“YOU CANNOT FIX, WHAT YOU WILL NOT FACE” - Connecticut Multicultural Health Partnership

“YOU CANNOT FIX, WHAT YOU WILL NOT FACE”

To help people get to know the Partnership better, we are sharing posts from various members about events they’ve attended and other important experiences they’ve had working to promote the CLAS standards and address racial and ethnic disparities.

This post is from Brenda DelGado based on her experiences at the 3rd annual National Institutes of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), 2-week course Bethesda.

When speaking about the pursuit of racial justice James Baldwin stated “Not everything that is faced can be changed, But nothing can be changed until it is faced”. This powerful quote has had relevance for me since the late 80’s when I began working in HIV/AIDS when in spite of the powerful impact the disease had on disenfranchised African American, Latino and Gay populations these communities took a patient-lead advocacy approach to educating, and changing the direction and impact of a disease on their impacted communities. This patient advocacy led to a systems change in the medical community and impacted other health disparities. 

According to David Ruffin, Director of NIMH (National Institute of Minority Health); “health disparities (poor health) began with discrimination related to poverty, education, housing and racism.” Since racial justice is one of the keys to addressing the foundation of health disparities revisiting both this quote and the power of including those most affected seems appropriate at this time.

This history and my role as a Community Partner/Advocate were in the forefront of my mind while attending the 3rd annual National Institutes of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), 2-week course Bethesda. Ninety invited scholars were asked to share their views and to become advocates for others. Racial discrimination and its impact on health disparities was addressed by several of the presenters but the person who seemed to bring all the parts together in both a simplistic and powerful way was Camara Jones MD. MPH, PhD from CDC who shared her well known “Gardener’s Tale” This powerful tale of flowers shows the many faces of racism; such as a. institutional racism (in its planting techniques), b. personally medicated racism (with planter selecting the thriving flower) and c. internalized racism (by the unattended forgotten flower). If you are not aware of this powerful allegory, please visit <a href=http://www.citymatch.org/special-reports/gardeners-tale-dr-camara-jones>Dr. Camara Jones’ The Gardener’s Tale</a>

What was the take away message for me and hopefully the other 90 diverse professionals present at the Institute. While there are many paths to addressing the health disparities in communities of color, our path must be the one set forth by Baldwin. We must not ignore nor minimize the fact of racism on health disparities.

As health professionals, as people of color, as social justice advocates, we must face and address the many forms of racism. We owe this to the communities we serve. If we do not have frank discussions including those most impacted then we cannot change the reality that racial prejudice and discrimination hinder our ability to impact change.

How then can we fix what we will not face; so how do we get everyone else on board?

Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2014

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