Lovell Jones, Ph.D. – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Wed, 19 Sep 2018 10:58:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-DewLogoSquare825-32x32.png Lovell Jones, Ph.D. – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com 32 32 Perception is Reality Whether Real or Not http://likethedew.com/2014/12/09/perception-reality-whether-real-not/ http://likethedew.com/2014/12/09/perception-reality-whether-real-not/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 21:10:59 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=58654

Scale of Racial Justice (Federal District Courthouse - Alexandria Va) by Tim Evanson via flickr and use under a Creative Commons license.

It is not just the criminal justice system that needs fixing.

Over two decades ago I first wrote an Op Ed piece on the value of a human life. The focus was that in this society we continue to value a human life on a sliding scale with white males at the top and black males at the bottom. Yes, our societal norms have changed over the centuries since the first Africans were brought to the shores of the Americas, but have our values, especially in terms of valuing human life, changed. If you look at what is taking place today, the answer is probably NO. As Dr. Harold Freeman once said, “In our society we see, value, and behave toward one another through a powerful lens of race”. I use race or racial classifications and not the color of one’s skin because of the exceptions in this country. Whether we admit it or not, we view present day Africans in a different manner than we do African Americans of slave descent. They are higher on the sliding scale. Even those from the Caribbean-Americans of African descent are viewed, in some cases, on a higher scale. Has anyone given any thought to why this is the case. And then there is the paper bag test. While it may not be practiced openly today, in some circles the ideals behind the practice still lingers in the African-American community as a scale of value. For those who do not know what the paper bag test is, just take a grocery store paper bag and hold it up to one’s skin. Those whose skin is lighter than the bag are typically more accepted and valued than those whose skin is darker.

Such judgments and biases might be overt or subconscious, intentional or unintentionally discriminatory, Nevertheless, they perpetuate the legacy of slavery in America by continuing to impact how we view and value each other. I wish that getting rid of this lingering legacy was as simple the suggestions provided by the likes of Charles Barkley or Morgan Freeman or the conservative anchors on cable news outlets – all we just need to do is stop talking about race and racism and it will go away. Unfortunately, this issue is so deeply woven into our societal fabric that just not talking about it will not solve the issue. Nor will marching and demonstrating about the killing of one or two black men by the police bring about change. Think about the hundreds of young black and brown men and children killed over the past few years in our inner cities. We saw the outrage about this problem with massive news coverage and then they went away. This is not to say that it didn’t accomplish anything, but has it led to solutions. I do appreciate all of the attention being brought to the perceived and real bias in the criminal justice system, but again the problem is deeper than just the criminal justice system. It is systemic throughout and occurs in just about every facet of American life – for example, the disparities and racism found in health care access and delivery, education and training systems and immigration. Has anyone given any thought to the possible issue of race and class with regards to Thomas Eric Duncan, the person with Ebola in Dallas? Was his symptoms missed or was he turned away because of the racism found in our health care access and delivery system? Think about this, he was black and had no insurance. We need to answer this question as that decision to release Mr. Duncan because of “symptoms missed” put Dallas as well as Texas and the nation at jeopardy. To solve this issue of perceptions versus realities we need an American solution, not just a black one or brown one or white one.

However, it is important to start the discussion with the persons generally at the bottom of the scale in terms of valuing human life, African American males. I wrote more than two decades ago, and then again a few months ago, these key questions, the first being the most important one.

• How do we value the life of an African American male in our society?

• What are the facts (reality) and what are our perceptions (beliefs)?

• When we are stressed or not in control of our faculties, such as when we’re drunk or in emotional or physical distress, what are those perceptions?

• Do we value that African American male near us in the same manner as we do a white male near us?

• If not, what are the beliefs that are generated around that perception of an African American male? What morals are built in terms of these beliefs at that moment?

• Where does that place the African American male with regard to our ethics?

• And finally, how does this play out in regard to our actions?

Now take all of the above questions into account with regards to the actions of police, whether black, brown or white. Think about the judgment and actions of the police officers involved in the recent shootings that have captured our attention. It all goes to Perception (beliefs) versus Reality: A person’s perception is a person’s reality whether real or not. Perceptions can play out in many ways. If a person perceives that they are being threatened, whether they are being threatened or not, they will act on those perceptions and those perceptions in turn will be their realities. Unless a person is aware of how their biases play out in terms of their perceptions, they will use whatever force necessary to defend themselves. You can say that these perceptions are not real, but to the person who believes them and fails to check them against his/her biases, they are real. And, ignoring how society keeps generating these biases in the way they portray African Americans, especially males, these perceptions/beliefs and the resulting reactions they generate only works against society’s perceived or real attempts to address this issue, even if it is a color-blind society that we keep professing to be working toward. Thus, the question is not only related to the value of the lives of the young black males who were killed, but to the values that we as a society hold when we judge the value of a life in any aspect of our daily lives, not just in the criminal justice system.

So here is my open request again for an open and honest dialog on the issue of racism/bias. Dr. David William once said in a presentation during a session at the Disparities in Health in America: Working Toward Social Justice Course, “Unconscious bias or discrimination occurs when one holds a negative stereotype about a group and meets someone who fits the stereotype s/he will discriminate against that individual”. Stereotype-linked bias is an automatic process and is an unconscious process. It occurs even among persons who are not prejudiced.” Now think about this in a society that automatically thinks of an African American male in a negative manner. You don’t have to be consciously racist to hold a negative stereotype. And perhaps that is the issue, “I am not a racist or I don’t own slaves nor did my father own slaves” or “all of this is a thing of the past”, are examples where the legacy of unconscious bias continues to impact and influence an issue, but goes unrecognized by those who have benefited from the overt segregation/racism of the past. Maybe we need to start the discussion with terminology so that we are all on the same page. No, you may not be racist, but your biases have the same impact. It like not intending to shoot me in the head, but you did and I am dead anyway, whether you intended to or not. Your bias did not intend to deny me the job, but it did whether you intended to or not. You may not intend to be a racist, but your actions may show a bias. I invite you to the Harvard test on personal bias. You may be quite surprised by the results. I often say, we all have biases; it is not important we have them it is more important what we do with them.

How many of you remember the original “Roots” series in the 70’s. It captured America’s attention. It was like the Super Bowl of shows. Stores were empty across America while the series was on. I believe it was a missed opportunity for the needed discussion on race and the impact of slavery on America. Maybe it is time for a reshowing of that series. But this time on all the channels with town hall discussions across America on what individuals and communities can do to address their issues, a kind of broader version of what we are doing as part of CANDO Houston. Changing perceptions in addressing real problems.

Maybe we can call it “fighting bias one neighborhood at a time.” We are at a crossroads that is critical to the future well being of this nation. How we choose to proceed will have a distinct bearing on where we go as a nation. It is so critical that we need to start this dialog now and not later. Someone recently wrote that it should be led by Presidents Bush & Clinton along with Oprah. Although I have not asked Oprah, I have sent my request through the people I know asking both Presidents to lead this effort. President Clinton started a dialog during his administration. Maybe it is time for him to pick up the mantel again with the help of President Bush and Oprah. America truly needs to have this dialog. If not now, when? Again, time is not on our side.

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Ebola & Health Inequities http://likethedew.com/2014/10/03/ebola-health-inequities/ http://likethedew.com/2014/10/03/ebola-health-inequities/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 16:53:40 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=57873

Ebola reaching American soil, is this a wake call to look at our approach to health care?

This is a very short opinion piece because I don’t think it need must explanation. I want you to think the recent events in Dallas regarding the transmission of Ebola on to American soil. I see it as a big wake up call to all Americans, but specifically to affluent America. Why do I say that? For the vast majority of the 20th century our medical care system was based on a public health model or what I refer to as an infectious disease model. Your health was as much a concern to me as my health and the health of my family and those close to me. I did not have to like you or was totally against you living next to me or marrying daughter, but I had to be sure you were immunized or at least programs in place for the diseases you might transmit to me. When the vaccines for polio or influenza or other highly contagious diseases were developed, you did not have to worry about whether it reached the poor or not. It was to my benefit that it did.

