data collection is often inherently political, and this crisis lays bare racist disparities in terms of public health and how medical data is being collected and publicly disseminated in ways that are unequal and/or incomplete. Drawing from past health crises, Farrow and Nopper discuss strategies for demanding and using race-focused data and combating medical misinformation. They also consider how anti-Blackness informs the design of medical and public health infrastructures and state responses.

This conversation was hosted by Data & Society’s Kellie Owens, Researcher, Health & Data and was recorded on Friday, April 17, 2020.

Shared Resources

About the Speakers and Hosts

Kenyon Farrow is an award-winning writer, activist, and strategist. He has worked on campaigns large and small, local, national, and global on issues related to public health, healthcare, criminalization/mass imprisonment, homelessness, and LGBT rights. He is currently the senior editor with TheBody.com and TheBodyPro.com, news and information sites focused on HIV, LGBT health and social justice, and serves on the board of NY Transgender Advocacy Group (NYTAG) and is board chair of Global Black Gay Men Connect. Prior to joining TheBody, he served as U.S. & Global Health Policy director for Treatment Action Group (TAG) and former executive director of Queers for Economic Justice. He’s also worked as an organizer and communications strategist for groups like Critical Resistance, FIERCE, and Housing Works. In addition to his political work, Kenyon is a prolific essayist and author. He is the co-editor of the book Letters From Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak Out. His work has also appeared in many anthologies including Spirited: Affirming the Soul of Black Lesbian and Gay Identity, For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Still Not Enough, We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21st Century America, and Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call. His work has also appeared on websites and in publications such as The Atlantic, TheGrio, Colorlines, ReWire News, The American Prospect, and AlterNet. Kenyon’s work has been recognized by many institutions including Out Magazine’s “Out 100” and The Advocate magazine’s “40 Under 40.” He was also named a “Modern Black History Hero” by Black Entertainment Television. Twitter: @kenyonfarrow.

Tamara K. Nopper is a sociologist and affiliate of The Center for Critical Race and Digital Studies (CR+DS). Her research focuses on the racial wealth gap, credit scoring systems and the push for alternative data, and the intersection between racism, financialization, criminalization, and punishment. Twitter: @tamaranopper.

Kellie Owens is a researcher on the Health + Data team at Data & Society. She conducts research on the ethical use of technology and data in medicine. Her most recent projects explore how new technologies and data sources impact risk management and decision-making in medical fields such as obstetrics and clinical genomics. She is particularly interested in understanding when and how new technologies can lead to overdiagnosis and overtreatment. Kellie’s research has been published in journals such as Science, Technology, and Human Values and Social Science and Medicine, and has received prizes from the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), The American Sociological Association, and the American Anthropological Association. She completed her PhD in Sociology at Northwestern University, and was formerly a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and a Predoctoral Visiting Research Fellow in the Program on Science, Technology, and Society at Harvard University. Twitter: @_kellie_owens

About Network Talks

Data & Society’s virtual Network Talks provide a platform for experts who prioritize empirical evidence and research to frame current technological issues.