A friend is Bahamian, her husband Black. They live on acreage and her husband was by the road repairing their gate with their teenage daughter. A police car stopped and asked him why he was in the neighborhood and made him prove that was his address. The daughter was horrified and scared to death for her father. Both parents are professionals in the community.
I am a 51 yo African American woman who is well-educated, gainfully employed, and fully insured. I live with a chronic condition, systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) which causes severe joint pain and a host of other challenges. At different times, I have gone to the ER…typically after consultation with or at the direction of my rheumatologist. I have come to loathe these experiences because I have often been questioned to the point of interrogation BEFORE my pain is addressed (if it is addressed). Sometimes it is only after lab work reports high markers of inflammation that my account is ‘confirmed.’ Other times, I have been dismissed until my physician has been consulted or intervenes on my behalf. At the same time I know there are people who receive more attention for hang nails. It’s maddening. Though I have access to health care, I cannot access health care.
Last spring, prior to the pandemic, I volunteered as a teaching assistant at a prison that offered some inmates the opportunity to receive an associate degree. In order to be eligible, there were requirements such as not having had an incident in the past 6 months. Despite the majority of prisoners being Black, my class only had 3 Black students of 13 students total. This represents inequity because in a prison where less than 25% of prisoners are white, white prisoners represented over 75% of this class, a class which was designed to create more opportunities for them upon release.
In trying to combat the opioid epidemic in 2017, I was confronted by a black friend who expressed his anger at the way the healthcare system, legal system, and local governments were now rallying to this cause, which he attributed to the impact on the white community. He was right. This was and is a glaring example of inequity. I considered all the partners involved in the effort to combat the epidemic, and I realized that almost none were black or Latino. Our previous attempts to combat substance use disorders and addictions had been largely punitive and enforced along racial lines. These biases and practices continue today in how we treat addiction and its community effects.