When we turned our attention to chronic diseases and the world became more about me than we, public health ended up on the back burner. And with that, the disparities that didn’t exist start, and those that were already there became exacerbated. We ended the world of discoveries as oppose to discover and delivery. And as Harold Freeman stated to preach, the gap between discovery and deliver is getting wider and wider. We began to look for the magic bullet to cure a disease as oppose to looking at preventing diseases.

Although disparities have existed with some chronic diseases, the large gaps of today is a recent phenomenal. Let me provide you with one example of a chronic disease, breast cancer. As we are in the month of October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the gap between African American women and white women is so well know, has it always been the case. Looking at the cities of Chicago and Houston, Dr. Steve Whitman and his associates provide data that there were no different in breast cancer mortality rates between African American women compared to white women in the 90’s. Looking at post 2000, the different going from 32.8/100,000 to 40.80/100,000 deaths for African American women and 41.3/100,000 to 28.2/100,000 deaths for white women in Houston. In Chicago, the different going from 38.10/100,000 to 41.40/100,000 deaths for African American women and 37.40/100,000 to 19.2/100,000 deaths for white women. Why such drastic reductions in one group and not another? One can do this with a number of chronic diseases in terms of health inequities. Can we say that the gap between discover and delivery is widening for one specific group? It is not that you have a bias, we all having biases. It is what you do with that bias.

When we turned to a chronic disease model, we lost that human connection and our prejudices started to surface and with it the issue of health inequities. Health inequities is a problem for us all. But let’s approach it from a health disparities and infectious disease standpoint. We know that low income, uninsured people often forego or delay care for a number of reasons while trying to carry on with their lives — taking care of their kids, going to work, etc. These folks may not even be aware of an Ebola risk and just assume if they keep moving, they will eventually get better like always. And then you also have people who may or may not know about the risk but will not seek help because they fear coming in contact with authorities in the U.S. This is much more problematic than many people realize and has the potential to be greatly exacerbated by US health system policies that have historically and systematically left people out. This is where the chronic disease model comes in versus the infectious disease one. Now think about such will have on our well being as a nation. If we continue to think of it as their problem as oppose to ours. With a recent gallop poll indicating that two out of three white Americans think that health inequities is not a major issue that needs to be addressed; with perception that such is being taking care of by the Affordable Care Act, the reality is that we are one person away from a major pandemic. Not realizing that in an infectious disease model, these invisible people’s health is critical to my health, whether I have a bias or not. The critical factor is that in an infectious disease model one can trace the threat directly to me. I do not know when or where I will come in contact with that infected person and therefore I have to be sure that he/she has to be treated for either getting the disease or care for with the disease. Now think about how we view chronic diseases. It is there problem and not mind, primarily because I don’t see it as a threat my well-being, when it really is. So if it would thought in an infectious disease frame of mind, do you think heath inequities would exist as they do today?

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Explaining White Privilege to People, Especially Some People of Color http://likethedew.com/2014/09/09/explaining-white-privilege-people-especially-people-color/ http://likethedew.com/2014/09/09/explaining-white-privilege-people-especially-people-color/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 12:26:34 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=57552 Explaining White privilege to a Broke White People." Well, after hearing a few African Americans who have succeeded say that racism and “white privilege” does exist and did not block their ability to achieve, I thought I would review Peggy McIntosh’s “White privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” and share a few thoughts and questions about “white privilege.” These are paraphrased from what was asked by Gina Crosley-Carcaran in her article.]]>

Thurgood Marshall: None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps

I came across this blog written by Gina Crosley-Corcaran titled “Explaining White privilege to a Broke White People.” Well, after hearing a few African Americans who have succeeded say that racism and “white privilege” does exist and did not block their ability to achieve, I thought I would review Peggy McIntosh’s “White privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” and share a few thoughts and questions about “white privilege.” These are paraphrased from what was asked by Gina Crosley-Carcaran in her article.

Mr./Ms. African American who has succeed can you turn on your television or open the front page of your local and/or national newspaper and see people of your race widely represented in a power light, and please don’t mention the ‘Bill Cosby Show?

Ok, if a traffic cop stops you and pulls you over, what do you think that interaction will be like, especially in a predominantly white neighborhood or an area of town that you are not perceived to belong in? Think of the recent altercation of the black producer in Hollywood who went to pull money in a parking meter only to end up in jail. Ok, this may not apply to some of you if you are being driven around in a limo.

If you should need to move, could you be pretty much assured of renting or purchasing housing in an area which you can afford and in which you would want to live. Ok, for some of you, you can hire someone to do this. But if you had to do it on your own, what do you think the results would be? Ok, you live in a neighbor few can live in and can be pretty assured that your neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to you. Well, it may be hard for you to think about the rest of us, but try.

Now this one may apply to you when you go out. Can you go shopping alone most of the time and are pretty well assured that you will not be followed or harassed?

I just came across an article in Inside Higher ED entitled “New approaches to attacking the racial /economic achievement gap (essay) (Attacking the Opportunity Gap)” by two white males David Bergerson and Scott Greytak. I do agree that programs that values (there is that word again), “socioeconomic status, place (geographic diversity), and race will produce both higher economic diversity and higher racial diversity than either race alone (affirmative action) or class alone. Such a program as the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program exists in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas Austin. It has proved to be successful without ignoring the fact that racism and “white privilege” is still an issue. As I often say, we all have biases. It is not that we have the bias; it is what we do with it. They have managed to develop and implement a program where over 70% of its interns are from underrepresented groups.

So I go back to where I started this piece, the idea that some people, including some people of color, specifically African Americans, think that racism (perception, stereotyping, and bias) still do not place effective road blocks in the path of the majority of individuals of color and that “white privilege” does not exist anymore. Let me be clear, I am not saying that one should use these as excuses for not succeeding. What I am saying is that people need to be aware that these still exist and that they are impediments to this nation reaching its full potential. Again, only when we realized that we still have these deep seeded biases based on race and/or skin color, will we truly overcome. Whether we want to realize it or not, the issue of “white privilege” plays out in a vast array of circumstances in American society everyday. Only when we realize that we need to have an open and honest dialog about these issues, will we begin to heal and start on that path to a colorblind society.

Let me close with one example that is in the news today, the shooting of unarmed African American men. The Houston Police Department is one of the most diversity police department in the nation in the most diverse city in the nation. Why do I point this out? Has anyone asked the question of why in recent times a policeman in Houston has not killed an unarmed person of color in the numbers we are seeing across the nation. Remember it is the fourth largest city in the United States with reportedly one of the largest number of black citizens living within it’s city limits. Think about it. I am not saying that they are perfect. But who you are equal what you think and in turn helps develops the perceptions you act upon. To me, the diversity of the Houston Police Department presents the value of diversity in how we should begin to interact with each other.

Again we continue not to address the issues of racism and “white privilege.” The results of such is the devaluation and dehumanization of a group of people. Saying such issue or ignoring it existence will not solve the problem. You know we can start to address this issue by truly address the issue of diversity, like Houston Police Department. Are we can watch the increase in health disparities like that in City of Houston by having a medical center that lacks diversity. Yes, the perfect example of both in the same city. An example of diversity beginning to lead to a significant reduction in unarmed black males being shot by white police and the lack of diversity leading to increased deaths from health inequities. Think about if we carry this over to the same positive efforts of diversity of other sections like education.

The full potential of this nation will only be realized when we truly start to address the negative impact of racism and “white privilege; only then and only then. There are some many examples of the economic benefit of such until you constantly ask the why question of why not. Is it fear? Well, that might be the topic of another piece. Right now, let just say that it all boils down to the word VALUE. What you VALUE you treat with respect and dignity. Think about is as we strive to a “colorblind” society.

