Friday, December 18, 2009

Health Care of Another Color

While debating health care, there is another underlining issue for Asian-Americans and people of color; race. Lee Fang and Sonia Sokhar have pointed out the obviously inequalities in our current system and what the current legislation in Congress might do. They also highlight how troubling and frustratingly overlooked health care for minorities has been left out of the debate.

The "gang of six" who steered the health reform negotiations for a good part of this year hail from Maine, Iowa, North Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Montana. The only state in that mix with a significant minority population is New Mexico; none of those states has a large metropolitan city. Deciding legislation with a group of all white senators from some of the whitest states in the union has policy implications. For example, as Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska (91.4 percent white) continues to suck all the oxygen out of any substantive debate, expect to continue to hear more about the "unborn" rather than the African American children dying within a few Metro stops away from the Capitol.

It is a wonder why Nelson and any of the six were never asked (and still are never asked) "how do you get to represent all of America?" Although Fang makes a great point, Ta-Nehisi Coates isn't so convinced that pressing these facts will make much a stir in the debate.

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

I don't doubt this, but I think there's another reason why this isn't coming up--there really isn't much to be gained from highlighting race. I've written some about the very visible effects of poor health here in Harlem. So, I'm certainly not blind to it. But from a black perspective, there simply isn't much incentive to make a moral appeal to the broader country. The past forty years have convinced me, rightly or wrongly, that most of this country doesn't actually believe that the race gap is a moral failing.

To the contrary, painting an effort as specifically, or disproportionately, helping people of color is doing your adversary's work for him. I don't think it's too much to say that a significant portion of this country thinks that we've done quite enough for the blacks. In a climate where people are already calling HCR "reparations," I'm just not sure how it helps to point out what we already know.

It really goes back to the lessons of Obama's run for president, and how he handled race. He wasn't unaware of what was happening--but there really wasn't much to be gained from him loudly discussing it. There's nothing wrong with marching quietly--as long as you're actually marching.

I have to agree with Coates on this one, as Asian-Americans are facing increased rates of diabetes and other illnesses that might be considered "pre-existing conditions"; the best bet is to make the general moral call and not a singular or racial one. The past election taught minorities across state lines that we do not live in a post-racial America. Raising the "race card" (which in fact is part of some of the opposition to health care reform let's be honest) would only further divide in the debate. Minorities are set to benefit greatly from health care reform, even if it is half of what it should be, but trying to make that case is less likely to have an effect on Congress and the people's mind than one would hope.

I am Frank Chow and I approved this message

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