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America isn’t taking care of caregivers

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This story is part of The Aftermath, a Vox series about the collateral health effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in communities around the US.

This series is supported in part by the NIHCM Foundation.

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One evening in 2016, Sabrina Nichelle Scott checked in on her aging grandmother in New York City. She found Lillian, then in her early 90s, trying to cook meat that was still in its plastic packaging.

That was when Scott realized her grandmother’s advancing dementia required more care than visiting home health aides alone could provide. Scott left her job as a systems trainer for New York City Health + Hospitals and became her maternal grandmother’s primary caregiver. With help from multiple aides and other family members, Scott was able to ensure her grandmother was receiving the care she needed, while also carving out enough time to start her own consultancy.

That system worked okay for Scott, now 56 — until the pandemic hit.

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Sabrina Nichelle Scott became her grandmother’s round-the-clock caregiver when the pandemic arrived in New York City.
Malcolm Jackson for Vox

 

Suddenly, much of the outside support became too risky, and Scott needed to provide round-the-clock care in her grandmother’s Harlem apartment. She helped Lillian with basic hygiene, prepared enticing meals to encourage her to continue eating (Scott herself subsisted mostly on oatmeal, grits, and sausages), and spent long, sleepless nights trying to ensure her grandmother didn’t leave the apartment and risk exposure to Covid-19. “From March through October of last year, I did not have a break,” Scott told Vox.

Dementia had not robbed Lillian of her fiercely independent spirit, but it had made her verbally and sometimes physically aggressive, and she would fight back against caregivers other than Scott. Whenever Scott undertook essential errands, she depended on her mother or an aide to stay with her grandmother briefly, so she “only went out under extreme, extreme reasons: I had to go to the laundromat, I had to get food. That’s it.” She had to stop working and even postponed a surgery she needed. It was a “very precarious situation,” she said.

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An estimated 47.9 million adults in the United States — a staggering 19.3 percent — provide informal care to an adult with physical or mental health needs. This unpaid work, which includes everything from trips to the doctor to feeding, bathing, and toileting, has been valued at $470 billion per year, equivalent to three-quarters of the entire budget of Medicaid. Even in the best of times, the vast majority of this work is invisible and undersupported, leaving millions of caregivers struggling in silence. The Covid-19 pandemic pushed many caregivers into crisis.

And while Covid-19 vaccination has helped some Americans experience a joyful summer, a large number of caregivers are still at home, struggling with the fallout from ongoing isolation, anxiety, and lack of support.

Interviews with caregivers, researchers, and advocates, along with early data about the pandemic’s impact on this vast and diverse group, reveal widespread and alarming rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. They expose a national failure to support this vital part of our society — one that many of us will depend on at some point in life.

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Chart showing statistics from a 2020 AARP report on unpaid adult caregiversTim Ryan Williams/Vox

 

Before the pandemic, Scott’s grandmother Lillian was social and stayed physically active, despite her advancing dementia. She played an important role in her church community and regularly exercised by walking the wide hallway in her apartment building.

The shutdown took those activities away. Dementia left Lillian unable to keep her mask on, so venturing out of the one-bedroom apartment, even to the elevator, was too risky for anything but an urgent medical reason. Within Lillian’s apartment building, “death was all around,” Scott said, recalling people going in and out in protective suits to reach sick or dying neighbors.

In the small apartment, Scott tried to replace her grandmother’s activities as best as she could: They sang gospel songs, and she moved the furniture so they could walk a little bit. But “the routine of ritual is so important,” Scott said, noting these disruptions to social connection and physical activity likely contributed to her grandmother’s decline.

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Because of Lillian’s difficulty with masking, she also missed important medical care during the pandemic. Many times they were stopped at the door of a health care facility and turned away, Scott said. “Yes, there are rules, but certain populations cannot follow the rules,” she said, frustrated. “They should not be denied access to health care. … Access to medical resources is a human right.”

Scott struggled to explain her experience even to people who were close to her. Non-caregiver friends talked about pandemic “wellness walks.”