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The Value of A Human Life Revisted http://likethedew.com/2014/09/04/value-human-life-revisted/ http://likethedew.com/2014/09/04/value-human-life-revisted/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 20:21:58 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=57550

Over the past few weeks since the shooting of Michael Brown the discussions on the various cable channels have been quite interesting. It truly illustrated that your perception of the shooting all comes from your point of view. If you are conservative, whether black or white, you find every reason you can point to Michael Brown’s past and actions on that day to justify the officer’s shooting of that young man six times. You strive for every fact to prove your point that the shooting was justified. If you are liberal, you are doing the same thing except it is too valid the outrage over the shooting. And when you take the same facts and use it to justify your position, it bring it home, we are all willing to ignore certain components or frame the facts to justify our point of view.

Let me provide one example. A number that has been used by both sides, that 400 plus people have been reported to the FBI by police department around the country as having been killed by police officers. Now, if you watch Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, he talks about the small number (414 this past year) which have been killed, indicating that this is not a major issue and down plays the idea that police are targeting black males. That it is the liberal press that are fanning the flames and making this a racial issue. On the other hand, Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC used the same numbers, but then stated “from 2006 to 2012 a white police officer killed a black person at least twice a week in this country.” It is the clearest example of how one use numbers and in what context. Yes, the number is small, but it all comes down to the value of a human life. Two times a week equal 104 deaths. That is 25% of the number of deaths, where the total number of African Americans in the United States is only 12% of the population. Again, it is the context one views the numbers that determines how you use them.

Isn’t it just a little warped that we focus more on protecting the value of things, than protecting the value of people?
Why it is that we value some people more than other people? One answer to this question may be the three-fifth rule. Think about it.

Unfortunately, as Harold Freeman once said, “Race is perhaps the single most defining issue in the history of American society.” And that “in our society we see, value, and behave toward one another through a powerful lens of race.” The key word in all of this is realizing that we have tied all of this to how we VALUE a human life, especially one that is either black or brown. The problem is that we have never had a sustained and honest discussion about this issue. It is something we bring up only after someone white kills a black person and questions are asked about the shooting and the community gets outraged to the point you can’t ignore it. Let get back, for a moment, to the issue of the value of a human life. You know, I haven’t seen anything about the 32 black people who have killed since Michael Brown was shot. Again, it is the issue “VALUE.”

So with the killing of Jordon Davis and now with the killing of Michael Brown, I again bring up the issue of VALUE. Think about this, the first word on the road to ethics is VALUE. Webster defines ethics as a system of moral principles governing the appropriate conduct for an individual or group. It is how we interact with one another. Ethics involves two terms VALUE and morals. Moral, VALUE and the word belief are terms that refer to the ways people think, behave and react toward one another. These three terms are often interchanged as having the same meanings. However, each has a separate meaning of its own. Each term builds upon the other terms, beginning with beliefs. Values are a type of belief, and morals are a type of value. All three terms refer to ethics, which deals with a person’s conduct. Now think about all of this in terms when one holds a negative stereotype about a group and meets someone who fits that stereotype. He or she may be the nicest person in the world with no outward biases. But that individual unknowingly will discriminate against that individual who he or she holds a negative stereotype of. Stereotype-linked bias is an automatic and unconscious process. More importantly, as I have stated, it even occurs among people who do not think they are prejudice. The problem is that the vast majority of white Americans refused to believe this, and there lies the problem. It is not that you have the bias; it is what you do with it, especially in a stressful situation.

So lets see how this might play out in terms of a confrontation between an unarmed black person and a white police officer, and in some cases a black police officer. It’s time we realized that who you are equals what you think. Just look at all of the recent polls and the difference in the responses between black and white Americans. If you approach a large young black male who shows any sign of aggression, if you are white and have been programed to believe certain things, what will be your initial reactions? You may not mean for it to be such, but your mind set has been pre-programmed. I made the comment about an incident with my grandson when he was about three. Two elderly white women came up to him and said how cute he was. I immediately asked the question whether they would think the same thing about him as a teenager. I think not! When a white mother realizes that, not only does she needed to exposed her black male child to his culture so that he is proud of who he is, but she needs to be aware “your black son could be killed for walking down the street or Police officers might also kill your son for walking to his nana’s house while black, next to the curb instead of on the sidewalk, and then trying to explain to the officer that he is just going to see his nana or some people — many people — will support the rights of citizens and law enforcement to kill your son for walking with Skittles to Nana’s while black” (quote from the blog, “What Adoption Classes Didn’t Teach Us About Raising Black Children” by Paula Fitzgibbons), you know we have a problem. It point out clear the impact of race on how one values an individual of color, whether you think you are prejudice or not. Only when we realized that we still have these deep seeded biases based on race and/or skin color, will the issue of the devaluation and dehumanization of a group of people start to be resolved. Only then will see a significant reduction in unarmed black males being shot by white police. Only then will we see a rise in the number of high school graduate of color. Only then will America reach its true potential. And yes, it all boils down to the word VALUE. What you VALUE you treated with respect and dignity.

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The Rise and Fall of the Second Reconstruction Era in America http://likethedew.com/2014/04/01/rise-fall-second-reconstruction-era-america/ http://likethedew.com/2014/04/01/rise-fall-second-reconstruction-era-america/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 13:04:23 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=55550

Albert_Einstein_1947aHow many of you are aware that Albert Einstein taught a physics class at Lincoln University (an HBCU in Pennsylvania) in 1946? In doing so, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist once said, “The separation of the races is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.” Another noted figure, Martin Luther King, once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” But we have become silent, for I don’t see the human outcry about where we are today. We have become generations of me –“What’s in it for me?”– as opposed to “What’s in it for us?” We wait until injustices are on our doorsteps before we say anything to prevent those injustices from occurring. As my grandmother use to say, and I know many others said it, too, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

My two greatest fears on the night that Presidential Candidate Barack Obama was elected President of these United States were that first, some maniac would shoot him on Inauguration Day and second, segments of white America would rise up as they did during the Reconstruction Era to “Take Back America.” Well think about all that we are seeing today. The mantra during the Reconstruction Era was something along the lines of “America is going to hell in a hand-basket.” Are there any similarities? With Reconstruction, America entered into an era of “Jim Crow.” The era did not just impact former slaves, but poor whites, as well. We sometimes forget that fact, and because of it, the forces of divide and conquer continue to win. Is history repeating itself?

As in the Reconstruction, the agenda we continue to see today is based on lies, distortion and deception. And, there are lies, distortions and deception on both sides, the key exception is doe don’t see what side attempting to take away the rights of citizens to vote. Yet, both action are allowing the truth to hidden and the America Dream to be destroyed.

I still go back to what Benjamin Franklin said just before his death, and wonder if we will ever be able to right this ship. It is an issue that we continue to fail to address. Franklin said that until we really deal with the issue of race and the impact it continues to have on our society, we will continue to suffer as a nation, and that it would get worse as time moved forward. One can’t say that things have improved. African Americans went from being slaves to second-class citizens to almost citizens with the passage of the second set of civil rights laws. For those who are not aware, after the Civil War, several Civil Right Acts were passed. The Civil Rights Bill of 1866, although vetoed by President Andrew Johnson, Congress overrode the veto. Congress passed this bill to protect the civil rights of the newly freed slaves. The ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868 granted citizenship to African Americans and the 15th Amendment ratified in 1870 gave African Americans the right to vote. The Enforcement Act of 1870 enforced African Americans’ right to vote, followed by two additional Enforcement Acts; the latter passed in 1871 and gave the federal government the legal right to go after the Ku Klux Klan. Then came the most extensive civil rights act ever passed in the country, prior to those passed in the 20th Century, the Civil Rights Act of 1875. The act guaranteed African Americans equal treatment in public accommodations and public transportation, and prohibited exclusion from jury service and so on. Sound familiar?? In 1883, the Supreme Court decided the act was unconstitutional. The decision was based on the belief that Congress could prohibit discrimination by the state, but a belief that the federal government did not have the power to prohibit discrimination by private individuals. So again, I ask, is history repeating itself?

