Human beings are both individually distinct and communally similar in their perspective expectations and nuisances. As such, Secord (2015) defines culture as the belief and behavior characteristics of a given ethnic, social, or age group. The African American is an example of a social ring whose heritage is of interest to diversity dilemma in the contemporary America. Some of the issues affecting them include police brutality, criminalization, workplace segregation, health inequalities, among others. In her TED talk presentation, Tritch (2015) poses this question to the audience: “Have you noticed, lately, America seems to be broken ? (1:45)” A superpower nation that prides itself for inclusivity and diversity appears to be slowly falling apart. It is high time for a dialogue on the conundrum to be resolved. The objective of this essay is to critically discuss the subject of healthcare disparities (more evident in the recent Covid-19 pandemic) among the Blacks concerning other racial classes.
Diversity Situation in Healthcare
African Americans are among the least healthy ethnic group in the United States. The transportation of their ancestors in chain to come and serve the slave masters was the genesis of their deteriorating wellness. Noonan et al. (2016) point out that during that middle passage, 9 to 35 % of the travelers died. The people of color may be free from chains now, but they still suffer most from different mental and physical infirmities. Resultantly, their quality of life is significantly lowered, and they have a high mortality rate.
The slaves endured all forms of physical, emotional, and mental brutalization for an extended period. After the Civil Rights movements, segregation laws ensured that African Americans were unprivileged. It was only in 1985 that the then Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) officially launched the Heckler Report, which brought to light the fitness disparities (Noonan et al., 2016). Several recommendations were implemented that led to some improvements. However, other socioeconomic factors exacerbated the problem. Socially, the minority group is less likely to be employed even in positions that they qualify. The neighborhoods where African Americans live have fewer groceries for healthy food and are un-hygienic.
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) are among the major diseases that exposed healthcare breaches in the United States. According to Brown (2015), the 2011 (Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics showed that women of African descent accounted for more than 60% of all the infection. This number is high, considering that Blacks only make up 13% of the USA population (Noonan et al. 2016). When HIV was first discovered, the vast majority of the individuals who were confirmed positive were gay negros.
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 is the latest pandemic that has shown inequality among Americans. The disease was identified in December 2019 to be highly infectious and with a quick and fatal prognosis. It quickly spread globally and infected hundreds of thousands of people. In the United States, data records reveal that blacks are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. According to Yaya et al. (2020), in Illinois, African Americans make up 37% of positive cases and 45% of deaths due to corona infections despite being just 16% of the population. Broadly in Chicago, where the population of the blacks is less than 33%, Krouse (2020) points out that this group accounts for at least 50% confirmed infection and 75% deaths. Such are the trends in other states, including South Carolina, North Carolina, Missouri, and Michigan.
The systemic racism is still evident in 2020 as much as it was hundreds of years ago. In the neighborhoods where the population is predominantly African American, there are fewer hospitals that are well equipped which led to overcrowding. Yet, the COVID -19 spreads faster in areas where there are many people with compromised immunity. The measures taken to mitigate the coronavirus are further suppressing the livelihoods of the minorities. For instance, according to Shah (2020), only 19.7% of blacks, compared to 29.9% of the whites, can afford to work from home. Majority of the former are likely to have jobs in industries such as hotels and transportation where the physical presence is needed.
Relevance of the Topic
Healthcare is one of the essential factors for a nation which should never be compromised. When people are physically and mentally fit, their performance within the family, workplace, and the society in general increases. Therefore, when there is systemic racism in healthcare, like is the case in the United States, the marginalized groups are incapacitated to function properly. It is no wonder that blacks are still more likely to be raised in single-parent households, not to complete college education, and to be poor. All these variables are connected to poor healthcare deliveries. Therefore, this topic is of interest to the entire nation because no one wishes for a broken America.
As a person who is proud to be in the United States, it is painful to realize that some fellow citizens are still discriminated against in the area of death. The Black Lives Matters is not just an issue of police brutality that has, in recent years, been a common feature in the media houses. Health disparities are a clear indication that, for a long time, the right to live has been suppressed for black people. By writing on the topic and providing recommendations, more people can be persuaded to contribute and end system racism in the healthcare sector.
Associated Stereotypes and Biases
To the degree that healthcare among blacks and whites is concerned, there are many biases that enhance inequality. According to Noonan (2016), “Bias, stereotyping, prejudice, and clinical uncertainty on the part of healthcare providers may contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare” (p.11). One of the assumptions common against the African American people is that they do not appreciate wellness and are reluctant to get insurance. The result is that the attitude of medics when taking care of the minority may be arrogant. Yet, the insurance cover may not be affordable to them as they try to prioritize other basic needs such as food and rent. For instance, after the signing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the uninsured rate dropped by 9.5% (Noonan, 2016). When the cost of wellness is reduced that more of the marginalized population will invest in it.
The other bias is that black people destroy their health through drugs or risky criminal activities. This is a terrible assumption since it makes the victim guilty for their situation. Yet, there are as many African Americans who abuse chemical substances. The residential places for these minorities are also more violent. A person may be a civil citizen, but they get attacked by thugs and are beaten. What is needed is to make America an inclusive society (Tritch, 2015) that appreciates individual differences.