“That’s nice,” Scott said. “I did not have the leisure to go for a walk.” When her brother suggested that she take their grandmother outside, just to sit, Scott reminded him that Lillian could not keep her mask on for the elevator ride.

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So they stayed inside, riding the waves of Lillian’s advancing dementia as best they could. “Some days she could dress herself, some days she could not. It ended in me in an apartment not being able to get out to get any fresh air,” Scott said. She remembered thinking: “Mentally, how do I adjust to confinement?”

Her rare breaks during those intense six months came in the middle of the night, sometimes at 2 am, when her grandmother was finally asleep. She used those moments, even during the hot Harlem summer, to take a bath with nice soaps she had splurged on before the pandemic.

Scott said she felt additional pressure, as a Black woman, to be an intensive caregiver. She had previously provided years of live-in caregiving for her paternal grandmother, who had dementia as well. When Scott eventually recommended more skilled care for each of her grandmothers, she says her family resisted — telling her, in effect, “We don’t do that.”

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We meaning Black people,” Scott told Vox.

 
A photograph of Sabrina Nichelle Scott with her maternal grandmother, Lillian, who died earlier this year at the age of 97.
Malcolm Jackson for Vox

 

Despite the hardships, Scott says she is grateful to have had the opportunity to care for her grandmother. “My grandmother always opened her doors to people in the family,” she said. Lillian was the person who took people in when they needed a place to stay. “I have no regrets … it was an honor to serve her.”

In March 2021, Lillian died at the age of 97.

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Scott has since moved back to Jacksonville, Florida, where she has a house to herself and is working again. Still, she is recovering from the grueling stretch of caregiving and processing the loss of her grandmother. “I could be on a webinar or on the phone, and people don’t even know that tears are coming down my face,” she said. “I know I’m still traumatized from it.”


The Covid-19 pandemic undermined mental health on a massive scale, with anxiety or depression symptoms hitting one in three people in the US early in the outbreak.

Emerging data shows that it’s been especially difficult for informal caregivers. Two Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveys last winter found that 40 percent of caregivers for adults reported anxiety or depression symptoms, and a worrying number — about 10 percent — reported serious suicidal ideation. These numbers were even higher early in the pandemic.

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Among caregivers for adults who were also parents of young children, a staggering 50 percent said they had experienced serious suicidal thoughts. The authors warned of “an urgent need to tailor public health efforts for this population.”

Nearly half of family caregivers reported psychological distress in a different 2020 survey, and more than a quarter reported fatigue.

Another study found that early in the pandemic, “family caregivers reported higher anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleep disturbance … and increased financial worries,” compared to non-caregivers. Caregivers said the pandemic “increased the effort involved in providing care” and made it “more physically, emotionally, and financially difficult.”

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“It’s scarring,” said Scott Beach, lead author of the study and director of survey research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research. Some caregivers may bounce back from mental health challenges as supports return, but others will likely continue to struggle with residual stress and worry, especially if the pandemic worsened the physical, cognitive, or emotional health of the person they were caring for.

Chart showing unpaid adult caregivers reporting higher rates and anxiety and depression symptoms than other respondents, in a June 2020 CDC survey.Tim Ryan Williams/Vox

 

These early data points are only a glimpse of a worldwide problem affecting millions of people. “We’re going to see fallout from this for quite a long time,” said Amy Goyer, an AARP family caregiving expert who has also been a caregiver herself.

Before the pandemic, roughly 60 percent of informal caregivers had some form of paid employment, and the majority of those were working at least 40 hours a week. The pandemic forced a large number to start working from home — which meant juggling job and caregiving responsibilities simultaneously.

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“For many of us, that’s our respite,” Goyer said of going to work. “That’s our break from caregiving. And now we’re at home constantly with our loved one.” Experts told Vox that, unlike the struggles of working parents, which were gradually acknowledged by the media, employers, and policymakers, the strain on adult caregivers was less widely recognized and supported.

Others had to leave the workforce altogether. Jessica Mills, 30, who lives in Augusta, Georgia, cares with her father for her 61-year-old mother, who has advanced, early-onset dementia. “She’s very active, so she has a lot of needs,” Mills said, and “within the past couple of years has just needed 24/7 care.”