In a way, I both agree and disagree with Einstein. Discrimination that continues to exist today is a disease that is contributed to by both races. However, the primary cure for the disease rests squarely with white people. As a white colleague recently said to me, the first step in ridding yourself of an addiction, is realizing that you are an addict. Biases are an addiction, but in some cases, being white provides you with an unconscious benefit that you don’t realize that you have until you are in a situation where it becomes obvious, such as when all of your peers are from a diverse background. Then you are forced to come face to face with your addiction. Unfortunately, this seldom happens in the stratosphere of leadership in this nation. That is why I say the cure to the disease squarely rests with the majority of white Americans, especially those in leadership positions. And finally, please don’t say it was mean. Yes, it wasn’t you, but you have and continue to benefit. That is the reality of the situation whether you like it or not.

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Why New Discoveries Won’t Lead to A Reduction in Health Disparities http://likethedew.com/2014/02/17/new-discoveries-wont-lead-reduction-health-disparities/ http://likethedew.com/2014/02/17/new-discoveries-wont-lead-reduction-health-disparities/#respond Mon, 17 Feb 2014 21:33:21 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=54270

Multiple studies have shown that racial and ethnic minorities frequently receive lower quality health care, are less likely to get routine care and have higher rates of morbidity and mortality than non-minorities. Even as medical discoveries improve health care over all, these disparities are cited over and over again as something that has to change. As we entered 2014, I wanted to know much has changed and when we will learn that new discoveries will not lead to a reduction in disparities.

Where our health is concerned, who you are and your life experiences determine the solution you find to address problems. If those tasked with making discoveries are not concordant with those who suffering the problems, you end up with the situation described by a recent editorial published by the American Medical Association. It said that despite all of the effort on addressing health care disparities, the gap remains and in some cases is getting worse.

As Jackie “Moms” Mabley once said, “If you always do what you have already done, you’ll always get what you always got.”

mdanderson
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

I moved my young family to Houston in 1980, taking a a joint position as an assistant professor in the Department of Gynecology and assistant biochemist in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Texas System M.D. Anderson Research and Tumor Institute, as it was called then. I rose through the ranks there, becoming the first African American full professor and director of the Experimental Gynecology/Endocrinology Research Laboratory.

One of the driving reasons I had taken the UT position was to change the way we addressed the issue of the overall high mortality rate from breast cancer in African American women, especially among young women. In a 1998 interview, Houston Chronicle editorial board member Frank Michel asked me what had been achieved in addressing this issue. Other than policy changes over nearly two decades, I told him I was concerned that little true change had taken place. “Benign neglect, institutional discrimination and internal politics have left us with a system that has been unresponsive to both research and health-care needs,” I said in his September 21, 1998, editorial, “Racism can be cancer on the health system.”

Michel wrote

Problems are ignored. Boat-rockers like Jones are ostracized or patronized or shunted off into corners by good-old-boy networks. Racial and ethnic biological factors are overlooked in research projects. Cultural differences are not factored into scientific data gathering. Minority doctors and researchers are paid less, promoted less, put down as troublemakers or just tolerated. Like cancer itself, the disease can take many forms and many disguises that often make it hard to detect, hard to prove and very hard to eradicate.

Little did Michel realize what responses his article bring. He received calls from readers saying that he needed a brain transplant and that he should blow his liberal brains out. People were angry that he reported how deliberate and unintentional discrimination within the nation’s medical establishment, especially the Texas Medical Center, led to a different, and sometimes deadly double standard. I told him I was not surprised.

Michel followed up in a subsequent Chronicle editorial that appeared February 1, 1999, titled, “No-brainer to broaden fight against cancer”:

In care, treatment and research efforts, differences among ethnic minorities have simply not been noted and treated with the same zeal as “mainstream” medicine and prevention. The same has been true with regard to gender, with women getting the short end of the proverbial stick until very recent times. And in the fight against cancer, the consequences have been particularly tragic.

Since that time, we have made progress regarding gender, specifically in white females, but what about others? “Health disparities” has long been part of medical research lexicon, but the New York Times recently reported the mortality rate from breast cancer in African American women in Texas remains almost four times that of white females. This, despite Houston being home to the largest medical center in the world and the number one cancer center.

How can this be? One factor often overlooked is that lack of concordance. The gap remains because, at the leadership and faculty level, the researchers don’t understand the problems.

So how much has really changed, other than more money, more papers being published and more meetings on the subject to point out that we have a problem?

With my retirement from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, its name in the 21st century, there is now no African American full professor in the basic or behavioral sciences at that institution. The center I founded is on life-support. And I no longer have any relationship with the institution where I spent 33 years of my life bringing the issue of health disparities to the forefront.

One could say that I had been a one-man warning sign of what I see as cancers on the health-care system – benign neglect, racism and white privilege. On the other hand, it could be that there are others ready and willing to take up the mantle regarding these issues, others who must be sought out and heard.

We can’t continue to publish papers and get more grants without reducing the gaps that are acknowledged over and over again. It is a threat to the very being of this nation. If you don’t agree and think that we are making sufficient change, at the very least it is worth putting that position to the rigors of scientific and social inquiry. More importantly, it should not be dismissed as brainlessness or the rants of a boat rocker or malcontent, because so much is at stake for my children and yours.

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Mandela’s passion for education should be inspiration for America http://likethedew.com/2013/12/22/mandelas-passion-education-inspiration-america/ http://likethedew.com/2013/12/22/mandelas-passion-education-inspiration-america/#respond Sun, 22 Dec 2013 20:31:51 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=54042

Vince Lombardi once said “the difference between a success and failure is not a lack KNOWLEDGE, but rather a LACK of WILL.” With the passing of Nelson Mandela, we lost an individual who was a model of knowledge and will. In America we know what to do but lack a Nelson Mandela. Does this absence signal not only a lack of knowledge but the will to rally around the cause of fighting for equity?

mandela-featureWe still are trying to reach a level of both racial and economic equity. Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Education is the key to address these issues that plague America. We have come far but may be regressing, turning into a society of haves and have not’s?
For over 50 years focus has been on the symptoms and not the root causes.

For example, we continue to dwell on health care delivery, when this is a small part of what is needed to address the health gap. Providing access does not change behavior; changing behavior involves education. Yet we do things that have not worked and may never work. Here is a novel idea: Let’s educate people in a way they can understand, i.e., health literacy?

We already have the tools to address the health gap and arrest the movement to a separate and unequal society. As President Obama stated, racism and economic inequities are the two causes of increased poverty. So why are we not effectively addressing these issues? Maybe we don’t know about the existence of educational programs that address both. I doubt it!! Let me highlight a few programs that have been successful-not for a few years, but a decade or more.

The Meyerhoff Scholars’ Program run by Freeman A. Hrabowski III at the University of Maryland, Baltimore is an example. Among the undergraduates at this majority institution are the young Meyerhoff scholars who are both valued and mentored. Within this group are academic stars with perfect math SAT scores, athletes who never earned below an A through high school, college kids under 20 years of age whose work has been published in scholarly journals, and students who regularly earn A’s in such courses as genetics and organic chemistry.

But don’t assume all these students are from top prep schools. Many are minorities from poor families, went to public schools in inner city or rural communities. Given a nurturing environment, these students–like all students–can succeed.

A similar initiative, directed by Rick Cherwitz in the Division of Diversity & Community Engagement (DDCE) at the University of Texas at Austin, is the Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) Consortium. IE focuses on a broad array of subjects and not just the sciences. Cherwitz notes: “the key is that IE is not a formulaic program. It is an approach to education focusing on ‘discovery, ownership, and accountability.’ Its success in increasing diversity owes to the fact that it is not a targeted program. Unlike typical readiness and recruitment programs, it is opportunity based-getting students to connect learning and doing.”

Like the Meyerhoff Scholars’ Program, IE has won national acclaim-including recognition by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Fast Company Magazine, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), Fortune Magazine, Excelencia in Education, and the New England Resource Center for Higher Education-and has been the subject of hundreds of newspaper and scholarly articles. Although the IE model of education has been imitated by other research universities, more programs like this are needed.

