Jaeah is a former reporter at Mother Jones. Her writings have appeared in The Atlantic, the Guardian, Wired, Christian Science Monitor,Global Post,Huffington Post,Talking Points Memo, and Grist. She tweets at @jaeahjlee.
"I just kept speaking in English really loudly so I didn't sound like a huge foreign freak."
Jaeah LeeApr. 28, 2015 6:30 AM
#GoodMuslimBadMuslim cohosts Zahra Noorbakhsh and Taz Ahmed.
Zahra Noorbakhsh was 12 and attending Farsi school in California when a teacher told her that if she didn't start wearing the hijab, her mother might burn in hell. So she tried it. But a trip to Blockbuster proved mortifying: "Everyone was staring at me and I just kept speaking in English really loudly—'Hey, Dad, I want to get Monster Truck Bloopers!'—so I didn't sound like a huge foreign freak."
"Everybody was like, 'Oh, you're going to get death threats.' No, actually just a lot of essays and wiki links from atheists telling me I'm confused."
That's one of the tales she revisits with cohost Tanzila "Taz" Ahmed in their new podcast, #GoodMuslimBadMuslim. Comedian Noorbakhsh befriended Ahmed, an activist and writer, on a road trip promoting Love, InshAllah, an anthology about the secret love lives of Muslim American women. They began teasing each other about which one was "the bad Muslim," took their discussions of cultural mores to Twitter, and later began recording them.
The resulting monthly podcast is a fun, sassy exchange, part Wayne's World, part Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. You might catch the ladies issuing a fatwa against bacon, inventing cheesy Muslim pickup lines ("You've hijacked my heart"), and sharing tips on how to survive your "conservative, gun-toting, libertarian" in-laws. But jokes aside, they address the uniquely confusing contradictions of how Muslim American women are expected to behave. Noorbakhsh prays but drinks and eats pork, and admits to having had sex before her marriage—to an atheist. Ahmed won't touch booze or pork, but she seldom prays, and recalls her parents berating her for wanting to dye her hair pink and go to punk shows.
Just four episodes in, the podcast is earning press attention (NBC News called it "side-splitting") and praise from listeners looking for fresh voices. "For women from these backgrounds to be talking openly about private subjects is a big deal," notes the Iranian-born comedian Maz Jobrani, who once had Noorbakhsh on stage as a guest performer. ("I totally bombed," she recalls.)
The timing is apt, too, as horrors committed in the name of Islam fuel new resentments. Noorbakhsh, a self-declared "loudmouth," points out that unabashed conversations are key to busting stereotypes. With her comedy act and now the podcast, "everybody was like, 'Oh, you're going to get death threats.' No, actually just a lot of essays and wiki links from atheists telling me I'm confused. And celebratory email! So I'm doing a lot of reading, not a lot of dying."
Our ongoing investigation of gun violence, which costs the United States at least $229 billion a year, includes data on the the economic toll for individual states. Wyoming has a small population but the highest overall rate of gun deaths—including the nation's highest suicide rate—with costs working out to about $1,400 per resident. Louisiana has the highest gun homicide rate in the nation, with costs per capita of more than $1,300. Among the four most populous states, the costs per capita in the gun rights strongholds of Florida and Texas outpace those in more strictly regulated California and New York. Hawaii and Massachusetts, with their relatively low gun ownership rates and tight gun laws, have the lowest gun death rates, and costs per capita roughly a fifth as much as those of the states that pay the most.
Walter Scott's death in South Carolina, at the hands of now-fired North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, is one of several instances from the past year when a black man was killed after being pulled over while driving. No one knows exactly how often traffic stops turn deadly, but studies in Arizona, Missouri, Texas, Washington have consistently shown that cops stop and search black drivers at a higher rate than white drivers. Last week, a team of researchers in North Carolina found that traffic stops in Charlotte, the state's largest city, showed a similar racial disparity—and that the gap has been widening over time.
The researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill analyzed more than 1.3 million traffic stops and searches by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers for a 12-year period beginning in 2002, when the state began requiring police to collect such statistics. In their analysis of the data, collected and made public by the state's Department of Justice, the researchers found that black drivers, despite making up less than one-third of the city's driving population, were twice as likely to be subject to traffic stops and searches as whites. Young black men in Charlotte were three times as likely to get pulled over and searched than the city-wide average. Here's a chart from the Charlotte Observer's reportdetailing the findings:
Michael Gordon and David Puckett, Charlotte Observer
Not only did the researchers identify these gaps: they showed that the gaps have been growing. Black drivers in Charlotte are more likely than whites to get pulled over and searched today than they were in 2002, the researchers found. They noted similar widening racial gaps among traffic stops and searches in Durham, Raleigh, and elsewhere in the state.
Black drivers in Charlotte were much more likely to get stopped for minor violations involving seat belts, vehicle registration, and equipment, where, as the Observer's Michael Gordon points out, "police have more discretion in pulling someone over." (Scott was stopped in North Charleston due to a broken brake light.) White drivers, meanwhile, were stopped more often for obvious safety violations, such as speeding, running red lights and stop signs, and driving under the influence. Still, black drivers—except those suspected of intoxicated driving—were always more likely to get searched than whites, no matter the reason for the stop.
