Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Michigan: Old School Racism in Hospitals and Child Support

It's impossible to tell without performing or acquiring some deeper research which I can't do at the present moment but I wonder if President's Obama's election and especially his re-election has just caused some bigots to completely lose their minds. Not only do we have drunk white men slapping black toddlers and telling the child's mother to shut that n****** baby up but in Michigan some old school 1950s style racism recently came to my attention.

There was an old joke about the difference between southern white racists and northern white racists being that in the south, bigots didn't care how close a black person got s/he just better not get too high and successful. But in the the north, bigots didn't care all that much about how successful a black person became, they just didn't want to get too close to blacks.

I was reminded of that joke when a white man in Flint, Michigan, in a hospital to attend the birth of his new baby, allegedly requested that no black nurse touch his precious newborn child. According to the black nurse who filed a lawsuit, the hospital temporarily agreed to the white man's request. The hospital denies this allegation and states that it remains committed to non-discrimination. It's hard to believe that in this day and age a hospital would open itself up like that but you never can tell. Let's see what the facts show.
The head of Hurley Medical Center in Flint on Tuesday denied allegations that hospital officials granted a father's request that African-American nurses not tend to his baby. Rather, when the father showed a nursing supervisor his swastika tattoo, it "created anger and outrage in our staff," Melany Gavulic, president and CEO, said in a written statement. "This resulted in concern by supervisors for the safety of the staff. The father was informed that his request could not be granted."
Last month, Tonya Battle, 49, an African-American nurse and veteran of the neonatal unit, filed an eight-page lawsuit contending that the hospital prohibited her from caring for an infant last year because a man objected to her race. The lifelong Flint resident said she was working the late shift Oct. 31 when a man walked into a room where she was caring for a newborn. She asked to see his identification, and the man, who was the father of the newborn, demanded to see her supervisor, she told the Free Press on Monday. According to Battle, a note was placed afterward on the assignment chart that read: "No African American nurse to take care of baby."

In another story from my ever so charming home state, a black woman named Crystal Perry who works at Michigan's Department of Human Services Child Support division filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in promotion. After she met with a supervisor to discuss her lack of promotion , someone placed a five foot ape on top of her cubicle. Yes, you read that correctly. It gets weirder though because for some strange reason Perry did not turn into an angry black woman, take the ape down and immediately quit her job/curse someone out/file another lawsuit, but instead asked the same supervisor who was refusing to promote her to take the ape down. He of course refused. When I saw this story I was angry because it illustrates the damage that racism does when not only when whites express it but when blacks internalize it and start to second guess themselves.
Just days after Crystal Perry met with her supervisor to discuss why she wasn’t being promoted, a 5-foot-long toy ape appeared perched atop her office cubicle. To Perry, a black woman with a master’s degree in human resources and labor relations from Michigan State University, it was a racially motivated attack. Her supervisor at the Michigan Department of Human Services’ child support office was a white man. He told her he didn’t know who placed the toy there. It remained atop the cubicle for three weeks. “It truly belittled me. It just made me feel less than a person,” said the 47-year-old Delta Township woman, who in 2010 filed a discrimination lawsuit against the agency. Last month, after a bench trial, Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina found that there was no evidence that discrimination caused Perry to not be promoted. 
Perry’s lawsuit was among at least three filed in recent years alleging discrimination within DHS.  Last year, in a separate case that went to a bench trial, Ingham County Circuit Judge Clinton Canady III ruled in favor of Perry’s onetime co-worker, Cynthia Jackson, also a black woman. Jackson alleged that racial discrimination affected her ability to be promoted. A class-action lawsuit involving more than 580 minority male DHS employees is expected to go to trial in March, said Novi-based attorney Daryle Salisbury, who is handling that case and also represented Perry and Jackson. The male employees allege that they were discriminated against on the basis of race and ethnicity in promotions to supervisory and management positions.
Now I tend to be a bit of a pessimist in such matters so actually stories like this don't really surprise me all that much. Once you get out into the real world you see how poorly many in the majority population still react to the idea of having to take orders from a black person or having to admit that a black person has more education, experience or credentials than they do. It's certainly not as bad as it was for my parents or grandparents but it's not equal or good by any means. Nobody ever put an ape on my cubicle but I could share some stories about whites getting promoted more quickly or whites not needing to have certain levels of educational attainment or certifications to get hired/promoted while blacks with those credentials have a much tougher road to travel. And if you talk to some black professionals in corporate America or even in the public sector, these sorts of stories aren't all that uncommon even today in 2013. Sometimes it's nepotism. Other times it's school snobbery. But far too often it's good old fashioned racism combined with the first two elements mentioned as well as other causes.

You often hear from conservatives and increasingly some liberals that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are the real cause of racial division in this country, that they're anti-white, that they keep racial grievance alive, that they agitate simple minded black folks by getting them worked up over nothing, that they convince black people to blame whites for their own lack of accomplishments. Well. Not really. What keeps racial grievances alive is seeing people that are less or equally qualified to you get hired and promoted faster and paid more. That's a serious problem. It's one that must be addressed. Racism is the original sin of this country. It's a poisonous seed that is still blooming dangerous flowers all over this nation.

We've seen those all too common videos of blacks acting a fool with each other whether it be in a low rent Atlanta "mall" or on a Cleveland area bus. We've read the stories of black men killing each other because someone stepped on someone else's shoes or was walking in the street and refused to get out of a vehicle's path. Anecdotally it seems as black people, men and women alike have a very low threshold of violence with each other but seem to be willing to tolerate much higher levels of disrespect from whites. I think this is internalized racism. I think that people who are for whatever reason often afraid to raise their voice to a white person who mistreats them transfer that repressed rage to other black people, with often tragic results. It's something to think about anyway. I won't blame the victim if everything went down like Ms. Perry claimed it did. But I can't think of any other reason besides fear/internalized hatred that someone would allow another person to put an ape on their cubicle and then leave it there.
“I didn’t want someone to say (I wasn’t) supposed to do that,” she said. “It always gets turned back on the victim.”
The Flint hospital situation brings up some libertarian objections to state intervention into private matters as well as the right to discriminate. I definitely don't think that the hospital should have acceded to the racist man's request. If I were the hospital administrator I would have told the father that we assign the best nurses regardless of race and that if he didn't like that we he was free to take his fragile newborn elsewhere. At the same time we know that some people are more comfortable with a doctor of the same gender. Should that sort of discrimination be banned? Other people make a point of hiring accountants, realtors or lawyers of a particular (their own) race. Some black people discriminate against other black professionals. Where do we draw the line? 


1) Is racism more common post Obama re-election or are these isolated incidents?

2) Do you prefer open hostility or quiet backstabbing?

3) Is there ever a place for discrimination in the marketplace?

4) In each situation, what would you have done? (At work someone crudely insults your race/gender or someone makes a request that requires you to discriminate)

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