One cannot deny that the value of these programs as a vehicle for increasing diversity inheres in what Cherwitz describes as “their capacity to allow students to become entrepreneurs–to discover otherwise unobserved connections between academe and personal and professional commitments.” The spirit of these programs seems to resonate with and meet a felt need of minority and first-generation students, facilitating exploration and innovation, by changing the model of education from one of ‘apprenticeship-certification-entitlement’ to ‘discovery-ownership-accountability.’

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” So what is the reason for a lack of real support of education, especially for the underserved-a fear of losing control? In the transition that is taking place in South Africa, the loss of control has not lead to mass retaliations against those who were in control. Although not perfect, and they have a long way to go, it is a model that America should and can emulate. We shall miss not only Mandela for his vision and grace, but also for his will to use knowledge to make life better for us all. Let’s keep in mind Mandela’s words: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

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Health Disparities Impact Everyone http://likethedew.com/2012/11/12/health-disparities-impact-everyone/ http://likethedew.com/2012/11/12/health-disparities-impact-everyone/#comments Mon, 12 Nov 2012 16:52:32 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=41398

As we have been debating the fiscal cliff and the failure to adequate address the national debt, I continue to wonder why a solution to the problem that is so obvious, fails to be included in any of the discussions that are taking place. One of the major reasons we are facing this crisis, the cost of health care and those contributing factors. Are we not including it in our discussions because of the linking impact of slavery and the perceptions that have resulted from it. That it is those people problems and not mine. That the disparities that result from an unequal health care system is a threat to my way of life? Let me say that the health disparities that this nation’s faces is as much a treat to it security as not having an adequate defense budget. And in some ways, it is a greater threat.

With that, let me throw out one suggestion and a video for all to listen to and think about, especially the ruling bodies (the President, the US House of Representatives and the US Senate). You may need to play the video over and over and over again until it dawns on you what may be an option that will be a win – win for all. Here is the video:

As the title of the video is named, “Health Disparities Impact Everyone.” Too often society readily associates health disparities with certain groups of people. This affliction also impacts the thought processes of the ruling bodies of this country. All fail to realize that health disparities have a much bigger target – everyone. What is not realized is the fact that any circumstance that serves as a barrier to receiving health care is considered a health disparity. For instance, in the city of Houston, we feel the impact of health disparities more readily than any other large city, even though we have the largest medical complex in the nation, if not the world. We are a city that has only two level I emergency room trauma units. Because we also have about one third of our population uninsured, those units are on diversion a larger percentage of time. In layman’s terms, the trauma units are not able to take patients. In more simple terms, even if you are Warren Buffet, the richest man in the world, there is no room in the inn for you. To me, that is a health disparity.

Most Americans, particularly white Americans don’t realize the impact of health disparities on the entire health care system. Specifically, it must be this lack of knowledge that has them say they want government out of their lives. For instance, it is that government support that keeps these level I trauma units open. Without these dollars, such emergency room would have to close their doors. Oh yes, the private sector, would you want to guess how many level one trauma now open would be left functioning if turned over to be run by the private sector? Now think about your child having a major head trauma. He just happened to have hit his or her head going for a cookie. Now, he or she is in need of that level one trauma unit and it is not available. You have insurance and you are rich enough to afford any type of care that is needs. But now it is not available because the only level I trauma unit is on diversion. That actually happened and the child died. That is a health disparity. But we continue to think of health disparities in terms of color. That is until it happens to you. Now think of the people on long island and what is taking place. However, do they think they are facing a health disparity. I don’t think so.

We need to have the mind set that health disparities is an American problem. We have to have that mind set long before it happens to someone you love. Everyone deserves the chance to live a healthy life. What if every man, woman and child — no matter their race, ethnicity, or age — were provided quality, comprehensive health care services firmly rooted in a robust and fully integrated prevention structure? What would our communities look like if every child had his or her full immunizations? How would family life be impacted if obesity, heart disease and diabetes became a footnote in history? How different would our lives be? And what if I were to tell you that to do this would save almost $4 trillion over the next decade; yes, four trillion dollars. That is the potential saving of reducing health disparities by 100%. But lets look at reducing health disparities for ALL AMERICANS by one third. What would the saving be, $1.2 trillion plus? What a win-win situation that would be, reducing the nation debt by improving the health of it citizens. Think about the economic impact that was trickle up. It would allow the President and the Republicans to continue to argue about taxes versus no new taxes while addressing the fiscal cliff; no cuts to defense, no cuts to other services. Think about the impact on jobs. No, think about the fact that this is the solution that no one is talking about. Yes, it is not easily done as said, but look at the alternative, not a pretty picture.

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Will We Continue to Remain Silent About Things That Matter? http://likethedew.com/2011/09/14/will-we-continue-to-remain-silent-about-things-that-matter/ http://likethedew.com/2011/09/14/will-we-continue-to-remain-silent-about-things-that-matter/#comments Wed, 14 Sep 2011 09:20:36 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=30380 Houston is the fourth largest city in this nation. It has the largest medical complex in the WORLD, not just in the USA. The Texas Medical Center (TMC) is one of the largest employers in the city. Everyday there are more than 200,000 - 250,000 people who come in and out of the TMC. Yet it still shows the impact of the exclusions of Title, VI and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in addressing health care.

The African American citizens of Houston are not the only individuals who have felt the impact of these exclusions. Today, we talk about addressing health disparities as one of the top priorities of the current US Department of Health & Human Services agendas. Yet, no one has mentioned our failures over the years of the civil rights movement to address these exclusions and their continued impact on the health of this nation.

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Houston is the fourth largest city in this nation. It has the largest medical complex in the WORLD, not just in the USA. The Texas Medical Center (TMC) is one of the largest employers in the city. Everyday there are more than 200,000 – 250,000 people who come in and out of the TMC. Yet it still shows the impact of the exclusions of Title, VI and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in addressing health care.

(Photo by Truthout.org)

The African American citizens of Houston are not the only individuals who have felt the impact of these exclusions. Today, we talk about addressing health disparities as one of the top priorities of the current US Department of Health & Human Services agendas. Yet, no one has mentioned our failures over the years of the civil rights movement to address these exclusions and their continued impact on the health of this nation. We talk about other issues, social determinants such as poverty, access to care and so on. I am not discounting these as issues. But when will someone step forward to talk about this issue. Not only talk about it, but also do something about it. It would mean discussing the “R” word in the delivery of health care and health care research. It would mean that we would have to help our fellow persons of color and may be upset the power structure. For those of us who discuss this issue, we are referred to as “troublemakers or boat rockers.” Someone recently said to me that today, if Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus, she would be criticized for being “too aggressive.” Would we still subconsciously compromise our rights so that Negroes can still sit behind the colored sign when the white section is full and whites would have to stand. So have we lost that sense of self worth for the sake of a pseudo-form of integration?

An assessment of the quality of healthcare for African Americans in 2011 should be guided by an issue that still has not been adequately addressed. Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, yet this city, as well as the nation, does not have enough minority researchers and academic physicians in positions of enough power to influence the future of their own health status. Given the level of public investment in the Texas Medical Center and the US, such as NIH, their reputations as the nation’s premiere biomedical research centers, and the need to reduce and eliminate health disparities locally, statewide, and across the nation, one would expect there to be a significant number of African Americans or even scientists of color on academic tenure track positions and/or in senior management in both places or other similar institutions across the nation. That, unfortunately, is not the case, and never has been the case.

It has become increasingly apparent that who we are shapes how we look at problems. Those most impacted by racism and bigotry and who have not succumbed to the go along to get along will solve the problems facing this nation. As Albert Einstein once said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Better yet, how can we expect solutions from those who benefit from the problems? It is in their vested interest to continue the situation when they are unaware what the impact will have. They live for the moment and not the future. Those who were shaped by the problem, in turn, often yield unique perspectives on scientific and technical problems and challenges in bench research and clinical care, and ultimately should provide a framework for addressing health disparities in Houston, the state of Texas and the nation. African Americans as well as American born or American educated people of color, however, are noticeably underrepresented among physicians and scientists in the academic health establishments in the Texas Medical Center and other leading national institutions, and even fewer are working on the health problems facing African Americans and/or people of color, either at the bench or in the clinic.

