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Julianne Malveaux

Medical Condescension Can be Deadly

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(NNPA) Anna Brown, a St. Louis-based homeless woman, needed treatment for a sprained ankle. She went to three emergency rooms seeking treatment. In the third hospital, St. Mary’s Health Center, Brown was emphatic about needing care. Instead of being treated, she was arrested for trespassing, and died in a jail cell. Was she ill-treated because she was homeless? Black? Broke? All three? It really doesn’t matter. What matters is the hospital that failed to treat her may have contributed to her death.

Too many African Americans are treated in emergency rooms as criminals, not people in need of health services. After learning of the Anna Brown case, a sisterfriend shared that she had such an extreme anxiety attack that her 10-year-old son called 911. When she got to the emergency room (with health insurance, thank you), she was queried about her use of drugs and alcohol, not her health condition. It was only after her blood was tested that she was treated. So she spent four agonizing hours on a hospital bed with raspy breath, a frightened son, and no medical care.

She isn’t the only one who was mistreated. African American and Latino men with broken bones are less likely to get pain medication than others. Even children of color are less likely to receive painkillers than White children, because some physicians think they are faking the severity of their pain. When we look at health disparities and wonder why African Americans are more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failures, breast cancer, AIDS and other diseases, one might point to the many ways that doctors, especially those in emergency rooms, signal that Black pain is not worth treating. The result is that someone who is really hurting chooses to forgo medical care instead of dealing with medical condescension and arrogance.

To our society’s shame, emergency rooms often become the health providers of last resort. Those without a regular physician are stuck going to an emergency room when all else fails. A cold becomes the flu and the flu becomes pneumonia and only when a patient is struggling for breath does she seek treatment in an emergency room. I can understand a doctor’s frustration because the patient did not deal with her challenges earlier. But well-paid emergency room doctors need to do their work without judgmental attitudes getting in their way.

Anna Brown deserved to be treated as a human being. She deserved to be treated as someone who was struggling with pain. Instead, she was treated as a criminal because she insisted on care. Thus, she was accused of trespassing, instead of being treated as someone who was hurting.

While many would describe our society as post-racial that is a specious and inaccurate description of the world in which we live. Racism muddies the water that we all swim in, and physicians are not exempted. Those who swim in muddy water reflect the muddy attitudes that are prevalent in our society. Many doctors consider themselves “culturally sensitive” but they have come to certain conclusions about poor folks, Black folks, and others that they treat. It is easier to write off a woman like Anna Brown than it is to find out what is really wrong with her.

The Hippocratic oath that physicians swear to says “first, do no harm.” From the facts that have been published about Anna Brown though, this homeless 29-year-old mother of two was harmed by a medical indifference that landed her in a jail cell instead of a hospital bed. The tragedy is that Anna Brown is not the only one who has been treated this way.

We have health disparities because people are treated differently in our health care system. We cannot talk about closing gaps without talking about the ways that medical attitudes shape the medical experience for those who are so underserved that they come to emergency rooms for help. While the jury is out on the ways that Obamacare will reform our health care system, the intent of health care reform is to eliminate tragedies like Anna Brown’s.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Can We All Just Get Along?

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(NNPA) I never considered the late Rodney King anything of a philosopher, but as one observes Washington shenanigans, especially around fiscal matters, it seems that Brother King had a point. Can we all just, maybe, get along?

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the Senate finally passed a budget by the narrowest of margins, 50-49. Four Democratic Senators jumped ship to side with Republicans, probably because they are facing tough election fights in Republican leaning states. Still, it was great to see some vision from this Senate, which called for a $1 trillion in tax increases and $875 billion in program cuts. Unlike proposals presented by the likes of Paul Ryan, who would eviscerate social programs, the Senate offers a budget that cuts social and other programs more carefully and thoughtfully. Since this is the first budget the Senate has passed in four years, one might think that they should be congratulated. But the passage of a Senate budget is only the first step. Now, the Senate and the House of Representatives have to find some common ground.