About a decade before the pandemic, Mills dropped out of college and moved back home to help with her mother’s care. She worked part time at restaurants to bring in extra income.

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But when the pandemic started, Mills quickly stopped working, to limit her family’s exposure to the coronavirus. That safety-based decision came with a huge trade-off: “All of a sudden you’re stuck, without the resources,” she said. She told Vox that because her home state of Georgia hasn’t expanded Medicaid, she didn’t have health insurance and was unable to afford therapy.

Caregivers who didn’t have the option to stop working outside the home often carried with them additional levels of anxiety. Many, disproportionately people of color, were already in jobs that put them on the front lines of the pandemic, such as in the service sector. People of color are also more likely to be in caregiving roles in the first place.

Chart showing unpaid adult caregivers of color working longer hours on careTim Ryan Williams/Vox

 

Add to that the fact that many communities of color were hit the hardest by the coronavirus. Which meant, for many caregivers, “they’re dealing with higher rates of Covid-19 within their communities, still trying to juggle and balance caregiving, and often not having access to the same resources and supports,” said Christina Irving, the clinical services director at Family Caregiver Alliance in the Bay Area.

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Black Americans are still less likely than white or Latinx people to have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, leaving more people vulnerable to the virus. “So all these stressors coming at people from multiple angles has made it that much harder for them to manage,” Irving said.


For caregivers, isolation and worry were often a way of life even before Covid-19. “The things everybody feared and had difficulties with during the pandemic, we live that way,” said Jeanie Olinger, 60, who lives in Oklahoma City.

Olinger’s son Chris, who is 37, experienced a debilitating traumatic brain injury in a 2008 car crash. Since then, he has needed full care — from feeding to moving — around the clock. “He does nothing but look at me,” Olinger said.

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In 2010, Chris was able to relocate from a care facility to his mother’s home, and she began working remotely and enlisting home health aides for Chris’s extensive needs. She was getting by.

But when the pandemic arrived last spring, “we didn’t let anybody in,” Olinger said. Like the majority of other people receiving care, her son — who has chronic asthma in addition to the brain injury — was at a higher risk of severe Covid-19 and death from the virus. That meant Olinger was on duty caring for her son, while also trying to work from home. “It was really difficult,” she said. For months, she stopped taking her usual stress-relieving runs and walks for fear of contracting Covid-19. Her one source of release was a punching bag in her garage. “When I was overwhelmed, I would go punch the snot out of that bag,” she said.

 
Jeanie Olinger’s son Chris, 37, needs full-time care after experiencing a traumatic brain injury in a 2008 car accident.
Joseph Rushmore for Vox

 

 
For months during the pandemic, Olinger had to stop letting health aide workers into her home for fear of exposing her high-risk son to Covid-19.
Joseph Rushmore for Vox

 

 
For months, Olinger says she stopped taking her usual stress-relieving runs and walks for fear of contracting Covid-19.
Joseph Rushmore for Vox

 

Caregivers like Olinger stopped seeing family and friends outside their household, and lost other forms of support as well. “Before, you could get your cousin to come over for four hours on Saturday so you could go see a movie, just to escape it and recharge your batteries,” said John Schall, CEO of Caregiver Action Network, a support and education nonprofit, and a caregiver himself. During the pandemic, “that kind of respite, those breaks, haven’t existed.”

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Pandemic caregivers were additionally burdened with bearing witness as their loved ones slid precipitously toward poorer health. “The lack of social interaction and lack of physical activity really, really affected so many,” Goyer said. “Their loved ones got worse so much faster.”

Care recipients got “less socialization, less stimulation, less exercise and ability to be out in the world,” Irving said. This leads to more cognitive decline as well as loss of mobility and physical health, she noted. “That’s a huge strain on caregivers.”

The pandemic also prevented some caregivers from accompanying their loved ones — even those with severe cognitive, memory, or communication issues — into medical facilities. Megan Powell, 38, cares for her husband Jesse, 36, who has PTSD and traumatic brain injuries from four tours with the US Army in Afghanistan. She has long been his “caregiver slash advocate” at medical appointments, she told Vox, but she was shut out when the pandemic began. She tried to call in to appointments using speakerphone, worrying that because he has memory issues, important information was getting lost.