For the past thirty plus years that I have been a citizen of Houston, its African American leaders or even other leaders of color have been silent on this subject. The same can be said nationally, other than the flare up when reports like that which recently came out of NIH, it is a return to normalcy and the lack of truly addressing the issue. It would be unfair to say that academic health care institutions in Houston and around the nation do not recognize and prioritize the issues of cultural diversity and health disparities. However, the recognition of such has done nothing to increase the number of minority health professionals on their staffs, or more importantly, to place them in leadership roles in positions that count. Unfortunately, this is not just a Houston problem, but a national one. The question I have is not what should be done about the situation, but when will the leadership in the African-American communities as well as other communities of color make this a priority to do something about the problem instead of vocalizing about it. It is only then that we will make progress in addressing health issues that disproportionately affect the health of the African-American citizens of Houston as well as others of color across this nation. To me, that is the key solution to solving the health problems that face our communities of color as well as the poor. With a change in the diversity of those in real leadership roles will come a change in our health status.

I was asked a few years ago to write an editorial on the future health of African American in Houston. Unfortunately, this editorial is one of those evergreen pieces. In the news world, it is an article you can continue to bring out and dust off because very little has changed since it was originally written.

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Addressing the health disparities gap http://likethedew.com/2011/09/05/addressing-the-health-disparities-gap/ http://likethedew.com/2011/09/05/addressing-the-health-disparities-gap/#comments Mon, 05 Sep 2011 07:35:58 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=29833 The Center for Research on Minority Health (CRMH) is transforming into the Dorothy I. Height Center for Health Equity & Evaluation Research (CHEER).  It has been over 25 years since the statement was made, that "Health in minority communities can not be addressed as a single issue.  That it has to be addressed in a holistic manner."  Several years later it was stated that "Addressing health alone will not solve the health disparities gap."

Since the initial planning of the Biennial Symposium Series on Minorities & Cancer in 1985, the happening has continued to morph from the blending of the idea of "science that benefits community."

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The Center for Research on Minority Health (CRMH) is transforming into the Dorothy I. Height Center for Health Equity & Evaluation Research (CHEER).  It has been over 25 years since the statement was made, that “Health in minority communities can not be addressed as a single issue.  That it has to be addressed in a holistic manner.”  Several years later it was stated that “Addressing health alone will not solve the health disparities gap.”

(Photo by Leonard John Matthews / Creative Commons)

Since the initial planning of the Biennial Symposium Series on Minorities & Cancer in 1985, the happening has continued to morph from the blending of the idea of “science that benefits community.”  Not that other science that does not focus on community is bad, but just that if we are going to make progress in addressing the health disparities gap, we have to get closer to impacting the community, “building the community from the inside out.”   These interactions have led to the 25th Anniversary of the Biennial Symposium Series now referred to as the Biennial Symposium Series on Minorities, the Medically Underserved & Health Equity; slowly morphing over the 25-plus years to fit the statements above.  It also more closely relates to the past decade of training Health Scholars from a variety of backgrounds together to look at the issue in a “biopsychosocial manner” rather than in the biomedical model.

Recently a number of the Health Scholars came together to produce a paper, putting in print what the CRMH has being doing in training its scholar and we hope CHEER will take to the next level in making the City of Houston “a population based laboratory.”  Keeping in mind that if one attempts to address a disparity issue as just a single problem of one disease, without taking into account other factors, including those not normally related to health, you have already failed to address the problem at the beginning and the outcome has already been predestined.  Almost 25 years to the date of the above statement, the American Medical Association published an article stating that we have made very little to no progress in addressing the health disparities gap and the health care gap.  To me it came as no surprise.  For I had already stated years earlier that the outcome of the efforts and the current approach used would be like placing a band-aid on a heart attack.  It felt good to the persons addressing the issue, but to the community facing the issue, a published paper(s) or another grant(s) funded did nothing to establish long term solutions to the problem.

It has taken us more that a decade to get to this point in time, but looking back on what we have accomplished we still are not satisfied. On the other hand, given the joint agreement between the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the University of Houston, and our ongoing collaborations with the Memorial Herman Health Care System,  CHEER is well positioned to go to the next level.

Yes, we have published papers, but more importantly, I believe that we have laid the foundation for change.  That foundation comes from not only the trainees we have produced and the science we have produced, solidifying our biopsychosocial approach, but the lives we have changed.  We believe that our greatest impact has been on the future of science and who will play a prominent role in addressing critical issues related to the health of our communities.

Almost a decade ago we decided to invest as much in our educational program as we did in our research programs.  We believe that the end result has resulted in a significant impact on the field of health disparities through our community partnerships and educational programs.  For instance, our investment in the SCIENCE Project pilot elementary school at Burton Elementary in the Fort Bend Independent School District has resulted in their students going from 19% passing the Science TAKS, to 81% this year with 36% being commended and the school going from unacceptable to recognized.  Our pilot school elementary school in HISD this year was rated as exemplary, the highest rating a school can get. In fact, this has attracted the attention of Major League Baseball, which has assigned one of their consultants to look at developing our efforts as a math & science model educational program for elementary schools.

We could probably list an array of other items, but to us this will be our greatest legacy, not only increasing the pool of potential scientists and health care individuals, but a science educated populous.

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What is maturity? http://likethedew.com/2011/05/09/what-is-maturity/ http://likethedew.com/2011/05/09/what-is-maturity/#comments Mon, 09 May 2011 23:08:52 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=23929 Sometimes, the best Food For Thought comes from a known but unknown source.  The Mother’s Day sermon this year was given by Reverend Will Bowen.  Reverend Bowen in July of 2006 handed out 250 purple bracelets inviting people to use them as a tool to eradicate complaining from their lives.  He was not the first to come up with the idea, but the first to use the purple bracelet to help work their way to a complaint-free life.  That is every day you complain while wearing the bracelet you change it to the other wrist. The goal is to go 21 days without complaining.  After 4 plus years I am still working on reaching 21 days.

The title of his sermon was to be “If it’s not one thing, it’s my Mother.”  However, life and one greater than us all, has a way of changing things.

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Sometimes, the best Food For Thought comes from a known but unknown source.  The Mother’s Day sermon this year was given by Reverend Will Bowen.  Reverend Bowen in July of 2006 handed out 250 purple bracelets inviting people to use them as a tool to eradicate complaining from their lives.  He was not the first to come up with the idea, but the first to use the purple bracelet to help work their way to a complaint-free life.  That is every day you complain while wearing the bracelet you change it to the other wrist. The goal is to go 21 days without complaining.  After 4 plus years I am still working on reaching 21 days.

Complaint FreeThe title of his sermon was to be “If it’s not one thing, it’s my Mother.”  However, life and one greater than us all, has a way of changing things.  Unfortunately Reverend Bowen’s mother died just before he was to give the sermon on Mother’s Day.  This event changed his presentation.  Because he was an ordained minister, his brothers decided to give him his mother’s bible.  In looking through it, he found news clipping along with other pieces of written material that his mother kept.  Eventually it was decided his brother would keep the clippings, other than what he had written to his mother.  The day he got the bible he found a clipping that he knew was not there the day before.  He is certain because his brother shook the bible every which was they could to get all of the clippings out of it.  He was sure there was nothing there because he went through the bible the night before with a “fine tooth comb.”  Then, all of a sudden a clipping appeared that was entitled “Maturity”.  This became the basis of his sermon.    I would like to share that clipping with you. Maturity is…..

Maturity is the ability to control anger and settle differences without violence or destruction. Maturity is patience, the willingness to pass up immediate pleasure in favor of long-term gain.

Maturity is perseverance, the ability to sweat out a project, or a situation in spite of opposition and discouraging setbacks.