Former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-Wis) chairs the House Budget Committee and he chairs it like he thinks he is still running for office. He claims that he can save $4 trillion more than Democrats by turning Medicare into a voucher program and slashing Medicaid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps), and other safety net programs. How will the Senate and House resolve their differences when Republicans basically refuse to bargain, and Democrats will give away the store if given an opportunity? If half of the Democrats in the Senate had the backbone of House Republican Majority Leader John Boehner, the people of the United States would be in a better position.

We can’t get along if we go along with nonsense such as a voucher program for senior health. As it is, some hospitals are closing or consolidating, largely because of the number of poor and elderly people who use those facilities. While Ryan is talking slash and burn, Obamacare, albeit imperfect, expands health care possibilities for everyone. We can’t get along with cuts in SNAP that leave more people hungry. The average monthly income for those who receive SNAP assistance is less than $700. That means families who receive this benefit are working part-time or not at all, not an unusual occurrence when the unemployment rate remains higher than 7 percent overall and 13 percent for African Americans. We can’t get along with proposals to cut educational funding, knowing education opens doors for generations to come.

How, then, will they fill the gap between the lean budget passed by Senate Democrats, and the austerity budget passed by Republicans? It is up to we, the people. A few weeks ago, a friend proposed organizing a March that would bring thousands to Washington as these budget deliberations continue to remind the Senate and the House that we are watching them. As this is the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, many marches are being planned to commemorate that critical date. But it might also be meaningful if Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign were also reenacted. Dr. King’s vision of bringing thousands to occupy government offices to highlight the needs of the poor was never fully realized, and the current gap between the House and Senate suggests that the poor will be more harshly treated now than they were two generations ago.

When one contrasts the House Budget with the one that comes from the Senate, one realizes that there are two starkly different visions of our country. We were presented with these stark choices when Mr. 47 Percent Romney faced off against President Obama. One could hardly call our president a flaming liberal. People chose the humanitarian Obama vision of the world instead of the elitist austerity that Romney exemplified. The people have spoken, but the politicians can’t hear.

The people are talking, the politicians are posturing, and millions are wondering how they will survive if a Ryan budget passes. Why can’t we all get along?

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

U.S. and Europe, not the Catholic Church, Blowing Smoke

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(NNPA) The selection of Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the next leader of the Catholic Church was, in some ways, inevitable. Latin America is home to the largest Catholic population in the world, and it has been more than past time for the tradition of selecting European popes to end. Hopefully, Cardinal Bergoglio, to be known as Pope Francis, will be able to stem the tide of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church as well as put the church on the path of more transparency and integrity. Proposals to allow women to be priests and to allow married priests into the clergy are, for Catholics, revolutionary ways to modernize the church. Pope Francis, who brings a reputation of frugality and humility to the church, may well be able to deal with these proposals.

With some competition for the papal position, I am not sure why the College of Cardinals settled on Pope Francis. A nod to diversity may or may not have played a role in the selection. Still, Catholic cardinals have been able to embrace diversity in ways that other world institutions have not. When we look at world monetary institutions – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – we find no such nods to the way that world demographics and realities have changed. While the United States and Europe are still seen as trend leaders in world economic matters, China is nipping at our heels, and both Latin America and the African continent, despite internal problems, are world players. These continents are excluded from G8 meetings where global economic leaders gather to talk policy.

The custom that the United States should nominate the head of the World Bank, and that Europe should nominate the head of the International Monetary Fund speaks to the hegemony that these two countries have assumed in world monetary matters. When Christine Lagarde was selected to lead the International Monetary Fund (succeeding the disgraced Dominique Strauss-Khan), France declared their “victory.” But, Lagarde faced unprecedented competition from countries out of the US/Europe monopoly. A Mexican finance minister threw his hat in the ring, and attracted attention, if not sufficient votes to outpoll Lagarde.

Similarly, the U.S. nominee to lead the World Bank was former Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim. While Kim is Korean born, as President Obama’s nominee to lead the bank, he maintains the tradition of a U.S. nominee to lead the bank. He has also been criticized for his lack of monetary experience. At the same time, the amazing Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, a Nigerian economist, was a strong contender for World Bank leadership. Apparently the selection of a woman of African descent was too far of a stretch for the bank.

