Friday, November 02, 2007

Sick of Disrespect?

This may be another one for the Living While Black Files. Check it out:

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - African Americans are more likely than their white or Hispanic counterparts to check themselves out of the hospital against their doctors' advice, a new study has found.

In an analysis of more than 3 million discharges from U.S. hospitals in 2002, the researchers found that 1.4 percent were made against medical advice. Compared with white patients, African Americans were 35 percent more likely to opt for such a "self-discharge," the researchers report in the American Journal of Public Health.

In contrast, Hispanic patients were 10 percent less likely than whites to check out against medical advice, Dr. Said A. Ibrahim of the Veterans Administration Pittsburgh Healthcare System and co-investigators report.

While the reasons for these findings are not completely clear, they speculate that distrust of doctors or a history of bad experiences with the healthcare system may partially explain African Americans' higher likelihood of self-discharge. (Read the whole thing here)

While the researchers in this study are not sure what is contributing to blacks leaving hospitals against treatment advice it reminds me of my recent involvement with an academic setting that is finding it difficult to keep African American staff and faculty from leaving as well. My observation is that in both these cases, while institutions that in a previous era would not have welcomed the presence of blacks at all, now at least allow us through the doors, they have not figured out how to create environments in which we can feel like human beings. This deceptively simple goal is one that many institutions seem to fail on a regular basis. It makes me think about the high standard placed on Baha'i communities regarding how minorities should be treated:

"Unlike the nations and peoples of the earth, be they of the East or of the West, democratic or authoritarian, communist or capitalist, whether belonging to the Old World or the New, who either ignore, trample upon, or extirpate, the racial, religious, or political minorities within the sphere of their jurisdiction, every organized community enlisted under the banner of Bahá'u'lláh should feel it to be its first and inescapable obligation to nurture, encourage, and safeguard every minority belonging to any faith, race, class, or nation within it."
(Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 35)

Ironically many contemporary institutions, whether medical, educational, social, governmental, or economic imagine that because various colors of people share space with whites within four walls that we have achieved true racial justice and unity. Leaders of these institutions express shock and dismay when they see blacks or other minorities walking out the the doors they knocked so hard to have opened to them. "What is happening?!", they exclaim with great gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair. Here is a suggestion, there is need for a deep transformation of soul, a real change of heart that gets expressed personally and institutionally in order to heal the "grievous and slow healing wounds" of racial oppression. Political correctness and public displays of affection towards black folk are not enough:

"But there is need of a superior power to overcome human prejudices, a power which nothing in the world of mankind can withstand and which will overshadow the effect of all other forces at work in human conditions. That irresistible power is the love of God."
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 68)

Black Americans are sick of disrespect and they should be. It's time for institutions in our society to deliver on their diversity rhetoric. When they do, they will find it much easier to keep us around.