Rx #4: What Would True Health Care Be?
As we near the end of Black History Month, this series of tweets from Dr. Ashon Crawley response to the release of the recent movie, Judas and The Black Messiah, stood out to me:
Reading Crawley’s series of tweets helped me to realize how much care is commodified, exploited, and hoarded by privileged communities of power, while for marginalized, disenfranchised communities, care is portrayed as radical, as dangerous, as something we should not expect but instead give and sacrifice of ourselves. When we demand care, we are ignored, gaslit, and treated with hostility. Our pain does not receive the same amount of empathy. We are told we are asking for too much or only are thinking about ourselves. We are expected to give our labor without expecting anything in return. We are denied medical care because of the scientific racism that Black people can endure more pain and we pay the cost with our lives. We were expected to nurse and care for other’s families at the expense of our own, manipulated to be grateful for it or in believing we are more capable in enduring labor of care and receiving a less care in return with stereotypical images like that of the Mammy or the Strong Black Woman. Our bodies have to constantly experience horror and pain and we are told to get over it, while expected to coddle and be more sensitive to the feelings of White and even non-Black people when we bring up those horrors and pains. Even during this time, as we talk more about the medical and scientific anti-Blackness, Whiter and richer communities are first in line to gain access to the vaccines (and some were the main spreaders of the virus), we are told we are fearful without context of history, looking at years of inaccessibility to proper medical treatment and inadequate medical systems in our often poorer communities.
What can care be for our communities when we live in a country and system that does not care for us, that tells us to care more for other lives over our own? I always think of this quote from Audre Lorde:
Looking at this list, The Characteristics of White Supremacist Culture, developed by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, which gives both characteristics and antidotes, I see how a lot of the characteristics are the antithesis of care. Care takes time. Care requires us to slow down and make sure things are done right and are of quality. Care requires us to pay attention, especially paying attention to our needs. Care allows us to truly value what we have, to see the value in it, and use our energy wisely. Care prevents exploitation. Care is a form of prevention in general. Our current health care system isn’t about care; it’s about profit and quick fixes. The current virus and pandemic is the result of a larger system of a lack of care — a lack of care for ourselves, a lack of care for each other, a lack of care for our environments, a lack of care for what we feed our bodies, etc. and those in power make a profit off of their lack of care for us while demanding we care for them and their interests completely at the expense of ourselves, convincing us that this is the way.
I believe these times can give us a chance to slow down and put true care into ourselves — pay attention to what we really care about for ourselves and our communities. I think of movements happening like Tricia Hersey‘s Nap Ministry and Mandy Harris Williams’ Brown Up Your Feed, in thinking about prioritizing rest in our lives and curating our feeds online, both telling us to be more aware of how we invest our time, energy and emotions.
Those are small steps, but it is a start, and valuing the small steps leads to sustainable change. And how can we encourage true care on a community level? Of course mutual aid, but what else? What are some more small steps we can all take?