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Megan and Jesse Powell sit down for dinner with their young son.
Lizzie Chen for Vox

 

 
Powell cares for her husband Jesse, who has PTSD and traumatic brain injury from serving in Afghanistan.
Lizzie Chen for Vox

 

Terri Harvath, the founding director of the Family Caregiving Institute at the University of California Davis, said that her older partner was hospitalized in March 2020 for cancer-related complications. “She was delirious from surgery, she was frightened, she had a tracheostomy so she couldn’t talk, she couldn’t indicate what she needed,” Harvath said. Harvath was able to pull strings to be in the hospital, but for three weeks, she was only allowed to leave her partner’s room for one daily trip to the cafeteria.

Caregivers have also struggled with doubt and distress about bringing their loved one to the ER or hospital in the first place, not just because of potential Covid-19 exposure but also the risk of separation due to pandemic restrictions. In her clinic, Harvath worked with one caregiver who thought her mom might be having a stroke but initially thought twice about taking her to the ER because she knew it would mean leaving her at the door.

Informal caregivers are “the invisible member of the interdisciplinary health care team — they’re absolutely essential,” Harvath said.

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In August 2020, Olinger’s son, whose traumatic brain injury left him unable to communicate, became very ill and needed to be hospitalized. “It was just terrifying,” Olinger said. After her son received a positive pneumonia diagnosis and a negative Covid-19 test, Olinger was allowed to stay with him. But if he had tested positive for Covid-19 and needed isolation, she said, she would have brought him home — even to die — rather than leaving him alone at the hospital without a caregiver.

 
Caregivers like Olinger stopped seeing family and friends during the pandemic, losing vital forms of support.
Joseph Rushmore for Vox

 

For those who could use them, telehealth appointments brought minor and routine care to a growing number of people. But these virtual consultations could not replace important medical interventions and procedures. And “for others who don’t have easy access to technology, or can’t afford the devices or the monthly internet and broadband costs, it just put one more barrier for them being able to access services and supports,” Irving said.

Even as vaccines and lower Covid-19 rates have made it easier to access medical care in many places, missed care is likely to have lasting impacts. “For people who have chronic health conditions, for older adults, they may not bounce back in the same way that somebody who’s healthier would,” Irving added. “So we are going to see a bigger impact even as we start to come out of Covid-19.”

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It’s not only the health of care recipients that has been at stake: Caregivers have had a hard time getting health care, too. This is a challenge even during normal times, when, as Goyer put it, “the biggest challenge they have is taking care of themselves.” And regular health care is especially important for this group: More than 40 percent of informal caregivers reported having two or more chronic diseases.

If the primary caregiver is unwell — or has a health crisis — that puts the care recipient at substantially higher risk for poorer health and death.

These sorts of worries wracked Mills while she and her father took care of her mother in Georgia. Mills got very sick with Covid-19 last spring, leaving her then-65-year-old father, in the same house, as the sole caregiver to her mother for weeks on end. “If me and my dad had gotten sick [and] were in bed for weeks, she wouldn’t be able to take care of herself,” Mills said of her mom. “It’s just so scary to think about.”

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The mental health of caregivers can also have serious effects on the people they look after. Researchers have found over the years that conditions such as depression tend to lead to lower quality of care. A recent study in China, for example, discovered that stroke patients were more likely to die within six months of discharge from the hospital when their family caregivers experienced anxiety or depression.

For caregiving families, the pandemic restrictions and isolation could make home a pressure cooker. Powell, the caregiver for her Army veteran husband, describes herself as more of an emotional caregiver, because Jesse can keep up with most daily tasks. But his injuries have led to emotional volatility and, after the pandemic shut down his treatment facility, suicidal thoughts. Which put the whole family, including their 4-year-old son, on alert. “Things got really bad,” said Powell, who also experiences anxiety and depression.

