This year or so has been something. As travel and speaking engagements were cancelled or reimagined online many of us decided to adapt. I decided to work on my geospatial skills. Beginning with ArcGIS and eventually deciding to prioritize open-source platforms like QGIS I enthusiastically integrated Python skills with location intelligence.
At first, I was working in different buckets. Geospatial skills were over here and all of the other analyses were over there. Until I realized they were intertwined. Everything happened somewhere. The location informs us of what barriers, heuristics, or biases might have impacted our insights.
My focus improved immeasurably after a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.
I had a moment when I stepped into a room where you can queue up and listen to music while other folks pass through. There is no music without these voices. The fruit ripened through brutality and lack of humanity was echoing through the room. This is where music began--deep in the mahogany textures and shimmering skin. You can separate history into bins and say this is Black and this is White but we all know the truth--it is a single origin story.
There is no America without Indigenous people, Black people, and the people that enslaved and subjugated them.
As a data analyst I have struggled a long time with how race is collected and what clients think can be done with it. When a symptom becomes the disease, Courtesies of a small and trivial character, and Make measurable what is not so are simply a few posts from the blog where I think out loud.
Looking at location instead of the traditional measures like poverty, education, and access to healthcare illuminates barriers beyond structural determinants of health.
If you want to make a difference in public health and you are a data analyst you need bigger research. The variables we select need to identify what Richard Rothstein* attributes to a forgotten history— “racially explicit policies of federal, state and local governments defined where whites and African Americans should live.”