Maturity is unselfishness – responding to the needs of others, often at the expense of one’s own desires of wishes.

Maturity is the capacity to face unpleasantness and frustration, discomfort and defeat, without complaint or collapse.

Maturity is humility.  It is being big enough to say, “I am wrong.”  And , when right, the mature person need not say, “I told you so.”

Maturity is the ability to make a decision and stand by it.  The immature spend their lives exploring endless possibilities, then do nothing.

Maturity means dependability, keeping one’s word, coming through in a crisis.  The immature are masters of the alibi – confused and disorganized.  Their lives are broken promises former friends, unfinished business and good intentions which never materialize.

Maturity is the art of living in peace with that which we cannot change.”

Nothing more needs to be said, except try the purple bracelet and see how long you can go without complaining.

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Food for Thought – Value of Human Life http://likethedew.com/2011/04/25/food-for-thought-the-value-of-human-life/ http://likethedew.com/2011/04/25/food-for-thought-the-value-of-human-life/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2011 22:20:07 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=22863 I continue to say that we stuffer from the prophecy of Ben Franklin.  To paraphrase this man, he said just before his death that until we really deal with the issue of race and the impact it continues to have on our society, we will continue to suffer as a nation, and that it would get worse as time moved forward. As we face more and more of this economic threat to this nation, I truly believe that we know how to make this nation better for all.  However, I also believe that we are stopped for the simple reason that we refuse to face the fact that this nation still discriminates and continues to judge individuals on the basis of their color and/or status in life.

It is so evident why we continue to fall into that same hole.  The people who are guiding the path we are walking have not changed.   Let me update something I said over a decade ago that fits today.  "Unfortunately, when we approach efforts to solve this nation's debt crisis, we tend to fall back to what we have done before.  It may be under a different name or packaged in a different box, but it is ultimately the same racist strategy that has really got us nowhere."  The thing that those in Congress, especially those not of color,  fail to realize is that this nation is no longer really white middle-class individuals.  That their cutting is not only hurting those that don't look like them, but those that do.  However, the legacy of  slavery, that which Ben was talking about, has those who are white and hurting, saying subconsciously whether they realize it or not, "well I am still white and that must count for something."  What they don't realize is that that is counting for less and less with each passing day.

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I continue to say that we stuffer from the prophecy of Ben Franklin.  To paraphrase this man, he said just before his death that until we really deal with the issue of race and the impact it continues to have on our society, we will continue to suffer as a nation, and that it would get worse as time moved forward. As we face more and more of this economic threat to this nation, I truly believe that we know how to make this nation better for all.  However, I also believe that we are stopped for the simple reason that we refuse to face the fact that this nation still discriminates and continues to judge individuals on the basis of their color and/or status in life.

Stop Racism Now - © Kuosumo | Dreamstime.com - Licensed by LikeTheDew.com

It is so evident why we continue to fall into that same hole.  The people who are guiding the path we are walking have not changed.   Let me update something I said over a decade ago that fits today.  “Unfortunately, when we approach efforts to solve this nation’s debt crisis, we tend to fall back to what we have done before.  It may be under a different name or packaged in a different box, but it is ultimately the same racist strategy that has really got us nowhere.”  The thing that those in Congress, especially those not of color,  fail to realize is that this nation is no longer really white middle-class individuals.  That their cutting is not only hurting those that don’t look like them, but those that do.  However, the legacy of  slavery, that which Ben was talking about, has those who are white and hurting, saying subconsciously whether they realize it or not, “well I am still white and that must count for something.”  What they don’t realize is that that is counting for less and less with each passing day.

I continue to find it interesting that we continue to ignore the cost of health disparities, as well as the cost of racial segregation on this nation.  If you multiple the last report over a decade, it comes to $3.25 trillion for health disparities.  Then you add in the one trillion annually for segregation, wouldn’t it make sense to address these issues, rather than cutting money that is going to improve our health and the education of our children.  Clearly something that would benefit this nation in the long run.  Yet we have people still trying to hunt for President Obama’s birth certificate. And looking for more ways to cut programs for the poor and the underserved, code words for blacks and others.

Let me point to one simple program, the Hope/Scope Perry Study of 123 poor black children who were provided a simple interview for one year to get them ready for school, with four teachers doing a weekly home intervention.  What that is is about 30 students per teacher.  What is the ratio in your school?  Oh, did I mention that these were 3- an 4-year-olda and it was for only one year, nothing else.  Now fast-forward 40 years later.  Oh, did I say that they were really poor, I mean poor poor.  OK, where are the vast majority of these kids today?  Oh, again did I tell you that they were both black and poor.  Those that received the program had better academic performance and were more than likely to have graduated from high school.  That they did better economically, had higher employment annual income, savings and home ownership.  Oh, by the way, did I mention that they were black and poor.  Did I mentioned that they had fewer arrests for violent, property and drug crimes.  But here is the kicker, this intervention, did I mention it was weekly for only one year, had a return on investment of $17 for every dollar invested in the early childhood education intervention.

So we know what to do and the returns it would make on our society.  But we stop short in doing it.  To meet it is that innate fear of losing power.  For if you educate them and they become successful, they may do to you what you did to them.  What other reason is there?  I can’t think of another.  I am open to another alternative.  Maybe stupidity!!!

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Where is my America? http://likethedew.com/2010/04/15/where-is-my-america/ http://likethedew.com/2010/04/15/where-is-my-america/#comments Fri, 16 Apr 2010 03:38:03 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=8855

America's new brownshirtsA very short food for thought, but one that may be one of my most important in asking about the well being of this nation. You may not agree with this line of thought, but all I ask is that you think about it as you watch the angry crowds and ask where is my America?

My two greatest fears on the night that Presidential Candidate Barack Obama was elected President of these United States were that first, some maniac would shoot him on Inauguration Day and second, segments of white America would rise up as they did during the Reconstruction Era to “Take Back America.” This latest flap over the Confederacy is just an example of the stupidity that continues to exist. Did you every think you would hear an elected official go on national television of dismiss slavery as an unimportant factor in the Civil War. Then is joined by another Southern Governor to say that they did not see what the fuss is all about.

The mantra during the Reconstruction Era was something along the lines of America is going to hell in a hand basket. Think about the future of this diverse society with this attitude. As Martin Luther King once said – “He who accepts without protecting against it is in reality cooperating with it.” Has America become silent and are we about the repeat a version of the era that followed the Reconstruction Era.

Worse yet, a friend and mentee, recent wrote me and said the following about today’s events. Some political figures have been feeding the frenzy of hatred to garner votes. As in the reconstruction, their agenda is based on lies, distortion, and deception. It is one of the greatest disgraces of this country that these charlatans keep getting elected. They can’t see the indecency of dismissing the great injustice of slavery because it requires a decent person to be able to see it.

What is being seen in the USA in 2010 reminiscence of what occurred in Germany in the late 30’s… politicians using bands of thugs to intimidate and violate the citizenry. The results of what we are seeing in the threats that have been made to legislators who voted to reform healthcare. As in Germany, unfortunately, too many of them are giving in to fear. I have also had a fear regarding Obama since the time he was a viable candidate… It is again my fear that these extremists will create a climate that politician who disagree with them will not only be spat on, but may pay the ultimate price, and that unfortunately, may include a repeat of November 21, 1963. Just food for thought!

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Race to Eliminate Racial & Ethnic Health Disparities http://likethedew.com/2009/11/14/race-to-eliminate-racial-ethnic-health-disparities/ http://likethedew.com/2009/11/14/race-to-eliminate-racial-ethnic-health-disparities/#comments Sat, 14 Nov 2009 13:36:02 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=6625

A few weeks ago, as I sat in LAX waiting for my red eye to wing my way back to Houston for a morning meeting, I wondered if our nation truly wants to eliminate health disparities, or have we created just another industry that relies on health disparities to continue in order to become another employment opportunity?