 
Powell recalls a lot of anxiety running through their home during the pandemic.
Lizzie Chen for Vox

 

“There was a lot of anxiety throughout the entire house,” she said. “It’s not just the three of us. We have this thing in the house with us … the PTSD monster,” she said. “You don’t know what role it’s going to take in the day, but it’s going to have a role.”

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Although she tried to shield their young son from the stress, it was often impossible. “There were a lot of days I would realize he was sucked into it,” she said. “We’re here, and we’re stuck, and we’re not going anywhere.”


The vast majority of people will need care at some point in their lives — and almost anyone can find themselves in the role of caregiver. Of the adults who are not currently caregivers, about one in six expect to become one within the next two years. And an aging population will need more care, with fewer young people to provide it. “The numbers are such that we have to do something to help people,” Harvath said.

An even greater share of this burden will likely be shouldered at home. After the alarming number of deaths from Covid-19 in long-term care institutions, “many families will be reluctant going forward to use those facilities, and we’ll bear an even greater brunt of care — even when it becomes really, really difficult to do so,” Harvath said. And much of this unpaid work will likely be done by people who have not been trained, supported, or adequately cared for themselves.

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Some experts and caregivers see the pandemic as an opportunity to increase awareness about these struggles. “My hope is that one of the things that happens is that we use this disruption to all of our lives to make change,” Harvath said.

Before Covid-19, the US was lagging behind other countries in its support for informal, home-based care. Catching up would be a first step toward helping caregivers recover — for example, through tax credits, an expansion of federal family leave policies, and direct pay to informal caregivers.

The Credit for Caring Act, introduced in Congress this spring, would give eligible family caregivers up to $5,000 per year to help pay for care costs. The Biden administration has proposed up to 12 weeks of annual paid family leave that would cover caregivers like the ones in this story, through the American Families Plan.

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But other plans have already fallen by the wayside. For example, Biden’s American Jobs Plan proposed $400 billion for additional Medicaid funds to help ease some caregiving burdens, but it was cut from the bipartisan infrastructure bill currently under discussion in Congress.

Harvath also cautions that programs should reach not only low-income caregivers but all families that could use help with care. “Caregivers who are in those middle-income brackets have very few resources,” she said. “They don’t have the resources to pay for care, and they don’t have eligibility” for assistance. Some families choose to spend down their savings just to qualify for essential services they could not otherwise afford.

A handful of states have invested more resources into support of this critical unpaid workforce. In 2018, Hawaii piloted a program making caregivers who also have paid jobs eligible for financial assistance for care expenses, with the aim of helping them stay in the workforce — and of saving the state and taxpayers money on outlays for otherwise more expensive care. The same year, Washington state also launched a pilot program to provide a monthly stipend for services to caregivers who don’t quite qualify for Medicaid benefits. This helps the caregivers and recipients, while saving the state money. Washington is set to evaluate the program at the end of this year, and if it’s deemed successful, it could be replicated in other states.

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But policymakers can’t help caregivers unless they can locate them in the first place — which can be more difficult than it sounds. “Most people don’t use that term to describe themselves,” said Jennifer Olsen, executive director of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers. “If you ask them, they would say, ‘I’m the sister,’ ‘I’m the daughter.’” And it’s not a status doctors typically discuss or screen for — despite the stakes — as they might for family medical histories.

Irving advocates for a more comprehensive connection of services among health care, social service, and government systems. “It doesn’t mean they’re going to provide all the supports — just so that caregivers don’t fall through the cracks.”

 
Olinger helps her son Chris into his bed for an afternoon nap in their apartment in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Experts and caregivers see the pandemic as an opportunity to increase awareness about the struggles of at-home care.
Joseph Rushmore for Vox

 

The US can’t afford to neglect caregivers. There is neither the budget nor the professional labor force to replace them. “If all of us family caregivers went on strike tomorrow — not that we would ever do that to our loved ones — but if we did, there’s no way the nation could ever fill this gap,” Schall said.

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Scott, who trained as a business anthropologist and who now works as a home care consultant, believes that caregivers should receive guaranteed coverage for physical and mental health care: “How can you take care of someone else if you’re not healthy?”

