Can we talk race and healthcare?

As we have discussed in other class sessions and reading, racism often occurs unintentionally potentiated by unconscious prejudice and stereotypes. To the extent that many people are unaware of their biases, there is little motivation for change.

As a healthcare provider, I have worked in predominately white owned practices privately and publicly and have found that not only do minorities and others marginalized groups receive among other treatments, substandard medical and nursing care, but that often time racism is the fuel motivating the delivery of such care. Often times patients of color are unable to effectively voice these sentiments due to stereotypes threats, and healthcare providers often becomes offended that they are in essences being accused of being a racist.

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Implicit and Explicit Prejudices

It’s difficult to discuss prejudice without clarifying what it is. The fourth edition of the American Heritage College Dictionary provides four meanings for the term—from “an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts” to “irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race or religion.” Both definitions apply to the experiences of ethnic minorities in Western society. Of course, the second definition sounds much more menacing than the first, but prejudice in either capacity has the potential to cause a great deal of damage.

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Trayvon Martin

Though overt racism is no longer condoned in American society, it has been demonstrated that implicit or unconscious racism is still at work today. Whether known to the individual or not, racist beliefs and attitudes could greatly affect one’s behavior toward a member of another race. The case of Trayvon Martin screams explicit racism with a capital “E” letting me know that explicit/overt racism is alive and well in American society. A young black man is shot dead because he was in a hoodie and in a gated community. The shooter has yet to be brought to justice. The father of the shooter ( who is white), wrote a letter stating that his son George Zimmerman is not racist because he is Hispanic and grew up in a multicultural family. This leads me to the readings I have done on a different kind of racism, that kind of racism is horizontal racism. Horizontal racism is defined as the results of people of targeted racial groups (Blacks, Latinos/Hispanics, Asians, Native) believing, acting on or enforcing the dominant (White) system of racist discrimination and oppression. Horizontal racism can occur between members of the same racial group or between members of different, targeted racial groups. Why then can we suppose that the Florida authorities are not charging Mr. Zimmerman with murder? He clearly has an extensive history of targeting blacks. A news article stated “At the very least, a series of 46 emergency calls made by Zimmerman over the past six years document a man vigilant about keeping his neighborhood safe and orderly. The calls include complaints about unruly people at the pool, potholes, dumped trash, and kids playing in the street. In recent months, as the neighborhood saw an uptick in crime, including burglaries and a shooting, Zimmerman’s calls had focused on specific suspects, the majority of them young black men

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Modern vs. Old Fashion Racism

Recently in class, we have been talking about racism and the fact that racism is now more subtle whereas in years gone by, racism was more overt.

For 9 years now, I have tried earnestly to understand why, as an adult professional, I experienced so many adversities working with whites and other non-black professionals in the workplace. I have attended management classes, became very introspective to seek to understand myself and my management style etc. It was not until recently that someone told me what I suspected but was too afraid to utter. During the years I have worked in the Lehigh Valley, I found on many occasions that I would give a directive to someone I supervised and he or she would give me a hassle before completing and sometimes would not follow through. But if a colleague that was white and even in a non-supervisory role would issue the same directive, there would be no issue. I have experienced disrespect and isolation in the work place if I did not compromise standards and safety issues or behave permissively. These incidents would occur and I would question my approach and try new tactics catering my approach to each staff member. I would consult my peers and even superiors who would all agree that it was not “appropriate” to behave in an insubordinate manner towards me and that they themselves would not tolerate such behaviors. Curiously enough, no one has ever spoken up and/or coached the staff members being insubordinate.

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Sterotypes, Generalization, Prejudice and, at best, Bad Manners

Recently, I suffered a sprained shoulder and after a doctor’s visit, I was referred to physical therapy for help in rebuilding strength in my right shoulder. Let me say this right from the start, I am in no way, shape, or form a malingerer. So on my first visit, everything was about evaluating and trying to gather as much information about the injury determine the best treatment regimen for me. By the second visit, one is supposed to have a plan of treatment tailored to his or her injury explained and agreed to. Well, I got more than that on the second visit.

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