Thursday, July 23, 2009

Race, Politics and Health Care

I have been really on it lately. Just on it, mad, angry and upset.

I got health care. I got it, I am grateful. However, recently I was in an accident, went to the emergency room and, had it not been for my CAR insurance, I would have been stuck with a $3,000.00 bill. $3,000.00 for a C-collar and some x-rays in a shabby, run down, cold ass hospital where I thought I would also contract pneumonia.

I know of another story where a young man got dizzy at the gym. Because gyms have strict rules about that stuff, he went straight to the ER in an ambulance, where he waited for ten hours, only to be held over night because it turns out that he had an irregular heart beat and elevated sugar levels. Now, he is a Black man whose father was a diabetic and died from a stroke at forty four years old. So, the doctor ordered some test that supposedly would determine something very important that he swore any insurance plan would certainly cover. Test comes back negative, but of course the insurance won't pay. So the young man finds out he is fine, all for the small fee of $1,500.00. For one night in the hospital. One night.

So I have been following this health care debate very closely. Now, of course, I am a liberal, left wing, Obama supporting Black woman in America, HOWEVER, for the life of me, I can't understand why Americans don't overwhelmingly support President Obama on his health care plan. I am baffled.

Watching Fox News last night I was even more baffled, and then I just got pissed. And even more pissed!

I have come to the conclusion that the reason we can't get universal health care, consistent with industrialized nations such as France, England and Canada, just to name a few, is because of the insidious nature of racism and the role that race and racism play in American politics.

Said another way, White America can't stand the thought of Black people and Latinos getting some free shit that White people will ultimately pay for.

Period. End of story. And all the junk about the insurance companies having a powerful lobby is horse shit. Oh, they have a powerful lobby, but the only reason why they are so powerful is because of the backdrop of Americans who hear "universal health care" and "helping out your fellow man" and think "I will be paying for some lazy Negroes and trifling illegals to get even more free shit." Do White people have a colloquial equivalent to "Aww, hell to the NO!"?

Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th POTUS, on the heels of the historic Civil Rights and Voting Rights legislation, ushered in legislation that became known as the "Great Society". Began in 1965, it was to be a war on poverty in America. The Great Society required funding, of course, and a great deal of federal money went to the establishment of Medicare, Medicaid, bolstering the public school systems, PBS, the National Endowment of the Arts, Head Start, government grants for higher education and a whole host of other things that we still have to this day. However, by 1966, LBJ's popularity was beginning to fade. Granted, the Vietnam War had a lot to with it. But, it was his federal spending that caused many to turn against him. Mostly because his spending benefited Black people. Not only Black people. Not even mostly Black people. But Black people were the most visible beneficiaries of LBJ's legislation. For instance, elderly people of all colors probably benefited the most from the legislation, however do you think that the conservative backlash could have gained traction from people thinking that The Great Society had as much to do with their sweet little granny as it did those rioting, looting Negroes across town? The then governor of Missouri told LBJ that he could lose the state in the next election because of "frustration over Vietnam; too much federal spending and... taxation; no great public support for your Great Society programs; and ... public disenchantment with the civil rights programs". Come on governor, really? LBJ's Civil Rights "programs" and the Great Society were started in 1964 and 1965 respectively, and yet by 1966 people were disenchanted? It took people how long to become disenchanted with slavery? How long to become disenchanted with Jim Crow and yet it took all of two years for Americans to become disenchanted with legislation aimed at moving forward with a society that attempts to eradicate poverty and unemployment for all Americans, including Black Americans?

When LBJ signed the Civil Rights bill, he famously said that he had just lost the South for the Democratic Party for a generation. The man was from the country of Texas, as my brother the field negro would say, and therefore he knew whereof he spoke. He knew that the South would never forgive anyone or anything responsible for the end of their beloved Jim Crow. And to add insult to injury, LBJ then expected White tax dollars to go to the upkeep of Negroes. Again, what's the White way of saying "Hell to the No!"? So, in droves, Southern Dixiecrats began to flock to the Republican party.

By the time Ronald Reagan ran for office, in 1979, he would be the first Republican to carry the South. It signaled the actualization of an ideological shift, which was dramatized by Ronald Reagan's campaign images of the now famous "Welfare Queen". Americans came to believe, and still operate from the belief that Black people are lazy, shiftless and don't work, and that welfare, or any other programs aimed at ending poverty in Black America only mean that White Americans are going to foot the bill for criminals who don't deserve it in the first place. From 1966 to 1979, American racism, like a spectral haint that needs a body, looked for a way to reincarnate. Jim Crow gave racism a physical home. Legislation killed the body of racism, but did nothing to eradicate it's ghost. In fact, pairing the Civil Rights legislation with the Great Society legislation, only increased the urgency for racism to survive. The ghost had to find another home. And the very legislation aimed at moving America forward, provided the fodder for the movement called Conservatism in America. The ghost found a new home.

It is the home of the Conservative movement in America paired with the ghost of racism that kills off any possibility of health care, improving schools or anything that even hints that it would impact Black America. And since the Conservative movement in America doesn't look like slavery or Jim Crow, then it gets to pretend that it is not the same damn thing, just in a body that can adapt to the times. It is this new body that allows it (racism) to get away with crying "reverse racism" at someone like Sonia Sotomayor. It is this new body that allows it (racism) to declare it's own death. And it is this new body that can talk about universal health care as an evil, without batting so much as the proverbial eyelash, knowing full well that American lives are at stake due to a rapidly failing health care system. Why does England have health care? Because their people knew it was a good idea for all their people, and they were able to see themselves as one people, one England. I pay for you, you pay for me and we all win. White people don't want to pay for Black people, because they don't think that Black people deserve anything for free. They also don't see us contributing to the system, i.e. paying taxes. White people don't even see Black people as "real" Americans, and they for damn sure don't see us as "one". How can we have universal health care, when the conditions are so different in America than they are in the countries that actually provide their citizens with health care?

This is a long post, with a part two to follow. Of course, when I say White America, I don't mean every single White person in America. But I mean White America as it pertains to a group of people and the overarching set of ideals to which the group subscribes. Basically, racism only allows for a "them and us" rather, a "them versus us" context. The details may change, but the basic context of them versus us remains the same. I believe that at the heart of the debate about health care is the same them versus us mentality which dictates that the dynamic of separation must always be at play in the discourse. Universal health care has been painted with the same brush that the Great Society was painted with, which is a whole lot of government spending for the advancement of people who don't work, read Colored people. The truth is, without the advancement of Colored people, the advancement of ALL people simply can't happen. And so I wait with baited breath to see what happens to health care. Let's hope I don't need a defibrillator while I wait, 'cause I sure can't afford it.

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