Simply raising awareness is a first step, Scott added. “There will be more and more people who need caregivers,” she said, whether or not we like to think about it. “We’re all aging.”

Scott sees financial support for informal caregivers as a huge opportunity to keep care recipients out of much more expensive, tax-funded care. She would like to see this on a national level, rather than a patchwork of state and local programs that provide uneven coverage. And now is the time for these changes, she said: “Why not be preventative, like preventative medicine, as opposed to waiting until later?

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El juicio por asesinato en Georgia por el asesinato de Ahmaud Arbery se considera un caso de prueba para la justicia racial

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La tía de Ahmaud Arbrey, Theawanza Brooks, frente a su casa en Brunswick, Georgia. «Nadie tiene la decisión de ser juez, jurado y verdugo».

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Nicole Buchanan para NPR


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La tía de Ahmaud Arbrey, Theawanza Brooks, frente a su casa en Brunswick, Georgia. «Nadie tiene la decisión de ser juez, jurado y verdugo».

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Nicole Buchanan para NPR

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Uno de los asesinatos que provocó protestas por la justicia racial el año pasado vuelve a ser el centro de atención nacional con un juicio que comenzará el lunes. Tres hombres blancos están acusados ​​de asesinar a Ahmaud Arbery, un hombre negro de 25 años que fue asesinado a tiros mientras corría por una calle residencial el 23 de febrero de 2020 después de ser perseguido por camionetas.

«Fue justo aquí», dice Theawanza Brooks, la tía de Arbery. «Aquí es donde descansó por última vez».

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Ella está parada en la esquina de una calle en la subdivisión de Satilla Shores en las afueras de Brunswick. Es un vecindario escondido entre vías fluviales en la costa de Georgia. Los árboles imponentes forman un dosel sobre casas en su mayoría estilo rancho de ladrillos. Un letrero en un patio delantero dice «Corremos con Ahmaud».

Arbery, un ex atleta de la escuela secundaria, vivía a unas dos millas de aquí, justo al otro lado de la ruta 17 de los Estados Unidos. Brooks dice que esta era una de sus rutas habituales para correr porque podía mantenerse alejado de la autopista.

Ahí va ahora mismo. Corriendo por la calle

Pero algunos residentes habían comenzado a sospechar de Arbery, después de verlo en repetidas ocasiones entrando en un nuevo sitio de construcción de viviendas. Sospechaban de él de allanamientos recientes, aunque la policía no lo había vinculado a ninguno.

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El día del tiroteo, el acusado Travis McMichael llama al 911 para informar que hay un tipo en una casa en construcción. «Ahí va ahora mismo», dice en la grabación. «Corriendo por la calle».

El despachador dice que enviará a la policía, pero pregunta: «¿Solo necesito saber qué estaba haciendo mal?»

Arbery estaba desarmado, pero Travis McMichael tenía una escopeta.

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El padre de Travis, Gregory McMichael, también acusado, hizo una segunda llamada al 911.

«Hay un hombre negro corriendo por la calle», dice. Luego grita «¡Detente! ¡Maldita sea, detente! ¡Travis!»

Segundos después escuchas tres disparos de escopeta.

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Los recuerdos, algunos visibles y otros ocultos, están esparcidos por Brunswick, incluido este mural de Ahmaud Arbery.

Nicole Buchanan para NPR


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Theawanza Brooks dice que a menudo se imagina cómo debe haber sido ese momento para su sobrino, atrapado sin nadie que lo ayude. Ahora se está preparando para escuchar a los acusados ​​argumentar en la corte que todo esto sucedió porque sospechaban de él en robos en el vecindario, que fue el arresto de un ciudadano legal que salió trágicamente mal porque Arbery se defendió.

«Incluso si robas algo, nadie tiene la decisión de ser juez, jurado y verdugo», dice Brooks.

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Juez, jurado y verdugo

En el juicio, Travis McMichael, de 35 años, Gregory McMichael, de 65, y otro vecino, William Bryan, de 52, enfrentarán cargos estatales que incluyen asesinato, encarcelamiento falso y asalto agravado por perseguir a Arbery en camionetas y matarlo a tiros. Han sido acusados ​​por separado de delitos de odio federales. Ese juicio está programado para febrero de 2022.

