- Created on 04 April 2013
Anna Brown, a St. Louis-based homeless woman, needed treatment for a sprained ankle. She went to three emergency rooms seeking treatment. In the third hospital, St. Mary’s Health Center, Brown was emphatic about needing care. Instead of being treated, she was arrested for trespassing, and died in a jail cell. Was she ill-treated because she was homeless? Black? Broke? All three? It really doesn’t matter. What matters is the hospital that failed to treat her may have contributed to her death.
Too many African Americans are treated in emergency rooms as criminals, not people in need of health services. After learning of the Anna Brown case, a sisterfriend shared that she had such an extreme anxiety attack that her 10-year-old son called 911. When she got to the emergency room (with health insurance, thank you), she was queried about her use of drugs and alcohol, not her health condition. It was only after her blood was tested that she was treated. So she spent four agonizing hours on a hospital bed with raspy breath, a frightened son, and no medical care.
She isn’t the only one who was mistreated. African American and Latino men with broken bones are less likely to get pain medication than others. Even children of color are less likely to receive painkillers than White children, because some physicians think they are faking the severity of their pain. When we look at health disparities and wonder why African Americans are more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failures, breast cancer, AIDS and other diseases, one might point to the many ways that doctors, especially those in emergency rooms, signal that Black pain is not worth treating. The result is that someone who is really hurting chooses to forgo medical care instead of dealing with medical condescension and arrogance.
To our society’s shame, emergency rooms often become the health providers of last resort. Those without a regular physician are stuck going to an emergency room when all else fails. A cold becomes the flu and the flu becomes pneumonia and only when a patient is struggling for breath does she seek treatment in an emergency room. I can understand a doctor’s frustration because the patient did not deal with her challenges earlier. But well-paid emergency room doctors need to do their work without judgmental attitudes getting in their way.
Anna Brown deserved to be treated as a human being. She deserved to be treated as someone who was struggling with pain. Instead, she was treated as a criminal because she insisted on care. Thus, she was accused of trespassing, instead of being treated as someone who was hurting.
While many would describe our society as post-racial that is a specious and inaccurate description of the world in which we live. Racism muddies the water that we all swim in, and physicians are not exempted. Those who swim in muddy water reflect the muddy attitudes that are prevalent in our society. Many doctors consider themselves “culturally sensitive” but they have come to certain conclusions about poor folks, Black folks, and others that they treat. It is easier to write off a woman like Anna Brown than it is to find out what is really wrong with her.
The Hippocratic oath that physicians swear to says “first, do no harm.” From the facts that have been published about Anna Brown though, this homeless 29-year-old mother of two was harmed by a medical indifference that landed her in a jail cell instead of a hospital bed. The tragedy is that Anna Brown is not the only one who has been treated this way.
We have health disparities because people are treated differently in our health care system. We cannot talk about closing gaps without talking about the ways that medical attitudes shape the medical experience for those who are so underserved that they come to emergency rooms for help. While the jury is out on the ways that Obamacare will reform our health care system, the intent of health care reform is to eliminate tragedies like Anna Brown’s.
Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.
- Created on 04 April 2013
I was first introduced to the court proceeding called “probate” as a result of a frantic call I received soon after I began practicing law.
The caller, a real estate agent, was handling an escrow and found that the sale couldn’t be completed because the seller (his client) didn’t have title to the property. Unfortunately, the property in question was still in the name of the seller’s mother who had died several years earlier. Because the seller didn’t have title, the escrow couldn’t be completed, the real estate agent lost his commission, and the matter had to be taken to court before any further action could be taken with respect to the property.
Many people who have inherited real estate are surprised to learn that they must go through probate in order to legally transfer the property into their name. They usually learn of their need for probate only after they have decided to sell the property or borrow against it. When they find out that the average probate takes 15 months to complete, they are disappointed that their plans have to be put on hold. Then, when they find out what probate costs, they are shocked. For the average home in Los Angeles County, now valued at $350,000, probate costs can exceed $25,000!
Even those that are aware that they must go through probate put it off for various reasons — primarily the cost, time, and/or “hassle” involved in a court proceeding. However, procrastination can lead to unforeseen problems down the road. For example, a person who inherits a piece of property might think that the property is worth a certain amount and has made big plans for the future based on the anticipated inheritance. However, the individual may not be aware of creditors or other heirs that have a legitimate claim to the property until their claim is revealed through the probate process. In one case I know about, a person was sharing in the rental income from the property for years, but when the probate was completed it revealed that the person sharing in the rental income had no legal claim to the property at all.
When probate procrastination goes on for years, it becomes a huge problem to sort out the various interests in the property. Many of us have heard of instances where a family inherited property “down South” a long time ago, never went through probate and now there are so many relatives involved that it seems hopeless and not worth any one person’s time and effort to get the title issues resolved.
Of course the best solution to probate problems is to avoid probate altogether through a living trust. A forward-thinking property owner would do well to save his or her heirs the time, expense and “hassle” of probate. If, on the other hand, you are that unfortunate heir who is faced with probate, it is best do it sooner rather than later.
