Lead Poisoning Linked To Crime Waves and Profit On Poor Peoples Backs

08282015Starting in the 1960s, America saw a huge increase in levels of violent crime that peaked in the early 1990s, then steadily declined, and continues to decline today.

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A chilling reminder of how systemic practices perpetuate race and class inequity in the U.S. First, you have thousands of poor folks of color poisoned by lead paint in places like Baltimore (including, it should be noted, Freddie Gray), thanks to the indifference of landlords, local housing authorities and elected officials, going back decades. This lead then impairs cognitive development (and is also correlated highly with criminal acting out by the way).

Then when lawsuits finally seek to provide some measure of relief to the victims, companies swoop in and offer buy-outs of the victims’ structured settlements, for pennies on the dollar, even though the terms of the agreements are both hard to understand (especially when cognitively impaired) and almost impossible for a desperately poor person to resist. When you’re desperate, these kinds of deals probably look good to many folks. The “choice” they are exercising in taking the deals is no choice at all, in any meaningful sense. The fact that there are investors out there who make money buying up people’s settlements — when those settlements are the result of years of institutional racism and class oppression — means there are people making serious bank directly BECAUSE poor black folks were poisoned.

In other words, rich white people (and make no mistake, that’s mostly who the investors are, given what we know about the racial demographics of investors generally) are profiting off of black pain. Directly. Not coincidentally. Not passively. Actively profiteering from the destruction of black lives. This is why we have to insist that Black Lives Matter. Because some folks clearly need a reminder.

Saul E. Kerpelman

Saul E. Kerpelman

Lead poisoning has been an especially cruel scourge on African American communities. “Nearly 99.9 percent of my clients were black,” said Saul E. Kerpelman, a Baltimore lawyer who said he has litigated more than 4,000 lead-poisoning lawsuits over three decades. “That’s the sad fact to life in the ghetto that the only living conditions people can afford will likely poison their kids. . . . If you only have $250 per month, you’re going to get a run-down, dilapidated house where the landlord hasn’t inspected it the entire time they’ve owned it.”

HERE IS YOUR SIGN

How companies make millions off lead-poisoned, poor blacks

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