When the pandemic hit, many more black employees in our workforce had to continue working at our group homes whereas most white employees were able to work from home. This resulted in a much higher rate of black employees contracting the virus versus white employees. Due to their circumstances and lack of access to educational opportunities, black employees hold most of the lowest paid positions at our company, while mostly white employees hold management or senior management positions.
When I was in college, a friend and I were the co-organizers for a celebration to welcome our new college President. Me, my friend and the incoming President were White, and most of the coordinating committee were also White. The prior President was Black, and there was disappointment among some students that the new President was also not Black and hadn’t been overly supportive of racial and equity issues.. I thought I was relatively close to friends in the Black Student Union (BSU), as I had marched with them against Apartheid and other issues. But, on the day of the celebration, at the beginning of the event, about 20 BSU members entered the room with picket signs and loudly noted their disappointment with the new President. I was shocked and appalled, and felt betrayed by my “friends.” Years later, i came to understand that I had the advantage to host this celebration, and did not consider the needs of Black and other students. This event gave the BSU a space to have themselves heard, and they made the news the next day- not the positive story I had anticipated.
A friend is Bahamian, her husband Black. They live on acreage and her husband was by the road repairing their gate with their teenage daughter. A police car stopped and asked him why he was in the neighborhood and made him prove that was his address. The daughter was horrified and scared to death for her father. Both parents are professionals in the community.
A local nonprofit serves many minorities who are financially challenged. Those served come in sicker and with illnesses that have to be treated more intensely because of their limited access to healthcare services.
I would like to share an example that involves children to note that inequity often begins early on.
Many families in our own communities struggle everyday with virtual school, because they lack access to reliable internet connections, computer equipment, technical skills, adequate space or privacy in the home or simply having someone available to guide them through it. Other families do not have these limitations, and therefore their children are more likely to succeed. In some instances, children who are struggling may unfairly be labeled as difficult, disinterested or lazy. The playing field is simply not level.
At such a young age, these children are already experiencing the harsh reality of inequity.
I am a 51 yo African American woman who is well-educated, gainfully employed, and fully insured. I live with a chronic condition, systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) which causes severe joint pain and a host of other challenges. At different times, I have gone to the ER…typically after consultation with or at the direction of my rheumatologist. I have come to loathe these experiences because I have often been questioned to the point of interrogation BEFORE my pain is addressed (if it is addressed). Sometimes it is only after lab work reports high markers of inflammation that my account is ‘confirmed.’ Other times, I have been dismissed until my physician has been consulted or intervenes on my behalf. At the same time I know there are people who receive more attention for hang nails. It’s maddening. Though I have access to health care, I cannot access health care.
My son’s father passed away due to complications from COVID….he was exposed (on his job at the water utilities department) while working in very close quarters with a contractor who had tested positive for the disease. There is no hospital in the rural county where he lives, but he was transported by ambulance to the closest facility about 30 minutes away with obvious signs of apoxia, O2 levels well below the 94% that most acknowledge as a threshold for concern. He spent about 6 hours in the ER before he was moved into a room…on a regular floor (where the nurse to patient ratio is much lower). He was ultimately moved to ICU, intubated, and…there is actually no “and,” there’s a “BUT.” But, he died.
My son’s dad fought, my son fought for him….finally getting eyes on his case after a personal friend of his called the CEO of one of the largest health systems in the country. That gentleman reached out to the CEO of the hospital where his dad was a patient. Several specialists were consulted. All of this after 8p on August 25th. They all said they wish they’d consulted on the case sooner…it was too late. We know that because he passed away the next morning on August 26th.
Last spring, prior to the pandemic, I volunteered as a teaching assistant at a prison that offered some inmates the opportunity to receive an associate degree. In order to be eligible, there were requirements such as not having had an incident in the past 6 months. Despite the majority of prisoners being Black, my class only had 3 Black students of 13 students total. This represents inequity because in a prison where less than 25% of prisoners are white, white prisoners represented over 75% of this class, a class which was designed to create more opportunities for them upon release.
As a black women with fertility concerns, my Asian OB-GYN, suggested I freeze my eggs or start planning for adoption. However, the doctor warned me not to get a black baby because they usually crack babies, and to think about adopting a Chinese baby.
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.