Babies, Bigotry and 9/11

Mourners at the funeral of Abdo Ali Ahmed, a California shopkeeper slain in 2001 in a surge of anti-Muslim violence.
Mourners at the funeral of Abdo Ali Ahmed, a California shopkeeper slain in 2001 in a surge of anti-Muslim violence. (By Justin Kase Conder -- Associated Press)
By Richard Morin
Thursday, March 23, 2006

The ugly wave of anti-Arab feelings immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, may have been responsible for a sharp increase in the incidence of premature and low-birth-weight babies born to women of Arab descent in the United States in the months that followed the terrorist attacks.

The evidence is circumstantial but compelling, epidemiologist Diane S. Lauderdale of the University of Chicago says in the latest issue of Demography.

Other researchers studying black women previously have found that stress caused by discrimination boosted production of certain hormones to levels harmful to a developing fetus. To find out whether anti-Arab feelings after 9/11 produced a similar effect in expectant Arab or Arab American mothers, Lauderdale turned to birth records collected from 2000 to 2002 in California, where reported hate crimes tripled after the terrorist strikes, mostly because of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim incidents.

Lauderdale identified more than 15,000 mothers with distinctive Arab last names. She found that those women who gave birth six months after 9/11 were 34 percent more likely have a low-birth-weight baby than those who gave birth in the same six-month period a year earlier. Post-9/11 babies also were 50 percent more likely to be born prematurely.

She also found that babies with distinctively Arab first names as well as last names -- suggesting that their parents were either more recent arrivals or less assimilated -- were twice as likely to be underweight after 9/11.

Significantly, there was no change in the rate of either premature births or low-birth-weight babies among other women during the same time periods.

Where's "Eve of Destruction"?

Those professional bleeding hearts over at the American Sociological Association have helpfully put together a list of the "essential" protest songs of the past five decades and published it in the latest issue of the journal Contexts.

Fourteen tunes made the cut, including such standards as "We Shall Overcome," Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin" and the 1930s union anthem "Which Side Are You On?" Other notable selections:

· "Fight the Power" by Public Enemy. "An exuberant hip-hop call to arms," the editors declared of this 1989 mega-hit.

· "Respect" by Otis Redding and performed by Aretha Franklin, a song that proves "the personal is political."

· "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)" by James Brown. The Godfather of Soul also had a way with black-power anthems.

· "I Ain't Marching Anymore" by Phil Ochs. "An antiwar classic, complete with a revisionist history of American militarism," the editors wrote.

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