While at a conference, that was primarily attended by while colleagues, I was often in spaces where I was the only black person. on one occasion the conversation drifted to childhood and upbringing and even how the majority of my white colleagues raised their children. It amazes me how much they had access to. how much more of the world they were exposed to and how race wasn’t a constant conversation in their home. It makes me jealous and joyful at the same time. but that access/equity will never sit well with me
I have sat on a few county wide conversations, some of them are focused on equity specifically and the idea of community led processes, but by no means is truly that. What has been really frustrating is to hear people prescribe solutions to the community. For example, the Barbershop talks are becoming a best practice, and organizations/system leaders want to force their messaging onto communities through this venue, rather than working with them to co-design what the barbershop would want. Additionally, yoga is promoted as such a huge mental health benefit to our community, everyone is talking about the benefits of it, but does our community feel comfortable in the current yoga spaces? Are they prescribing this solution without asking if the community wants it.
For those individuals seeking SSI-Disability Benefits, individuals who can afford to hire an attorney to advocate and complete forms, and work within the system are two times more likely to be approved for benefits on the first “go around” that those who don’t and definitely increase the approval rating when reapplying after initial denial. However, those who are really in need of guidance, often have lower incomes (if any) and cannot afford or have the ability or access to easily obtain legal counsel. Once approved for benefits, the waiting period for health care access and services through Medicare does not begin until 2 years after approval — a time when many need it most. “People who will become eligible for SSDI benefits are significantly more likely to be uninsured than other workers—an average of 22 percent over the three years prior to SSDI entry, compared with 16 percent in the general population” with the likelihood “living in a family whose income is below the federal poverty level being twice as high among people receiving SSDI benefits as among those who have not yet become disabled” The cost of coverage through COBRA is “cost-prohibitive” for many of these individuals.
Many individuals and families absolutely give up even trying to obtain these benefits even though they are entitled to receive the funds and critical health care services.
In trying to combat the opioid epidemic in 2017, I was confronted by a black friend who expressed his anger at the way the healthcare system, legal system, and local governments were now rallying to this cause, which he attributed to the impact on the white community. He was right. This was and is a glaring example of inequity. I considered all the partners involved in the effort to combat the epidemic, and I realized that almost none were black or Latino. Our previous attempts to combat substance use disorders and addictions had been largely punitive and enforced along racial lines. These biases and practices continue today in how we treat addiction and its community effects.
I loved baseball as a kid and one of my earlier memories is of Hank Aaron hitting home run #715 and breaking Babe Ruth’s record. The way everyone in my immediate family huddled around the tv, it seemed like a really important moment, everyone waiting to see if this at bat would be the one. When he hit the ball out of the park, it was so exciting because he accomplished something everyone assumed was impossible. It felt like a really important moment. I found out from my dad that Hank got hate mail and death threats during his chase of the record. I remember thinking – what is wrong with people? Not only is that wrong, it’s so stupid. Who thinks like that? Within a few years I realized I had plenty of aunts, uncles, cousins who did. I still get Obama birther emails from an aunt.