Not many people talk about it. Beyond an occasional newspaper report or an interview on a morning news program, no one makes much of it. Yet, as you unpack the facts, the truth of the matter is staggering to say the least.
Discrimination in the United States today is not about voting rights, public accommodations, or housing; though no doubt, examples of racism's lingering presence could be cited in each of these categories.
Discrimination takes it most significant toll today in what is a surprising arena for white Americans: health care delivery. The disparities between health care outcomes for whites and blacks are more than incredible.
The December issue of The Journal of Public Health documents the harsh reality: more than 886,000 deaths could have been prevented from 1991 to 2000 if African Americans had received the same care as whites.
The same study estimates that only 176,633 lives were saved during the same period by technological advancements in medicine, including better drugs, devices and procedures.
In other words, five times as many lives could have been saved during the same period if the disparities between white and black medical treatment had been eliminated.
To be sure, the story is a complex one. Less than adequate access to equal health care is not the only factor behind the dismal statistics. Blacks have a greater incidence of some diseases than whites. Education, income, lack of health insurance and environment all play a part in the startling gap in health and well being.
But, the fact is, each factor ties back to race, class, poverty and discrimination.
The deadly discrimination at work here reflects systemic realities that must be addressed through changes in public policy. At the same time, those who suffer discrimination and those who work for healthier communities must respond with concerted, organized action.
People who claim the United States has "the best health care system in the world" need to provide a more precise definition of that crucial phrase, "health care system."
Whites who can afford insurance do enjoy the best health care system available anywhere.
Unfortunately, this assessment does not hold for all Americans. Sadly, the facts of the case are simply undeniable.
December 8, 2013–second Sunday in Advent
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