El tiroteo de Arbery ha atraído un intenso escrutinio nacional, sucediendo casi al mismo tiempo que estallaban las protestas por la justicia racial en respuesta a los asesinatos policiales.

Hubo serias dudas sobre cómo los funcionarios del condado de Glynn manejaron originalmente el caso. No sucedió nada hasta que el video del asesinato del teléfono celular, grabado por el acusado Bryan, fue publicado meses después.

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La ex fiscal de distrito, Jackie Johnson, ahora enfrenta cargos de que intentó proteger a los McMichaels de ser procesados. El mayor de los McMichael había trabajado como investigador en la oficina del fiscal del distrito y era un ex oficial de policía. Su hijo había estado en la Guardia Costera. Varios jueces y fiscales también se retiraron del caso. El juez de la Corte Superior Timothy Wamsley de Savannah presidirá el juicio.

Pasaron casi tres meses antes de que se hicieran los arrestos, después de una creciente presión pública, y la Oficina de Investigaciones de Georgia tomó el caso de la policía del condado de Glynn.

El video de Bodycam de la escena muestra a la policía tratando a Travis McMichael con gran cuidado y deferencia mientras estaba literalmente con las manos manchadas de sangre, mientras Arbery yacía en la calle.

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«Se les dio una cortesía que el ciudadano normal no habría recibido», dice el pastor John Perry, quien era presidente de la NAACP local cuando Arbery fue asesinado.

El pastor John Perry frente al Ayuntamiento en el centro de Brunswick. Sobre el sistema de justicia y las diferencias entre cómo se trata a las personas blancas y negras, «Algunas personas lo llaman el buen sistema de los viejos. Yo lo llamo relaciones de privilegio».

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«Especialmente en la comunidad negra si se descubre que mataste a alguien», dice. «Te esposan y te reservan».

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Perry se postula para alcalde de Brunswick tras el asesinato de Arbery. Es parte de un campo abarrotado de candidatos que refleja un despertar político más amplio.

Él dice que este caso es un excelente ejemplo de por qué muchos ciudadanos negros ven el sistema de justicia como corrupto.

Relaciones de privilegio

«Algunas personas lo llaman el buen sistema del chico viejo. Yo lo llamo relaciones de privilegio», dice Perry. «Hay personas que ascienden a lugares de poder y han establecido relaciones, y esas relaciones establecidas se buscan de una manera que no se busca a otras personas».

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Perry y otros, incluidos los fiscales federales, dicen que el asesinato de Arbery fue por motivos raciales, que fue perfilado como un hombre negro que corre por un vecindario predominantemente blanco.

Los abogados defensores rechazarán ese argumento en el juicio, según el abogado Robert Rubin, que representa al pistolero, Travis McMichael.

«Hay un hombre en el vecindario que no pertenece al vecindario. No porque sea negro», dice Rubin. «No pertenece allí porque al menos está invadiendo una casa a la que no pertenece».

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Rubin argumenta que la sospecha equivale a una causa probable según la ley de arresto de ciudadanos de Georgia en ese momento, y que los McMichaels simplemente estaban tratando de detener a Arbery hasta que llegara la policía. Pero cuando Arbery se resistió, dice, Travis McMichael actuó en defensa propia.

«Están literalmente unidos, el señor Arbery tiene una mano en el arma y con la otra está golpeando a Travis en la cabeza», dice Rubin. “Travis sabe ‘si pierdo la posesión de esta pistola, estoy muerto’. Y entonces dispara el arma. El señor Arbery no deja de atacarlo y, finalmente, mata al señor Arbery «.

La lucha fue capturada en un video de teléfono celular por el tercer sospechoso: William Bryan, que se conoce con el nombre de Roddie.

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«Sin Roddie Bryan no habría caso», dice su abogado Kevin Gough.

Bryan estaba en la segunda camioneta persiguiendo a Arbery. Gough dice que su cliente no tuvo nada que ver con el tiroteo y que ha cooperado plenamente con la investigación.

