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You would think this country never before faced the reality of raging inequalities embedded in our history and culture from the flood of recent latest state and federal reports, articles, activists writers from local scholars and up to the national and international level – like Pulitzer winning columnist Paul Krugman, say, or David Cay Johnston, on the economic side, or Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow) and hundreds of other voices from inside and outside the cultures appearing all over the place in the re-emergence of criminal enforcement travesty in the rate of incarceration of men (and women) of color in this country.
When a topic gets hot – for a time – the topic is made to look as though the subject had never raised its ugly face before this.
Is this another fad with its relevant – and important – writings expect to gathering dust on shelves in desk drawers when it’s all waving red flags – again – crying out for serious action and changed attitudes?
The latest – and excellent, perhaps courageous – effort to document the decline or failure to improve in addressing – seriously – healthcare disparities in a Minnesota Department of Health issued in February (directed to submit to the Legislature). Advancing Health Equity in Minnesota (Feb, 2014)It dives in and avoids sugar coatings about the structural racism that continues to cement the inequality in healthcare access, cost and outcomes among Minnesotans of color – most especially African-Americans, Native Americans ad Latinos (documented and undocumented).
But the Health Report goes well beyond simple definitions, but succinctly inform an ill-informed public that this:
This report reveals that:
• Even where health outcomes have improved overall, as in infant mortality rates, the disparities in these outcomes remain unchanged: American Indian and African American babies are still dying at twice the rate of white babies.
• Inequities in social and economic factors are the key contributors to health disparities and ultimately are what need to change if health equity is to be advanced.
• Structural racism — the normalization of historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal dynamics that routinely advantage white people while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color and American Indians — is rarely talked about. Revealing where structural racism is operating and where its effects are being felt is essential for figuring out where policies and programs can make the greatest improvements.
• Improving the health of those experiencing the greatest inequities will result in improved health for all.
Take note: the mention of white privilege in a state report – a rarity. But the easier, perhaps, for public consumption is the recent essay (blog) penned by UST Law School Professor, Nekima Levy-Pounds on White Privilege.
(We had hoped to include Commissioner Ed Ehlinger or the report’s co-authors – Assistant Commissioner Jeanne Ayers and/or Melanie Peterson-Hickey, Research Scientist at Minnesota Center for Health Statistics. And we’ll try to get the on another time.)
Once more, we try to convert the written word to action by recognizing just how deeply in our DNA now that it perpetuates the notion that whites are superior, smarter, cleaner, law-abiding, etc., and that whites control the massive machinery of every aspect of American – and they barely recognize just how truly privileged they have been for centuries.
(To get us started Monday morning is a short conversation with Winona LaDuke, Indigenous Economist and White Earth activist, head of Honor the Earth, fighting the tar-sands oil pipelines being pushed across the upper plains and Indian Country land. A perfect example of White Privilege still in action as the powers march across the lands long ago usurped by our Native brothers and sisters.)
Racism, our privilege, and all the economic, education, health care and the rest we see in the disparities in action every day, subtle and not so must be seen as a dangerous, public health issue for all of us.
Inequality – and the appropriate dark cloud hanging over the self-governance promise we have yet to see one fulfilled – belies the near-apocalyptic direction we’re heading if we don’t seriously form a plan to reverse the fatal direction.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and SIOBHAN KIERANS take your mind into the depth of these issues – not to scare us away, but to see the dangers lurking if we don’t change all of it.
NEKIMA LEVY-POUNDS – Director, Community Justice Project (CJP), an award-winning civil rights legal clinic and Professor of Clinical Education in the St. Thomas University Law School.
DANE SMITH – President of Growth & Justice, a broad public policy research organization addressing economic, education and healthcare inequities across the board.
WINONA LaDUKE – Indigenous Economist; Director, Honor the Earth, former Green Party Vice-Presidential candidate