The Pulse

We Are Hopelessly Racist

By: - January 11, 2008 10:28 am

I wish that statement were not true, but I fear that it is.

I have found that medical studies often provide a window into the soul of our nation.  Most recently, I was discouraged to read a report from a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  Once again it was confirmed that there is significant disparity in the medical treatment of whites and non-whites.  This particular study found that black and Hispanic patients were 25% less likely to receive narcotic medications for severe pain in emergency rooms.

The analysis of more than 150,000 emergency room visits over 13 years found differences in prescribing by race in both urban and rural hospitals, in all U.S. regions and for every type of pain.The gaps between whites and nonwhites have not appeared to close at all," said study co-author Dr. Mark Pletcher of the University of California, San Francisco.

Ouch.  If ever there were a group which should be able to remain impartial and minimize bigotry it should be physicians.  Doctors are trained to revere objectivity and evidence.  Yet, despite conditions (human suffering) where empathy should be maximal, doctors could not shed their bias.  Sad.   Mind you, these disparities have been described for all types of treatment including pain control, cardiac catheterizations for chest pain, lung resection for lung cancer, etc.   Humans are simply predisposed to racism.

I doubt that the "playing field" can ever be truly level.  But for every college admission or job opportunity where a white applicant feels they've been screwed by affirmative action policies…I believe there are a hundred lost opportunities for non-whites, lost in a hundred different ways, by the type of soft-bigotry outlined in this medical study.  

Which brings us to Barack Obama.  I have no idea if the discrepancies between New Hampshire polls and election results are race-based.  Certainly it is a possibility pollsters, if not voters, ought to consider.  From a policy standpoint, it is difficult to care very much about the minor differences between Edwards, Clinton, and Obama.

There are many different reasons why voters choose a particular candidate.  But from the standpoint of race, an Obama presidency could be truly special.  It might send a message to the world, if not ourselves, that America is not hopeless regarding our original sin.

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