- Created on 03 April 2013
On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stepped to the podium of the Riverside Church in New York to vigorously proclaim his opposition to the War in Vietnam. It was one of the most powerful orations among numerous remarkable speeches delivered during his brief but extraordinary life.
In articulating a persuasive moral and practical framework for his stance, Dr. King said: “… I knew America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and attack it as such.”
Equally disturbing for King was the disproportionate impact of the war not only on the poor but specifically young Black men. He went on to say: “We were taking the Black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them 8,000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem.”
Dr. King’s decision to visibly and vocally oppose the War in Vietnam was no doubt complicated by the fact that the war was being promoted, prosecuted and defended by Lyndon Baines Johnson, the president who had courageously responded to Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery March by working for and signing the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965. President Johnson was viewed as a friend of civil rights and social programs favorable to poor and working people. Nonetheless, King saw the Vietnam as an ill-conceived and immoral war that would ultimately undermine the quest for social, economic and racial justice. Therefore, principle and conscience demanded that he not be silent even in opposition to a president who had signed milestone civil rights legislation.
It is in that same spirit, that on April 4, 2013, a group of social justice, drug and criminal justice policy reform advocates will intensify the demand for an end to the War on Drugs and mass incarceration and call on President Obama to invest resources to revitalize America’s “dark ghettos.” Just as Dr. King saw the War in Vietnam as wasting massive resources on an ill- conceived and immoral war, drug and criminal justice reform analysts, experts and advocates have concluded that the War on Drugs is a flawed strategy complete with a contemporary “demonic suction tube” which has wasted billions of dollars that could and should have been used to invest in distressed urban communities. Equally distressing, as Michelle Alexander brilliantly documents in her classic book The New Jim Crow, the War on Drugs is a racially biased policy/strategy targeting and disproportionately devastating Black and Brown communities. As the brothers and sisters in the “hood” say, “the war on drugs is a war on us.”
How else can we make sense of the fact that African Americans make up an estimated 15 percent of drug users, but account for 27 percent of those arrested on drug charges, 59 percent of those convicted and 74 percent of all drug offenders sentenced to prison.
The War on Drugs, policing, criminalization and mass incarceration have become substitutes for social, economic and racial justice in America’s dark ghettos. The damages to our communities have been devastating – and it must end.
As we gather in Dr. King’s memory on April 4 this year, our charge must be to call on President Obama to exercise leadership by proclaiming to the nation that it is time to end the War on Drugs and treat the crisis of drugs as a public health rather than criminal justice issue – a dramatic paradigm shift which, at a minimum, will lead to decriminalization of marijuana, increased funding for drug education and treatment, and a national dialogue on the desirability and feasibility of regulating and taxing drugs.
It is time for President Barack Obama to have the audacity to declare a state of emergency in urban inner-city areas, where millions of Black people are suffering and struggle to survive. It is a moral and political crisis that demands direct, targeted economic and social policies and programs to create wholesome, sustainable communities. The president and the nation have reacted as if there is no face to the millions who are suffering in the “dark ghettos” of this land. These millions do have a face and it is overwhelmingly Black.
On April 4, we will honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his opposition to the Vietnam War and his call for an Economic Bill of Rights. We hope President Obama and the nation will heed our call and the walls of ignorance, indifference, hostility, blatant and benign neglect, racial bias and injustice will come tumbling down, clearing the way for the rescue and revitalization of the urban inner-city neighborhoods/communities in this country.
- Created on 03 April 2013
Several of my readers of have questioned why I am writing positive articles about my Republican Party. The simple answer is that they deserve it. In the past, I have been very critical of my party because they have ignored the Black community, disrespected our current president with incendiary language, and strayed away from our core principles and values.
Since last November’s elections, my party has seemed to have reflected on what happened during last year’s elections and have been open to positive criticism on how to best learn from the past. So, it’s not so much that my writing has changed as the facts have changed.
Current party chair, Reince Priebus has begun to change the makeup of the party by beginning to hire minorities throughout the Republican National Committee (RNC). My writings have reflected my support for some of these changes and a continued willingness to work with the party to help it get back on track.
People need to remember that Priebus and the RNC are not policy making entities. Rather, they are responsible for the execution of the principles advocated by the members of the RNC board and GOP members of Congress. The Congressional side of this equation leaves a lot to be desired, but one person on the Congressional side who really understands this issue is House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor.
I was happy to receive a phone call from Cantor two weeks ago to discuss some of his recent activities to engage with the minority community, specifically the Black community. I have known Cantor for many years and we have always enjoyed stimulating, honest conversations.
Last month, Cantor accepted the opportunity to go with Civil Rights icon and fellow Congressman John Lewis, to attend the annual march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. Cantor grew up in segregated Richmond, Va. during the 60s. Somehow the hatred of Blacks in the 60s didn’t seep into him and his family.
