I overheard an interesting conversation recently. It was, of course, about what everyone is talking about these days – the Rona. More specifically, it was about how one woman, a nurse, could not understand some Black folks’ distrust of nurses and doctors and their subsequent “badmouthing,” as she put it.
If you don’t take anything else away from my posts, I hope that you do take away the importance of context. That most things are not as they seem on the surface or have layers upon layers of nuance, that without knowing, make it impossible to truly understand certain topics. This is definitely one of those topics.
Our medical professionals are putting in work. Tirelessly struggling to save as many people as they can, at extreme risk to self. It is amazing, selfless work. This is true.
Medical professionals, in general, show extreme implicit bias when it comes to Black people. It affects how they treat patients, how/if they prescribe medication, treatments offered and even how long they spend on life-saving measures – and this was before the pandemic. All of this is true too.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us with a population that can be very mistrustful of healthcare providers, rightfully so. The Black community, who has an excessive disparity in treatment, coupled with higher rates of food insecurity, inadequate health insurance and low wages are going into this pandemic less healthy than other populations and with less viable options. It leaves the possibility for this community to be absolutely ravaged by this virus, more so than almost any other group.
There are those(maybe even you), who will automatically get defensive if they hear a Black person speak negatively about someone in the healthcare industry right now. But that ability to get defensive, without considering who is saying it and why is a privilege in and of itself. Black people aren’t talking out of their ass so they can set off a random woman in line at the grocery store. They are speaking from experience – their own and of those around them. To tell someone that they need to shut up about their own mistreatment, that it’s in bad taste to voice their concerns right now and that they need only to say goods things, is dismissive. It’s tone policing at its finest and exacerbating trauma in the worst way.
It doesn’t seem to matter that some medical organizations have recognized that Black communities are rarely, if ever, even being tested for coronavirus. Nor does it matter that some have acknowledged their own bias when choosing who gets treatment/a ventilator or that they’ve seen their own coworkers prescribe less effective pain medicine to Black patients who have coronavirus. It seems to go in one ear and out the other when advocates make it known that the criteria for choosing who to save often leaves Black people to fend for themselves or worse, to die at home- because those with more health conditions and those who are older are the first to be deemed as expendable. Nope, all of that is irrelevant according to some and even with the admittance of past and present mistreatment by healthcare professionals, Black people are being told to just…shut up about it.
There are some amazing nurses and doctors out there who, with everything else going on, are having to serve as patient advocates, trying to stop the inevitable mismanagement of Black medical care and I thank you. But I need the rest of you to stop deflecting and defending, take a second and consider the history and experiences before you criticize the way Black people may be responding to this. Try to understand not being able to completely trust your doctor, if at all. Try to understand wrestling with your own medical prejudice experiences while having to decide how to navigate the current virus. If you are a medical professional, seek to quell the biases that will undoubtedly and quietly come up in your institution because lives depend on it.
Because Black lives matter. And right now Black lives are at the most risk. Black communities are teetering precariously on the edge of total break down and what Black people don’t need is to be told to quiet down because THEIR trauma offends YOUR sensibilities.
Because if your intersectional feminism, your wokeness, your self proclaimed allyship falls to pieces when presented with hard truths, I’ve got some news for you and I guarantee that you’re not going to like it.
When JanayB isn’t posting memes, scrolling through “wokebook” posts, ordering food and otherwise being your typical millennial, you can find her here destroying white tears and basking in her unapologetic blackness. Get in touch with her at JanayBsays@gmail.com.