«Roddie Bryant no hizo nada el día en cuestión que no hubiera hecho ningún estadounidense patriota», argumenta Gough. «Vio a un individuo que no conocía corriendo, seguido por un vehículo motorizado que él vio, en una comunidad que estaba al límite».

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Dice que está mal plantear este caso a la luz de la lucha más amplia de la nación por una justicia igualitaria.

Fuera del histórico palacio de justicia de Brunswick. Se ha convocado a mil miembros potenciales del jurado para el juicio, diez veces el promedio. Los funcionarios de la corte esperan que la gran cantidad de personas enfrente el desafío de sentar un jurado de 12 personas que no conocen a los acusados ​​ni a la víctima y no han tomado una decisión sobre el caso.

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«Parece que estas personas están siendo perseguidas, castigadas, procesadas, como se describa, en un sentido o una forma de expiar los pecados de la aplicación de la ley reales o percibidos en la administración de justicia», dice Gough.

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Muchos ven este juicio en el contexto de otros casos prominentes de justicia racial que han tenido una mezcla de veredictos: Ahmaud Arbery es otro nombre en una lista que incluye a Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, Breonna Taylor y George Floyd.

E históricamente, los cientos que vinieron antes, dice Bobby Henderson, cofundador de A Better Glynn, un grupo de base formado el año pasado en respuesta al asesinato de Arbery.

Fuimos testigos de un linchamiento

«Aquí estamos en el sur y fuimos testigos de un linchamiento», dice Henderson. «¿Qué tan lejos estamos de 1892? Eso es lo que está en juego».

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De pie en los escalones del histórico Palacio de Justicia del Condado de Glynn, Henderson dice que durante demasiado tiempo, lugares como este no ofrecían justicia a personas como él. Él ve este caso como una prueba de si eso ha cambiado.

«¿Podemos mantener algo de este impulso hacia la verdadera equidad, igualdad y justicia?» él pide. «¿O simplemente estamos atrapados en un ciclo en el que algunas personas lo entienden y otras no? Depende. La Constitución estadounidense no debería ser un pergamino de – depende».

Para Henderson, el caso también es personal. Su hijo trabajó con Ahmaud Arbery en un restaurante de comida rápida cuando eran adolescentes.

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«Me costó mucho emocionalmente», dice. «Estás reuniendo todos estos componentes. Entiendes lo que está sucediendo a nivel nacional, donde la gente está viendo lo que le está sucediendo a la gente negra y morena. Estás reviviendo Trayvon Martin una vez más».

Bobby Henderson frente al histórico palacio de justicia de Brunswick en el centro de Brunswick. Me costó mucho emocionalmente «, dice.» Estás reuniendo todos estos componentes. Entiendes lo que está sucediendo a nivel nacional, donde la gente está viendo lo que le está sucediendo a la gente negra y morena «.

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Su grupo ha trabajado para organizar a la gente y los votantes, y ha cabildeado para que se realicen cambios e investigaciones en las políticas. Y en el último año la aguja se ha movido. La fiscal de distrito que no procesó el asesinato de Arbery fue expulsada de su cargo y ahora enfrenta cargos por su manejo del caso. La legislatura de Georgia derogó la ley de arresto de ciudadanos del estado y aprobó una nueva legislación sobre delitos de odio. Y el condado de Glynn tiene un nuevo jefe de policía: el primer hombre negro en dirigir el departamento. Henderson dice que esos son pasos hacia un gobierno más inclusivo.

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«Creemos que eso es un reflejo directo de la cantidad de trabajo que hemos hecho para que la gente se dé cuenta de su propio poder», dice. «Y donde puedan utilizar su poder para crear su propio bien».

La tía de Ahmaud Arbery, Thewanza Brooks reconoce el cambio que se ha producido en el nombre de su sobrino.

«Se ha hecho una diferencia desde su muerte», dice ella. «Aprendimos que cuando nos unimos colectivamente como comunidad, las cosas cambian. Y creo que esta tragedia ha abierto los ojos a mucha gente».

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