Guest Author today Dr. Watson Ducatel
Dr. Ducatel is a Board Certified Internal Medicine Physician, a fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Internists and a Public Health official with advanced degrees in Osteopathic Medicine and Masters in Public Health.
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“Just tell me it's because I am not white, instead of telling me it's my DNA” is what you would have heard me saying emphatically to my colleague after another health debate in the hospital seemed to be going in circles. Stop reducing my genetic code to a simple scapegoat because you are not aware and/or perhaps afraid to confront the truth, that the most disadvantageous part about my genetics is that it chose to express more dark pigment in my skin tone. Just tell us it’s because we are not white, instead of telling us it's because our communities lack education, have poor social behavior and poor financial resources. The truth is, the darkness of my skin has always been the primary factor for what educational opportunities I would receive, what financial opportunities I would have and what social behavior would be deemed normal. Just tell me it’s because I am not white and therefore I will be subject to cultural systems and environments which allow people to hang, rape, Tuskegee, Henrietta Lacks, Rodney King, Chicago murder, and Philando Castile me.
Then and only then will we be on the same page. Truth refuses to be hidden forever and lasts beyond our countable existence. The fact of disparities in health and health outcomes of non white Americans has been uncovered and discussed. It's impact on the health of all Americans is part of the reason it can no longer be hidden. After the decline and focus on infectious diseases as our primary cause of mortality and morbidity, the U.S. Public Health Services was tasked with discerning the state of health in an effort to rescue the larger American public from the increasing mortality and morbidity due to chronic disease. Therefore, health indicators were measured. The Heckler report was the first to detail the health status on minorities. It was groundbreaking because for the first time America had to admit that the health of non-white Americans was worse than the health of white Americans.
This report sparked all kinds of debates and scholarly activity which is still as influential as the day it was first released in the 1980s. Health disparities of non-white Americans have been thoroughly researched for decades now. We know that everything from socioeconomics, education, environment and but for reasons beyond me my DNA has received the lion’s share of the blame. Conclusions have been written down, lectured on while new policies continue to go into effect yet the health disparities continue and only one enduring factor has remained constant, my dark skin.
Most know that health disparities of non white Americans are largely due to factors beyond genetics. Yet many scholars and clinicians continue to promote and speak in such ways which suggest that the genetics of non white Americans are the problem. This kind of practice of pseudoscience is not new and is part of American/European medical and scientific foundation. Non white Americans, the bearer of such disparities have lived with them and known them from cradle to grave as they have existed for hundreds of years beginning with the enslavement of our ancestors. It was a myth designed to comfort and persuade white Europeans and their ancestors of their world dominance, beauty and high intelligence.
Yet the truth refuses to be hidden forever. Not only have the notions of genetic inferiority been discredited, investigation of their origins reveal that they were nothing more than opinions formed from the imaginations of European men. Juxtaposed this against the immortal physical history of non white Europeans such as the ancient pyramids, architecture, astrophysics and medicine which remain with us today and suggest high intelligence. Many of the contributions are still wonders today and beyond of our comprehension of how they came about. Those who analyze the history of race and genetic inferiority with the actual facts of the matter know that they don't add up. At best, they suggest the creators of such ideas were grossly mistaken. Yet, these lies continue to aid in so much illness and despair. I promised myself years ago I would no longer accept these false reasons for unjust and disproportionate physical and mental suffering anymore. I will not let my colleagues or others utter those untruths to me or patients that look like. I will correct them. They will have to tell me the truth…Just tell me it's because I am Black .