Why People of Color Are More Likely to Die in Accidents Like the Bronx Apartment Fire

1/15/2022 11:33:00 AM

Jessie Singer, author of the upcoming book 'There Are No Accidents,' talks to TIME about the problem with the idea of accidental death

'Statistically, the people who typically die as a result of accidents, including fires, are disproportionately people of color,' writes JosiahBates

Jessie Singer, author of the upcoming book 'There Are No Accidents,' talks to TIME about the problem with the idea of accidental death

, which looks at the current and historical racial and economic disparities in accidental deaths. The book also explores the word “accident” and how it’s used by the public. Speaking with TIME the day after the Bronx fire, Singer discussed how accidental fires fit into this dynamic and why the discussion around accidental deaths need to change.

TIME: You’ve studied the disparities that exist when accidents happen. How does the fire in the Bronx fit into that story?If you examine how racial disparities appear in accidental death, where outcomes are most starkly divided by race, it’s [in] the accidents that could have been prevented through policy and infrastructure.

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JosiahBates Are these deaths due to frequent false alarms, so people don't respond to alarms? Also, I live in a building with at least 25% of residents have mobility problems. Most of them don't live on first floor. JosiahBates Is the collection and collation of these statistics empirical? Free of all vices premised on color and prejudices?

JosiahBates why, why, why….this is what’s dividing us. JosiahBates Not integrating to mainstream culture has plus and minus. Plus is minimalist/simple lifestyle. Minus is slow movers. JosiahBates JosiahBates Fire is racist JosiahBates That was a given, no study required for that conclusion 😂😂😂😂😂🤟✌️

JosiahBates Care to elaborate more ? JosiahBates Cuz nobody cares...for decades....🤦🏿‍♂️

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There Are No Accidents , which looks at the current and historical racial and economic disparities in accidental deaths.I’m licking my wounds a little bit, but that’s what I signed up for.I’m licking my wounds a little bit, but that’s what I signed up for..

The book also explores the word “accident” and how it’s used by the public. Speaking with TIME the day after the Bronx fire, Singer discussed how accidental fires fit into this dynamic and why the discussion around accidental deaths need to change. I appreciate that. TIME: You’ve studied the disparities that exist when accidents happen. That’s the sentiment I’ve been getting, so I guess it’s a small consolation for finishing 15 out of 16. How does the fire in the Bronx fit into that story? If you examine how racial disparities appear in accidental death, where outcomes are most starkly divided by race, it’s [in] the accidents that could have been prevented through policy and infrastructure. Do you think Lord Sugar made the right decision? I honestly reckon I’d have a pretty strong case for unfair dismissal if I brought Lord Sugar to the courtroom. The accident in the Bronx could have been prevented with sprinklers, with self-closing doors that actually worked, with a functional alarm system, with a heating system that worked so that people didn’t have to use supplement heat.

The people in New York City who use supplemental heat like space heaters directly correlate with the poverty rate. I don’t think anyone really did. I don’t think anyone really did. The living conditions in [the Bronx apartment building] were not great. People were living there because they couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. Me and Nick were honest and didn’t backtrack on anything we said – but it ended up being our downfall. We call these “accidents” but we know where these accidents are most likely to happen and they’re most likely to happen to [people of color] who live in poverty. Well, my downfall. How does that disparity persist? Accidental deaths have been growing since the early ’90s. Conor Gilsenan says he wasn’t a’ggressive’ or ‘cocky’ enough to remain in ‘The Apprentice’ (BBC/Boundless/Ray Burmiston) Aaron is a smart talker – there were a few times when he almost convinced people they were wrong for recounting what had actually happened.