There are also intolerances against the Caucasian Americans in so far as matters of health are concerned. A study by Hall et al. (2015) found that white nurses were more likely to spend more time with the corresponding race as opposed to the people of color. The bias is that the former is more mindful of their wellbeing and are therefore given the best care. Such tendencies are not just among the medics but also other people, which raises sympathy for whites and judgment for blacks.
Privileges and Powers
Privileges set people at a competitive advantage over their peers while power enhances control and influence. The blacks in the United States have fewer privileges and power, especially in matters that concern health. Perhaps, the only thing that they can pride themselves on is having an increasing number of people raising their plight. For instance, the Black Lives Matter protestors helped to raise awareness. The politicians are currently trying to introduce policies that can make healthcare more inclusive.
Whites have more privileges, such as high average income, that makes them able to afford healthcare. Living in good neighborhoods gives them the power to build well-equipped hospitals. Also, there is power in numbers, which implies that the Caucasian has a competitive edge by being the majority. Most of the research studies done often include this race; hence there is more evidence-based information about their treatment and prognosis compared to the people of color.
Personal Perspectives on Healthcare Disparities
My attitude on healthcare has been a little biased such that I am more likely to be more sympathetic to blacks. For instance, if there are two people from different racial groups pleading for assistance to get money for their surgery, I am likely to give it to African Americans. My point of view is that they are disadvantaged and may not easily afford to raise a huge bill as the whites. Regarding my belief, I consider that blacks have stronger natural immunity. They manage to live in very unhygienic places, work for longer, and eat food that is not fresh.
Cultural norms that I have is that food plays a significant role in the health of a person. This implies that the type of delicacy and method of its preparation matters. For instance, I assume that eating much processed meals that have been refrigerated for long and then warmed using a microwave kills some human cells. As a family tradition, eating together is an unwritten law that enhances wellness as it allows people to talk and laugh, thus enhancing positive emotions. I think that the colored people in the United States are more communal and love to share more than Caucasians.
One of the stereotypes I have held regarding health is that colored people often wait until they are very sick before seeking medical assistance. Conversely, the whites will go to the hospital immediately they notice any symptoms of the of an infection. The fact that there are more African Americans hospitalized due to the COVID-19 made me think that they probably assume the early signs. By the time they get to the clinic, the virus has spread to critical parts of the body, making the prognosis to be poor and increasing the likelihood of mortality.
Argument Supporting the Perspective of Each Group
The primary argument for African Americans being disadvantaged in healthcare, especially in the wake of the coronavirus, is that their hospitalization and mortality is disproportionally high. According to Greenaway et al. (2020), this outcome is a due to “the complex interaction of socioeconomic health determinants, barriers to accessing care, higher prevalence of underlying medical co-morbidities” among others. One of the barriers to access health, especially during the COVID-19, is having hospitals far from the places where the blacks live. The black patients may also have other infirmities including HIV, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.
For white Americans, the argument is that they work hard to maintain a better quality of life than the minority groups. The Caucasians invest more in their education and career development, thus planning well for their future. By law, all the segregationist laws have been abolished, such that all races have equal opportunities to seek medical care from any attention. The notion of white privilege is, thus, perceived as being racist. The Caucasians are not stopping the people of color from becoming wealthy, purchasing the best insurance cover, and living in good neighborhoods.
Addressing the Dilemma
It is important to first recognize what is the real issue and how it can be changed in a way that is fair to both races. In her presentation Tritch (2015) states that she “sees diversity as a fact and inclusivity as an action” (3:27). Individual differences are constant even in a group; people have different preferences, worldviews, and cultures. Cultural relativism can help people to understand and the perspective of others without being judgmental. Recommendation for appreciating and being empathetic towards different ethnic groups will address dilemmas in health disparities.
The system racism in health care can be resolved through equitable distribution of resources. The federal government, which is mostly concerned with health, should distribute money to build well-equipped hospitals in regions that are highly populated. Finances should be distributed in ratio to the number of occupants of a state. National policies on health should include this justifiable formula so that each race will be satisfied. The initiative will lead to African Americans having better services. The insurance policies should also be drafted so that it is accommodating to both the rich and the poor. This can be achieved by both national and state governments prioritizing the health of its citizens by subsidizing most of the treatment.
Research which aim to produce evidences to be used to improve health practice is also useful in addressing the dilemma. Most of the prejudices, assumptions, and biases occur when there are no factual data on a phenomenon. Findings from study will provide credible information that discredits false beliefs and leads to objectivity in health care. Both the African Americans and the White Americans will know the truth about their individual difference that increases or lowers susceptibility to COVID-19 and other infections. Practices can then be adjusted to improve the quality of life of all races in a customized manner.
Failure to realize that individual differences are normal and that they exist to make the society diverse and complementary has resulted in vices such as system racism. In the United States, citizens are beginning to realize that the nation seems to be broken. Yet, the discrimination of the African Americans in the health sector started right from when they were being shipped to their new residence. Throughout slavery, civilization, and the contemporary era, evidence reveals that disparities in the medical field have reduced the quality of life and led to higher mortality among colored people. The COVID-19 evidence further points to this fact, although Caucasians have a different perspective on the issue. The solution is to approach the matter through the angle of cultural relativism, equitable distribution of resources, and research.
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