Health Disparities and the Eye of the Storm

Do Black Lives Matter in America?  If they truly mattered, would we continue to see the disparities that we do such as the infant mortality rate being comparable to third world nations?  African American women’s maternal death is disproportionately high when compared to all other groups, and one in three African American men under the control of the Criminal Justice System at some point in their life.  Black Lives only seem to matter when a dollar can be made off them. Think about the pandemic and who was negatively impacted the most, front line workers, which often were African American men and women as well as Hispanics in the service industry.  They were considered essential workers as gas stations, restaurants, and other services didn’t shut down as they were deemed necessary.

While we don’t discuss it nearly as much as we should, America has some serious inequity issues surrounding a variety of things, one of which is health care and access.  During the pandemic, our nation was exposed to what many in the African American and Hispanic communities already know, disparities in health care access and employment.  Front line workers who could not afford to miss work had to continue to operate as business as usual.  They could not socially distance themselves from their customers. Even though they knew they were putting themselves and their families in harm’s way as the pandemic number increased, they had no choice but to go to work.  If they didn’t work, they didn’t get paid. Considering income, we must also recognize that often those in the service industry don’t make enough money to live in big enough spaces where social distancing could even take place at home. They often work and still live below the poverty line.  Many mega corporations/companies work their employees just enough hours where they don’t have to offer them health care benefits, 401k plans, or vacation time.  People are working, but they are not benefiting as much as they should.  It should be common to have health care benefits, a 401k plan, etc. but that is not the case for many in the African American and Hispanic communities.   

History has shown us how we got to this point.  Africans were forcibly taken from their continent, loaded onto boats at the maximum capacity, stripped of their culture and customs, and sold to the highest bidder.  Remember at one time African Americans were not considered human beings, counted as 3/5 of a person, actually “owned” by other people, and totally disregarded as human beings. While we have had several movements, such as Reconstruction, which failed as soon as federal troops were removed from the south.  The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s and currently the Black Lives Matter Movement, we continue to see disparities that hurt Black and Brown communities more so than any others.

We have all seen video footage of the police being called on African Americans for doing everyday mundane tasks such as walking to the store, bird watching, and being in neighborhoods where they were perceived as not belonging.  As a society, we have a long way to go to create equity, but we also have many people who believe this is a zero-sum game.  People who believe as we gain equity, they somehow lose something. God created each of us in his image and society must recognize and respect that! 

I struggle when I hear people speak of our nation being Christian as that is not the behavior I see displayed towards certain groups.  Jesus told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, but most people don’t even know their neighbors let alone speak to them.  Race, while not biologically real continues to have real world implications.  If we want to create a society that is reflective of Christian principles, we have some internal soul searching to do.  I can’t hate someone and say I love the Lord, that is not how this works. It seems that certain groups within our society are disposable.

By Dr. Tammy Hodo

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