Speaking of stretches, why has President Obama been so unable to find African Americans for his cabinet? Only Attorney General Eric Holder and International Trade Representative Ron Kirk remain in the cabinet, and Kirk is not a key cabinet member. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, has taken on the president in a stern letter that reflects the concern of many in the African American community. Why, when Obama garnered 97 percent of the African American vote, should the African American community be so underrepresented in the Obama cabinet? Is the Obama administration running behind the conservative Catholic Church in its commitment to diversity?

Either for diversity or for merit, the College of Cardinals stepped outside its history of European domination to select a Pope from Argentina. What might have happened if the World Bank had decided to step outside the tradition of U.S. domination to select a candidate as qualified as Ngozi Iweala who, one might argue, is a far superior candidate to the U.S. selection of Jim Yong Kim? What might have happened if France had not assumed that another French leader instead of someone outside the US/Europe sphere should replace its flawed leader of the International Monetary Fund?

If our country ever gets its economics straight (instead of continuing the crisis of the month club), it will continue to be a world leader, though not forever. World demographics are changing. Catholic cardinals acknowledged it. Why can’t the U.S. and Europe?

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Black Unemployment has not Improved

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(NNPA) When unemployment numbers were released on Friday, commentators reacted joyfully. Alan Krueger, who heads the White House Council of Economic Advisors, described the creation of 247,000 jobs as a victory because the predictions were that the economy would only generate 170,000 jobs. Unemployment rates went down to 7.7 percent, while predictions were that they would drop to 7.8 percent. Some might call this good news, but many might wonder who is affected by this good news.

A deeper examination of the unemployment data shows the disappointing reality that African American unemployment rates remained level, at 13.8 percent. Meanwhile, White unemployment rates fell to 6.8 percent and the rate for White men dropped to 6.3 percent. The racial disparities in unemployment rates are not new, but it is hypocritical to celebrate a drop in White unemployment rages, without noticing or mentioning the stagnation in Black unemployment rates.

More than new construction jobs were generated last month, but since Black unemployment rates remained level, that suggests that African Americans are not being brought into that industry (if at all) at the same rates that Whites. Implicitly, these data make the case for continued affirmative action, especially in well-paid jobs. In times of economic hardship, those hiring are inclined to look after their own instead of spreading the jobs around. And recent data suggests that African Americans enter the labor market with a shallower rolodex than Whites. Fewer contacts mean fewer job opportunities.

Whose employment situation has improved?

The number of long term unemployed remained level at 4.8 million people who have been unemployed for 37 weeks or more. To be sure, this is a drop from the 39 weeks of a year or so ago. Still, the situation for some of the unemployed has simply not improved. One of the reasons that the unemployment rate dropped is because 130,000 people dropped out of the labor force because they could not find jobs.

Eight million people work part-time for economic reasons. They would take full time work if only they could find it. The number of “marginally attached” workers stands at 2.4 million. If underutilized workers are included, the unemployment rate is 14.3 percent for everyone. If the relationship between underutilization and reported unemployment is the same for African Americans as for Whites, then the real unemployment rate is 25.5 percent, or almost a fourth, for African Americans. That’s alarming, yet as I watch televised reports on Black unemployment rates, this is unmentioned.

Black unemployment rates are at more than Depression levels, which ought to be completely unacceptable. It is not. Yet few are paying attention to the plight of the unemployed, underemployed, or out of the labor force Black worker. The White House and others love to talk about all of us being in the same boat. Yet some are hanging onto the board by their fingernails, and others are drowning. And some are struggling to row. Others are riding relatively smoothly through this recession, watching their situation improve.

CEA Chairman Krueger says the data from this employment report suggests that we are well on our way to economic recovery. From my perspective this recovery is neither robust nor inclusive. In order for this recovery to be fully celebrated, every sector of Americans should see their material conditions increase. They’ve increased for some. What about the others? Where are their advocates?

Too many African American leaders are asleep at the wheel when it comes to the employment situation. Unemployment rates become a line in their speeches, not a lode for their leadership. High unemployment rates explain why so many African Americans, at the economic margins, don’t support civil rights organizations. They are asking what’s in it for me.