I hope Cantor will let me put together a town hall meeting with him to give him a forum to share with the public his reflections from Selma. He brought his son along with him and there is a fascinating event that happened as a result of this trip, but I will let Cantor share that story.
What is fascinating and embarrassing at the same time is that Cantor has come to understand that education is the Civil Rights of the 21st century for the Black community; not homosexual marriage as claimed by Al Sharpton, Ben Jealous, and Marc Morial.
I find it astonishing that a White, southern Congressman is more in tune with my community than the media appointed Black leaders. Cantor is working through a series of policy issues that I hope will lead to legislation that will benefit the Black community.
Cantor is a man that deserves, at a minimum, more engagement from within the Black community and I plan on working with him to make that happen. As Ronald Reagan once said, “My 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy.” It’s not necessary for you to agree with everything Cantor believes in or accept the party that he represents. But if he is trying to create a better future for us and our kids, why would you not support and work with him?
If you agree with the media appointed Black leaders that homosexuality is the new Civil Rights, then continue to support them. However, if you believe that the new Civil Rights is education, then please reach out to Congressman Cantor and let’s help create a better future together.
Cantor has shown the Republicans in the House a pathway to the Black vote. The question is, will they follow his example? Cantor is doing his part by reaching out to the Black community, now will we return the favor? I await my community’s response.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.
- Created on 03 April 2013
Thomas Boston, noted economist and author of Affirmative Action and Black Entrepreneurship, in which he called for a strategy that would establish and grow Black-owned businesses to the point of having the capacity to employ 20 percent of the Black workforce by the year 2010. Aptly titled, “Twenty by Ten” – A strategy for Black Business and Employment Growth in the Next Century,” Boston’s charge was right on point, especially since he wrote it in 1999.
When I read his book, “Twenty by Ten” seemed very doable to me. After all, we had 10 years to make it happen, not to mention the fact that if we implemented his plan, Black folks would be well on our way to a higher level of economic self-sufficiency. What an idea, I thought to myself; I was certain government officials and businesses sectors would jump on that idea and bring it to fruition.
Well, it’s been 13 years since Professor Boston called for “Twenty by Ten” and sadly, according to the last economic census, of the 1,197,864 Black firms, only 106,566 were employer firms, and they employed just 909,552 workers. Of course, we know all of those employees are not Black. Thus, we are shamefully behind Boston’s ideal, and according to a recent poll, we are not only behind we are seeking every solution except the one that he put forth in 1999.
The poll was commissioned by Robert L. Johnson, founder of BET, multiple business owner, and employer of many. Titled “Black Opinions in the Age of Obama,” and conducted by Zogby Analytics, the poll brought forth some very interesting responses from Black people. The area I will address in this column is Black employment.
When asked why they believed the Black unemployment rate was double that of Whites, respondents’ answers included, failure of the education system for minorities/African Americans, lack of corporate commitment to hiring minorities/African Americans, and a lack of good government policies.
When asked why the wealth gap has increased by $70,000 over the last 20 years, nearly half (47 percent) of respondents said that both the lack of jobs and a lack of access to capital were to blame for the wealth gap between Whites and African Americans. When respondents were asked if they have ever been overlooked or felt discounted as a serious contender for employment because they were Black, nearly half (47 percent) replied “Yes.”
While the answers are all valid and reasonable, I was struck by the absence of any response that suggested what Thomas Boston called for over a decade ago: More Black businesses hiring more Black people. There was a noticeable lack of onus put “on us” when the subject turned to unemployment and wealth creation/retention.
I am not trying to wrap all of our problems into a neat little package called “Twenty by Ten,” but I am attempting to point out a flaw in our thinking and a gap in our own responsibility toward Black economic empowerment. Yes, we have need of solutions to the many problems we face, but many can be resolved if we would follow the perfectly sensible business model of starting and growing more Black businesses to the point of having the capacity to hire more Black people.
Yes, the government has a role to play. Yes, the private sector has a role to play. But what is our role? I am so tired of hearing so-called leaders beg for “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” from folks who are too busy taking care of their own to worry about us. It drives me crazy that there is no call for “Businesses! Businesses! Businesses!” We must get back to common sense strategies for growth of the Black economy, which means we must produce more, or at least just as much, as we consume. And, we must hire more of our people. Others certainly have an obligation to hire us as well, no doubt. But we cannot keep chanting slogans and begging them without, at the same time, building and growing our own employment base.
Professor Boston noted, “Without question, economic inclusion is the next civil rights frontier…promoting the growth of Black owned business means reducing society’s unemployment burden, providing jobs where they are most needed and improving the income status of people who are too often trapped below the poverty line. Because the economy can grow as a result of economic inclusion, everyone can benefit.” According to Bob Johnson’s survey, many Black people believe we should remain the “included” rather than the “includers.”
Let’s look inward as well as outward for solutions to our problems. Let’s have our own economic inclusion policy by dusting off “Twenty by Ten” and renaming it “Twenty by Twenty.”
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.