One of my Hedgebrook friends wrote me and said, “Great blog. I’m interested in the medicine and social justice side. it’s intriguing. If I landed on it and didn’t know you that would draw me. and thanks for plugging us all.” I said I would answer questions so I guess we seque to talk about a topic that will come soon, maybe even tomorrow unless I take a twist to a different direction: health disparities and stories found there. First though, what do you think about when I mention the word RACE. I do not mean marathons, or automobiles, or Olympic sprints.
Do you personally identify with a race? What is your narrative about race? Not an ethnicity, either, but a race? What makes up race in your mind? When were you aware of race? How? How do you think beliefs about race influence policy? Is there good science behind that?
A few years ago I did a study with colleagues. It is well known that African Americans are more likely to die from colon cancer than their White peers. The prior two hypotheses were: 1) they get diagnosed later (hmm is that lack of access, cultural beliefs about screening, not being offered screening at the same rate as Whites?) and 2) there is a biological difference. Our study found that controlling for stage (so all those with stage II and III were in the same boat, presumably found at the same time), IF African Americans received the appropriate treatment (the “standard of care” of the right surgery and 6 months of chemotherapy), their 5 year survival was the same. Now the question of why some do not get the standard of care is still open, but I think the biology question has at least one response. Health disparities is a huge topic for discussion, but first, where do they come from?
If you live in the Puget Sound Region, listen up. Currently the Pacific Science Center is hosting “Race, Are We So Different?” We are one of 25 or so cities to host it, and we are, so far, the only city/county to host intentional conversations about race, diversity, inclusion that draw viewing the exhibit beyond the individual experience. The exhibit presents conversation about race from three perspectives: history, human variation, and lived experience.
King County and the City of Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) are supporting groups to meet before viewing the exhibit and again after viewing it. They have trained facilitators who will come and meet with any group for the two sessions, for free. I participated in the pre-exhibit session, will now go to the exhibit, and then participate in a post-exhibit session. While the material might not be new for some of us, the conversation was invaluable and the more conversations we have, the more we might move ourselves forward as humans.
It is easy to register groups.
From the website:“Each Group Workshop has two components: a 75-minute pre-exhibit session and a two-hour post-exhibit session.These experiences are designed for groups to use the exhibit to expand and apply their understanding of racial equity. There are many ways that groups can use Group Workshops, including: to initiate or deepen work around racial equity, diversity and inclusion; as a training or team-building activity; to lay the groundwork for new or revised programming, policies or initiatives.To register for a Group Workshop please visit RSJI site.”
If you are in the area: invite a group from work, family, community and let’s get the conversation going. If you are not close enough, you can visit this site and pull groups together to watch and discuss the material. www.understandingrace.org.
Interesting questions posed, thanks for “sharon” about the exhibit and the groups, we should see about going to one of those groups. i’m interested in hearing your take on the intersection of gender and race. my impression is that race and gender become important in situations of vulnerability, that is when these categories are noticed — what do you think? in my experience, a narrative has to arise in order to explain this position of vulnerability/inferiority, but do you think it could also arise out of a situation of perpetuating superiority/privilege? for me, race and gender are often interchangeable categories of hierarchy, and are hard for me to separate, but perhaps they are separate. additionally, do you think that we (even the learned liberals 😉 ) perpetuate disparities in health, in salaries, in social position? what’s your take on that? lotsa questions!
pia & zach
thanks for your comments. These are excellent questions. I will post about them in the next few days. Short answer: we all live with our thoughts and what we know and have experienced and that informs policy which in turn can either change or perpetuate what has been done. The focus and intention needed to have it be different is not small. xx, s