What if huge numbers of unemployed people were mobilized? What if, in their economic misery, some rose up and demanded that Congress and others pay attention to their situation? To watch the situation of Whites improve, while Black unemployment rates remain the same, suggests that the vision of a post-racial society is extremely unrealistic. African American people are bearing a disproportion amount of pain in the current employment situation. Black people are starving, and it seems that no one, not even civil rights advocates, will act on their behalf.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Onion's Apology is Not Accepted

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(NNPA) In the midst of the Academy Awards drama on Sunday, February 24, one of the Onion’s writers (we don’t know who he is – I doubt a “she” would have stooped so low), described the lovely and talented child Quvenzhané Wallace with a filthy word that took her all the way out of her name. Using a very crude word for female genatalia, the Onion writer observed that she was a c***. Excuse me! Blessedly hundreds of people shared their outrage in the electronic media so forcefully that the Onion’s CEO, Steve Hannah, apologized. But somehow sorry doesn’t always make it right. In my letter to the Onion, I’ve asked for reparations, or an effort to repair the harm that was done. I’m sharing my statement and hope you, too, will share it with the “leaders” of The Onion. Until officials of The Onion respond, I think it wholly appropriate to withhold support from them. As Dr. King once said, “to cooperate with evil is to be evil.” To besmirch a child, whether you are a satirical publication or not, is nothing but evil. My letter:

Dear Mr. Hannah:

While your apology for the vile statement made by your staff regarding the wonderful and talented Quvenzhané Wallis is duly noted, it is an insufficient response to the heinous insult lobbed at a 9-year-old girl; additionally, the community of women and African American women in particular. Your apology is received, but not accepted. You must mitigate the damage that your comments caused, not only for Quvenzhané, but also for the women who, reveling in her success, were damaged by the sucker punch we experienced when your writer found it acceptable to describe a 9-year-old girl in a crude term for genitalia, a term that most adult women would

Your apology might be more readily received if,

1- The disciple, though the offensive writer, was detailed and their name revealed so that they can be monitored for their gendered racism in the future.

2- Your company made amends to both Quvenzhané and the community that supports her by;

3- Offering the organizations that monitor gender and racial discrimination a financial contribution. My suggesting is that you direct at least $50,000 each to The Black Women’s Roundtable, The National Organization for Women, and the National Council of Negro Women. Additionally, I would suggest that you offer $50,000 to the charity of Quvenzhané’s choice.

Meeting with representatives of African American and women’s organizations in Washington DC on a date that is mutually agreeable, but no later than March 31, 2013 to discuss the though process behind this insult and the ways that future occurrences will be prevented.

Share information on the number of women and people of color on your staff, and share the ways that they impact editorial decisions.

4- Your company provides scholarship opportunities to African American women students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to indicate that you do not see young women in the disparaging ways, but as scholars. There are two HBCUs that are women’s institutions, Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. At least one scholarship for each of these institutions would be an effective way to apologize.

5- Your company provides speakers to the colleges that will have you to, at no fee to the colleges, explain the difference between satire and offense. To notify interested colleges, it is my suggestion that your company take out a full page advertisement in Diverse Issues in Higher Education to both reprint your apology and offer the opportunity for your staff to meet on colleges.

Please note that, as a former president of an HBCU focused on women, I was repelled by your writer’s comments. Taking them down and then apologizing is the simple way out for this offense. I call upon you to take proactive action to redress this wrong.

Let me also note that I have no invested interest in any of the organizations I have mentioned here (except that I am President Emerita of Bennett College for Women, and my association with young women makes this all the more offensive).

I am asking friends and colleagues to withdraw any support to The Onion until your apology is enhanced by action. I am also asking all women’s and African American organizations to join my insistence that your apology is insufficient.

I do look forward to your response.

If you agree with me, please forward this column or your own letter to Chairman David Schafer (davidkschafer@gmail.com); President and CEO Steve Hannah (shannah@theonion.com)

COO Mike McAvoy (mmcavoy@theonion.com)

publicfeedback@theonion.com

(312) 751-0503 Fax 312-751-4137
#200, 212 Superior St, Chicago, IL – 60611

If anyone from Chicago is reading, perhaps you could organize a picket outside their office! Sorry doesn’t always make it right.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

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