The findings in North Carolina echo those of a 2014 study by researchers at the University of Kansas, who found that Kansas City's black drivers were stopped at nearly three times the rate of whites fingered for similarly minor violations.
Frank Baumgartner, the lead author of the UNC-Chapel Hill study, told Mother Jones that officers throughout the state were twice as likely to use force against black drivers than white drivers. Of the estimated 18 million stops that took place between 2002 and 2013 in North Carolina that were analyzed by Baumgartner's team, less than one percent involved the use of force. While officers are required to report whether force was encountered or deployed, and whether there were any injuries, "we don't know if the injuries are serious, and we don't know if a gun was fired," he says.
Below is a more detailed explanation of our data investigation, done in collaboration with economist Ted Miller of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Read our full special report here.
This is an estimate of the money that police departments spend to respond to and investigate gun-related crimes. It includes police salaries, benefits, and equipment, as well as overhead costs to the police department. Miller based this calculation on the amount of time police spent on initial response and follow-up (based on this sample survey) and the amount of money police departments spend on average per officer (including fringe benefits, equipment, supervision, etc.) using data from the 2006 Census of Governments.
This is the cost of the labor and equipment involved in transporting victims of gun violence to the hospital. Miller calculated the likelihood that each type of victim (fatal or injured) would reach the hospital via emergency transport using data from a national sample of emergency room visits. The cost of transport was based on a GAO survey from 2010, which was then updated to 2012 dollars. The median cost of emergency transport for an individual injury or fatality was $452.
This is the cost of treating victims of gun violence in the hospital and post-discharge. It includes the hospital service and insurance claims processing fees paid by Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, and the victims themselves. Hospital costs are based on a database of 40 to 50 million healthcare claims from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, insurance costs come from data collected by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and post-discharge costs are based on medical expense data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Council on Compensation Insurance.
This refers to the cost of counseling for victims of gun violence and their families. It includes the services paid by Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, and the victims themselves. The number of people seeking mental health services per gun violence incident (death or injury) and the cost for these services are based on Ted Miller and Mark Cohen's 1998 survey of 168 mental health counselors—including psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and pastoral counselors—which found that for every murder victim, 1.5 to 2.4 people sought mental health treatment.
Legal services and adjudication
This is the cost of legal and adjudication services for perpetrators of homicide and aggravated assault, including salary of the judges and public defenders, and other overhead costs of operating a courthouse. These costs are based on a 2010 study by Kathryn McCollister et al, which examined Bureau of Justice Statistics and FBI data to calculate local, state, and federal government expenditures on legal services for homicides and aggravated assaults. Miller's estimate assumes that legal and adjudication costs do not apply to unintentional deaths or injuries, legal interventions, or suicides.
This is the estimated amount of money needed to incarcerate perpetrators (convicted in 2012) of homicides or aggravated assaults over the course of their sentences. These estimates are based on a 2010 study by Kathryn McCollister et al, which examined Bureau of Justice Statistics and FBI data to calculate local, state, and federal government expenditures on incarceration of perpetrators of firearm homicides and assaults. Here again Miller assumes that incarceration costs do not apply to unintentional deaths or injuries, legal interventions, or suicides.
Work costs for victims and perpetrators
This refers to the potential wages and household productivity that were lost due to a death or injury. Miller estimated lost wages of victims and imprisoned perpetrators using expected earnings data from the Current Population Survey (US Census), data on the duration of temporary disabilities from the Annual Survey on Workplace Injuries (Bureau of Labor Statistics), and workers compensation data on the probability of permanent disabilities by the type of injury. Lost household productivity is estimated using a 2009 study based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey. In both estimates, Miller assumes that victims and perpetrators make the same amount of money and are as productive as the typical American in their gender and age group.
Costs to the employer
This refers to the costs other than benefits that an employer incurs when a worker leaves employment permanently or temporarily because of injury. It captures costs of workplace disruption, rehiring and retraining, overtime to meet production schedules, and investigation and reporting of on-the-job incidents. This number is based on estimates of employer costs by injury severity used by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Losses in quality of life
This is an estimate of the financial value of the pain, suffering, and fear that accompany a death or injury. Miller concludes that a life is worth about $6.2 million, which is a violence-specific average based on the amounts awarded by juries in wrongful injury and death cases. It includes lost wages and household production.
The data below is the result of a joint investigation by Mother Jones and Ted Miller, an economist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Based on Miller's work identifying and quantifying the societal impacts of gun violence, the annual price tag comes to at least $229 billion a year (based on 2012 data). That includes $8.6 billion in direct spending—from emergency care and other medical expenses to court and prison costs—as well as $221 billion in less tangible "indirect" costs, which include impacts on productivity and quality of life for victims and their communities. (See the rest of our special investigation here.)