More people are dying by accident and with that, the racial and economic disparities are growing. [The word] “accident” is just a magic word that we use to delegate some horrors that we’d rather not look at too closely, and that we’d rather not talk about. I remember leaving and being like, ‘I was sure I’d clarified that we’d do two characters and then, if not, we’d do a male character. I remember leaving and being like, ‘I was sure I’d clarified that we’d do two characters and then, if not, we’d do a male character. We can say “it was just an accident” and move on. Accidental deaths are extremely affected by deregulation, so as the federal government shrinks and our agencies that are meant to protect us become smaller and more defanged, we are less protected from accidents and therefore more likely to die.’ I’d stuck to the plan and did what was asked, but Lord Sugar decided to believe Aaron. Read more: The Many Ways Institutional Racism Kills Black People Your book explores how we talk about accidents. It felt like he didn’t really have a full picture of what went on in the task.

What are the issues with the current narrative around them? By definition, an accident is an unpredictable, unpreventable event. Do you regret not speaking up for yourself more? That’s the feeling that I left the process with; that I should have dug my heels in more and been more abrasive and aggressive, ‘cause that’s clearly what gets awarded in that process. Nothing about [these kinds of incidents] are unpredictable or unpreventable. In the Bronx fire, we’ve heard a lot about the space heater and the doors left open. So if I’d started pointing the finger at people and barking, I’d be kicking myself now watching it back. So if I’d started pointing the finger at people and barking, I’d be kicking myself now watching it back. We’re focused on what individuals could have done which ignores the systemic pattern. Accidents sort of focus on this idea of human error, that someone did something wrong. Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video Sign up now for a 30-day free trial It’s fair to say you managed the feat of leaving The Apprentice without seeming like a nasty piece of work.

And if that’s our narrative, then the answer is to fix people. That means the world to me – that’s better than coming first. That’s the most powerful narrative of the word accident, that it’s a people problem. They tried so hard in that taxi to get me to say: ‘I’m going to be back and I’m gonna take over the world. If we look at the data, accidents happen under dangerous conditions. That’s what we should be focused on. Last week, I was quite nervous before episode one aired. Last week, I was quite nervous before episode one aired. What is a more constructive way to talk about accidents? I think if people hear the word “accident,” it should make people ask questions.

How was it an accident? Why is it an accident? Has it happened before? Why did it happen again? How are we going to prevent it from happening again? In asking those questions, we make ourselves aware of the systemic, deeply racialized and deeply classist nature of how these horrible tragedies repeat again and again and move on from these simplistic narratives about the last person to interact with the accident before it became deadly. I said the cheesiest thing and thought, ‘Well, it can’t get any worse than this. Read more: Americans Have Learned to Talk About Racial Inequality.’ Have you been getting mocked by your mates? I’m getting hammered. But They’ve Done Little to Solve It How can these racial and economic gaps begin to close? The problem of solving the racial and economic disparities in accidental deaths will require a great deal of attention on interactive systems that we need to fix. But luckily, I’ve been in a professional rugby changing room for nine years, and you grow a pretty thick skin in there. We can start by changing how we approach accidents. We’re not going to prevent mistakes but we can prevent the harm of mistakes. Aaron is to blame for Conor Gilsenan’s firing in the latest episode of ‘The Apprentice’ (BBC/Boundless/Ray Burmiston) So, your downfall was due to a character named Wiffy. Aaron is to blame for Conor Gilsenan’s firing in the latest episode of ‘The Apprentice’ (BBC/Boundless/Ray Burmiston) So, your downfall was due to a character named Wiffy.

We’re not going to prevent fires but we can reduce the harm of fires. By changing the approach to accidents we can start to address the disparities. I was very clear I wanted it to start with alliteration so it would be memorable for kids. If [New York City] administrators say that they’re going to look into all of the interlocking factors that led to this fire and decide to start with the fact that people were living in a building where they knew conditions were unsafe and not focus on that one space heater, then that would be a good start. All we could think about was Willy Wonka – but we knew we couldn’t call a wand that goes in someone’s mouth “Willy”. As soon as you focus on the one human error that occurred, we’ve lost the ability to prevent accidents. We were trying so hard to stay away from that. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

More Must-Read Stories From TIME These . So, when I said Wiffy, everyone was like, ‘Yeah, that works!’ Then we got completely blindside by the toothbrush looking like a turd. So, when I said Wiffy, everyone was like, ‘Yeah, that works!’ Then we got completely blindside by the toothbrush looking like a turd.