Friday, December 16, 2011

Harsh Realities of Inadequate Healthcare in the U.S.A. and the African Working Class

By Kilaika Anayejali kwa Baruti 

It is without a doubt throughout the history of African peoples struggle from the very first time they arrived as slaves they suffered tremendously due to horrid and intentional neglected conditions. We as a people have suffered a great magnitude of illness.  This illness is one that exists in our minds (individual and collective), soul, and body.  From the time of our first arrival to the Americas as cargo, the arrival as a means of production, slaves were weeded and pick out from the ones who suffered visible signs of sickness and weakness and they were thrown out. We were only commodities; having no value whatsoever, other than being able to get the job done.  No handle with care sign was ever needed to be attached, because we were not considered human beings

.The best, they called them the cream of the crop, were considered healthy.  They called them strong bucks and strong hands, but it was more than likely not the case.  Living life on plantations and cotton fields obviously was not a life of comfort, ease, and flower pickings.  It was one that caused major disparities; strife, ailing, sorrow, bloodshed, yearning, and madness, just to name a few of the emotional distress we had to endure.  The physical side of it all was one of extreme gruesomeness; whippings, beatings, lynching, decapitations, amputations, rape, and all forms of torture that some could not even paint a picture of in their minds.  All of these crimes against us were more than likely not treated properly to heal from them and created horrible infections.
  A lot of the women who gave birth were not cared for properly after giving childbirth and so many suffered great sicknesses.  Eating habits were habits of not having a choice.  African slaves had to eat the scraps the parts of the animal, if they were lucky that were the worst and were not good enough for their masters.  Along with the scraps, mush, and slop was their main diet.  They had to be creative and they were.  They found a way to make the food work for them as best they could, they begin to use a lot of lard and fat in their diets, which is something that a lot amongst us do today.  We continue to do it because it is what we had and again a habit, but now it has formed into a habit of choice. 
This now becomes a psychological question.  I would like to also explain that although we endured these atrocities, there were many amongst us who were knowledgeable in many areas.  There were those who understood the land and all that it carried.  We had amongst us masters of the field that knew plants, herbs, trees, shrubs.  There were those, women and men who knew how to make spices, remedies and medicines from the earth’s properties.  The others depended upon them for their livelihood and the most significant value of it all is they had a responsibility to teach others what they knew.  Healers, as they were often called, knew how to heal the bloody wounds of a hundred lashes.  We knew how to deliver a child with what we had; the memories and traditions of life in Africa was not far from some of us.

 It was this key element that we were able to survive these crucial times.  Those that did know such things were deemed for others to be leery of, to not associate with.  They were masters of the earth, but they were labeled with most times knowing voodoo or witchcraft, they were demonized for their knowledge.  We were taught to not be dependent on self, but on our master.  This dependency has plagued us all the while.  The majority of African people in America have the slightest idea how to use herbs and homeopathic remedies to cure self. We are heavily reliant on western medicine overall to solve our problems.  Not to say that is solely a contradiction, because medicine is so advanced, but one of the issues that is a great one is that we do not possess the knowledge to know if something is good for us or bad for us on own determination.
  That in itself gives way to us not being fully knowledgeable on how to prevent and avoid illness at every measure.  The greatest illnesses that spring up amongst African people in America are the ones that are chronic such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, asthma, and hypertension is often seen.  These illnesses seem to creep amongst us more than any other nationality in America.     Africans in America are far more prone to these illnesses and have a higher mortality rate and usually the outcomes are far worst for us in these cases.  So we ask why, why is it that we have inadequate healthcare in a country as developed as this.  Everyone is equal and we receive the same treatment don’t we?  The answer is no.  There exist inequalities in healthcare.   These inequalities stem from racism, sexual –orientation, ethnics, and most drastically from our socio-economic statuses.
  People of lower-income status far too often receive the lesser quality health care for a number of reasons.  Working class people, the majority have little or no health care coverage, which prevents them from receiving regular care.  They most often only go to the doctor when it’s only the last resort because they simply cannot afford it.  Getting to and from the doctor on a regular basis is also an expense and can be very difficult when it comes to the elderly.  In many of the lower-income neighborhoods, there are simply just not enough facilities that are of the utmost quality.  Most often you will find facilities that serve those that have Medicaid and Medicare and unfortunately staff and doctors don’t have the same level of respect, tolerance, patients, and time as other facilities in middle class societies.  There is an air of just doing a job, most often it is this get it over and on to the next one type of service.
  There are so many people among the working class that have disadvantages that keep a divide amongst them and their doctors such as mental health, religion, comprehension, physical abilities, sensory, and cognitive abilities that keep the divide between the doctor and patient.  A lot of individuals simply do not have all their capabilities to ask questions and to seek all that they are expected to get from their visits.  So many are only left with taking what they can get.  Even though qualities in healthcare advance with science and technology amongst the poor these options are not always presented to them.  African people with diabetes receive regularly the most amputations because they have not been informed of other options and we will not dismiss that racism is a huge factor in cases as such.
 There are higher death rates among us from cancer, prostate for our men, and Breast cancer with the women than any other group of people in America.  Infant mortality is steadily on the rise in our communities.  We all know how important doctor patient relationships are, but in America you have to pay for those relationships and most times you have no money well guess what, no relationship.  We need these relationships with our doctors so they can have the most accurate diagnosis of why we are there.  These relationships are important because the doctor gets to know who you are.  He or she must know your family history and your daily activities.  He or she must know what your life is like, but because time is of the essence and there are many patients in one office amongst the poor it is simply not enough time to get to the bottom of it all.  This is far too often what the reality looks like.  In our neighborhoods, the environmental conditions play a major role as well.
  A lot of these chronic illnesses can stem from things that are unknown.  There have been many cases of finding traces of lead in communities.  This lead which you see frequently has been a slow killer amongst low income neighborhoods and causes sickness that you find out about years later, that have become chronic.  Lack of knowledge about a particular subject, about your health, about how things work in general is a killer.  If we were knowledgeable about mere things we could practice a preventative lifestyle.  Our everyday existence for most of us is hustle and bustle.  We are in survival mode most times among the working class and what happens we survive off of convenience. 
This convenience can be very damaging.  This convenience may determine what we are having for dinner and what is in front of us we pick up.  Most of the working class people in America don’t have gardens in their backyards or even have backyards at all.  They go to their nearest convenient stores and supermarkets and pick what is there for them to choose from.  Many don’t take the time to see what is there on the packages that they are taking in, there are far too many ingredients in what we are taking in that are simply unhealthy for us and not only is it already unhealthy, but we have unhealthy ways of preparing it.
African people in America have been reported to be the number one consumers along with Latinos of sugary drinks.  These things can be addictive, they are supposed to be addictive so we can keep consuming.  These are things we must learn.  Once we learn them we must put them into practice.  So in conclusion, we must look at situations like the Tuskegee Airmen experiments and know our history overall and say hey I have questions about what you are giving me.  If we are to seek assistance from these institutions, we must demand the best quality.
  We must also take a deeper look into knowing herbs, vitamins, and natural remedies.  This knowledge could create an absolute absence of needing these institutions at all.  The only other alternative is to create a socialist reality where everyone is equally treated, like Cuba, for example, and many other socialist base societies where everyone is covered no one turned away.  Until then, this is what the poor gets.  This is what the working class gets.  It’s simply a question of can you afford the best and if not this is what we are going to give you are not give you.

SCDE Kilaika Anayejali Kwa Baruti is a Pan-Africanist Internationalist and Administrative Coordinator for Ujima People’s Collective.Her interests are designing jewelry, dancing, and above all bringing about the liberation of African People.

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