Hedreich Nichols

How Long Has This Been Going On

Small Bites Friday Five 4-30-21 

20-30m – Read this study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations.

15-20m – Read this short pamphlet with your classes. Enslavement and forced labor might be responsible for the cheap jeans you are wearing.

10-15m – Watch this VOX video from Ranjani Chakraborty on the impact of bias on the medical treatment of Black and economically disenfranchised patients. While you’re at it, look up ‘Mississippi Appendectomy’ and follow that rabbit hole down a ways.

5-10m – If you only have 10 minutes, click on the PNAS article from above and scroll down to the section marked Beliefs about biological differences between Blacks and Whites measure. Answer the questions yourself and reflect over your answers—and theirs.

0-5m – Find one educator to share a resource with in a non-confrontational way. Share what you’re learning, a content resource or even a book or podcast, if you think it can be received and not perceived as arrogant or pushy.

I am a Gen exer. I played video games and learned to use a computer in school, albeit a fairly large one. My childhood pics are faded but they are in color, not sepia or black and white. I learned about Woodstock just like Gen Y and Millennials, from history books and the internet. And yet, I was born in a Negro hospital. I went to the Black pediatrician who treated most of Houston’s children on my side of town. I lived in a Black neighborhood and went to a Black church. As a matter of fact, years later, after I had my own child, I buried my momma in a Black church using a Black funeral home who took her to a Black cemetery. That was in 2005.

When we talk about discrimination and challenging our biases, we have to realize, knowing better today does not negate what has been imbedded in us for generations. Most people over 30 were born to parents who lived in mostly segregated areas and led mostly segregated lives. In many places that hasn’t changed much. Redlining and redistricting have kept wealthy areas wealthy and often made poorer areas poorer. In this country, wealthy is still equated with White communities and poor with non-White communities. Further, the mindset for generations has been White=good, not White=bad. That was the perception at our country’s inception and we have yet to shake it.

Generations of viewing the world through that lens makes it hard to divorce ourselves from what we learned growing up. This does not mean we divorce ourselves from people who are close to us who still have no desire to shake off “the old ways”. But this means, that as we learn about implicit bias, diverse stories and the need for greater representation in all segments of society, we cannot forget where we come from. The only way to unlearn wrong thinking patterns is to acknowledge their existence.

If you were lucky enough to be born in an integrated hospital, grow up in a diverse neighborhood, worship in a diverse house of faith and be surrounded by family and friends who have always espoused trust and inclusivity of others, you are rare. For the rest of us, let’s acknowledge that the foundational systems, power structures and most of all, thought patterns, have been with us for a long time and that their influence is far reaching.

Yes, “the old ways” are closer than we like to think. But as soon as we give into the horribleness of things we’ve been taught as right, we can begin to shake them off in hopes of a better and more inclusive new way.