Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ugly Memories

I'm glad Tony Snow informed me that "racism isn't that big a deal anymore." Otherwise, I'd be troubled by news like this:

African-American Medicare patients fare worse than whites even when they belong to the same health plan, according to a study released today that provides new evidence of the persistent medical divide between the races.
And this:
While the incidence of breast cancer in Latinas is 40 percent lower than that of non-Hispanic white women, Latinas are 20 percent more likely to die from it than white women diagnosed at the same age and stage and are more likely to be diagnosed with larger breast tumors, according to "Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics/Latinos," a report put out by the group.
And this:
Older black adults are less likely than whites to have their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar under control, even if they belong to a high-quality Medicare plan, researchers reported Tuesday.
And this:
Poor and minority neighborhoods suffered the brunt of Katrina's fury, but residents living in white neighborhoods have been three times as likely as homeowners in black neighborhoods to seek state help in resolving insurance disputes, according to an Associated Press computer analysis.
To a certain extent, I think this last story is a key to the others. One obvious reason not to seek help is the belief that one won't get it, or that it won't be worth the effort. I've previously discussed effort optimism in regards to education and employment. What today's stories have in common, I think, is that they demonstrate the effect of effort pessimism on communication itself:
Kitchens also didn't know she could appeal Allstate Corp.'s settlement offer to the state, but doubts it would have changed anything. Her husband, she said, simply lost faith that anyone would help.

"My husband didn't want to be bothered. I asked him, 'Why don't we sue the insurance company?' He said, 'They ain't going to do nothing .'
Snow said that racism is "quickly becoming an ugly memory." Putting aside the fact that Snow's wrong, and the fact that unless he were a mindreader he'd have no basis for this claim, and the fact that he's a soulless jackal who should be sealed into a barrel of fleas and catapulted into the sun, he misses the point entirely. A white person's "ugly memory" of racism will trigger a very different emotional response from that of a black person, for the simple reason that the white person's ugly memory is not a memory of being treated badly for being black.

A minor distinction, I realize, but an important one when assessing relative levels of effort optimism.

1 comment:

Phila said...

What is actually worse, I think, is that I don't believe a lot of the medical stuff is active, conscious racism so much as it's... um... dunno.

I think that it's not active or conscious in most cases. I think minorities simply tend to be taken less seriously; they're more likely to be seen as representatives of their race than as unique individuals. And they're also probably seen, like poor people, as having less power, which can be an important consideration when time and resources are limited.

Having a medical system that wasn't understaffed and overworked would probably help, to some extent, although it obviously wouldn't solve the larger problems.