A few years ago I asked, “How can we expect solutions from those who benefit from the problem?”  It is in the vested interest of the beneficiary to continue the situation. Unfortunately, they live for the moment and not the future. In the end, we all suffer. Such was apparent with the passage of the recent Health Reform Bill in the US House of Representatives. Why do I say that? Just think about the following and the continued discussions that are taking place.

As the March 2008 article produced by the American Medical Association stated, “we have not made any significant gains in reducing health disparities over the past two decades.”  In a recent report by researchers at John Hopkins University and the University of Maryland indicated, the impact of health disparities in one four year period has cost this nation a total of  $1.24 TRILLION. YES, $1.24 TRILLION.  So if one assumed a steady state, which is not true in reality, but lets assume so, the cost of the impact of health disparities over the next 10 year period will approach $3.1 TRILLION if nothing is accomplished to address the disparities.

Now, how much is the projected cost of health reform over the next 10 years? $1 TRILLION.  Assume that we are unable to completely eliminate health disparities over the next 10 years, but over that same period of time we can reduce it by an average of 33%? Lets see, 33% of $3 TRILLION is approximately $1.023 TRILLION.  So if we subtract $1.033 TRILLION from the TRILLION proposed in the recent Health Reform Bill, we have a surplus of $23 BILLION.

So my question is why are we not talking about working to eliminate health disparities as a means of paying for health care reform? I have a few ideas why, but what do you think?

Let’s set some reasonable milestones and work toward elimination of disparities. Why not truly set a Presidential goal of reducing health disparities by the end of the next decade like Kennedy did for space exploration?  In spite of the lack of anything that could support a man in space, in less than ten years, it was accomplished.  Why not seek the reduction and ultimate elimination of health disparities before 2020 with Healthy People having ONE GOAL that would benefit ALL?

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving a milestone of reducing health disparities by at least 33% before 2020. No single health initiative in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range survival of this nation. I propose to move toward eliminating the gap by delivering what we already know today – but to all Americans; to eliminate the gap between discovery and delivery and accelerate the development of programs to address the math and science gaps that exist in our schools.  We need more people, especially persons of color to achieve this goal.  We propose to develop alternatives to what we have always done, and to supply additional funds for other programs to address the need for more health care personnel.

An unhealthy nation is not an economically viable nation. In a very real sense, eliminating health disparities will not just address the health of the underserved and/or minorities, but the health of all. All of us must work together to make this happen.  For as Franklin Roosevelt would have stated in his last, but undelivered speech, “Today, we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together and work together in the same world, at peace.”

If reducing health disparities is a true national priority, then we need to find the money to make this happen. From what I have seen of the Health Care (Finance) Reform debate it is not, at least at the level of the Congressional leadership on both sides of the aisle. If it were, it would truly give the promise to someday eliminate health disparities, not only in this country, but the world at large.

Let it be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action – a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs, but the ultimate financial gain will far exceed the initial investment. The White House and Members of the Congress must make this judgment, but at this moment, I am not so confident. Just going half way and giving lip service is not going to solve the problem. This decision demands a major national commitment to scientific and technical manpower, material and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread.   It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline that have not always characterized our research and development efforts in this area.  It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of materials or talent, wasteful inter-agency rivalries, a high turnover of key personnel, or the impact of institutional racialism on our decisions. We all have biases; the problem is what we have done with those biases. The results so far have not been pretty for the health of our nation.

New objectives and new money alone cannot solve these problems. They could, in fact, aggravate the problems further as we have seen with new discoveries and a lack of delivery to the people who need the discoveries the most.  Unless every scientist, every physician, every health care professional, every politician, businessperson, and civil servant gives his/her personal pledge that this nation will move forward with the full speed of freedom to address the issue of health disparities, we will not be successful. This kind of change will require dedication and a genuine willingness to address health disparities despite biases and perceptions. We must also learn to speak with one voice on this subject.

Suggested reading from LikeTheDew editors:

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The Legacy of Slavery & Health Reform http://likethedew.com/2009/07/13/the-legacy-of-slavery-health-reform/ http://likethedew.com/2009/07/13/the-legacy-of-slavery-health-reform/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2009 22:57:29 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=4374

In his last public act, Benjamin Franklin presented to the US Congress a petition on behalf of the Philadelphia Society for the Abolition of Slavery asking for the abolition of slavery and an end to the slave trade. The petition, signed on February 3, 1790, asked the first US Congress, then meeting in New York City, to “devise means for removing the Inconsistency from the Character of the American People,” and “promote mercy and justice toward this distressed Race.”

The Senate took no action and the House tabled it, claiming the Constitution restrained them from prohibiting the importation or emancipation of slaves until 1808. Franklin, in a public forum once stated that “Slavery is such an atrocious debasement of human nature, that its very extirpation, if not performed with solicitous care, may sometimes open a source of serious evils.” With the submission of the petition, it is said that Franklin went on to state that unless Congress took a stand to free the slaves, it would be like leaving a rotten apple at the bottom of a barrel. That such would be a continuing “source of evils” on the character of American Society. He and his fellow colleagues had calculated what it would cost the then new country to purchase the freedom of every man, woman and child in slavery. France was willing to lend the new country the money as it had done for the Revolutionary War. They also determined that by 1808, there would be too many slaves for such an act to be economically feasible and that a tragic event would have to occur for this country to do as stated in the Constitution by 1808. Even with that tragic event, Franklin stated that such evils would be too ingrained into American Society and would cast a lasting economic burden on American Society.

As we recently celebrated the Independence of this nation, one should have thought of Benjamin Franklin’s words. The legacy of inaction. For instance, when the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall once stated that,”there was no place in America where he ever had to put his hands in front of his face to know that he was black,” he was pointing out that in the minds of many Americans the idea still lurks that minorities, especially African Americans, are fundamentally inferior. It is precisely this attitude that Franklin was afraid would be ingrained in American Society.  It is what I refer to as “Silent Racism.” It is that subconscious process that occurs without the privileged individual even being aware that he or she has committed an act which is based on a preconceived notion or profile.  On an everyday level, it can be the most innocent of acts. I once gave an example of a friend driving through an upscale neighborhood, when a car started following her. As she pulled in front of her friend’s home, the woman in the other car rolled down her window and asked if my friend was lost and needed help. This might sound quite innocent, but it just so happened that my friend was black and the woman in pursuit was white. My friend suffered no long-term consequences from this incident. But think about how this plays out in every day life. What impact would such an innocent act have on one applying for a job or purchasing a home or any normal everyday act? Consider a similar act that might occurs in the delivery of healthcare.

So we now have Congress looking into Health Care Reform. It is that same body, although with different people, including some of color, that left the rotten apple at the bottom of the barrel now two-hundred and nine years later. We will get Health Reform, but will it address the Health Disparities Gap? It is easier to pass laws than to change the minds and perceptions of human beings, even those who profess to be of open minds. We all have biases. It is not that we have biases, it is about how we act on them.

In 1998, Congress mandated that  the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM) conclude a study to investigate whether ethnic minorities and medically underserved populations in this country are experiencing an unequal burden of cancer. Following the study, Congress held a hearing in which the study validated its results that ethnic minorities and medically underserved populations in this country were experiencing an unequal burden of cancer,  yet Congress, who mandated the IOM study, chose to ignore the recommendations calling for, among other actions, increased federal funding and a reapportioning of federal research dollars to correct those cancer disparities. It is important to note that  Congress usually takes immediate action to implement recommendations of a congressionally mandated studies like the one noted. Was Congress’ blatant disregard in this case an example of what Franklin alluded to, a continuing “source of serious evils” that became ingrained in American Society.

As the great civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King once said:  “Many of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured and forgotten …” We need to heed the words of Benjamin Franklin, that slavery is and continues to be a source of evil. An evil that we truly have never addressed. For it prevails in our biases, those subconscious innocent biases that play out on a daily basis. We all have negative and positive biases. Again, it is not that we have them, it is to remember that we do have.  That is is not having them, but how we act on them. Unless we keep that in mind, any hope of health reform in addressing health disparities will be for naught.

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