African American experiences
African Americans in the United States always have been discriminated against even after emancipation and especially in the South of the United States. The case studies reproduced here continue to reaffirm that situation which does not seem to change since most white people are not predisposed to give equal service to blacks. The studies deal with medical visits and treatment where white medical staff regularly insult or hurt black people without the slightest notion of an apology reaffirming the perceived sense of superiority and ingrained racism which is prevalent in the field.
African American hair
The case study where the derogatory remarks about hair take places is instructive. African American women end up extremely conscious about this and they actually take to other traditional remedies to address this situation. The way in which the nursing assistant addresses the woman is insulting and derogatory due to her comments about the size and the weight of her hair. In fact, the woman is severely offended and considers leaving the place before the doctor comes in.
The condescending tone with which the white woman addresses the black woman is probably due to her background although actually the slight is not very great. Still the black woman feels offended since the style of hair is something which she is used to and which comes from family tradition which cannot be swept aside or overruled. It is a delicate situation which was very badly handled by the white nurse. It shows that white people still do not accept the other culture pertaining to black women who come across as savage and uncultured. This perceived sense of superiority is ingrained in white people and cannot easily be overlooked.
The second case study demonstrated that white nurses and hospital administrative staff are insensitive to issues dealing with African American family life. By applying the strict rules of visiting, the partner of the deceased woman was not allowed to see her before she passed away thus showing and demonstrating crass insensitivity to such situations. The woman who visited later ended up not seeing her sister before she passed away, yet another case of subtle discrimination. You have to ask yourself the question, would a white non family member have been treated in the same manner? These cases of subtle discrimination seem to occur quite frequently in a medical context so there is actually subtle racism in such situations as well. What we learn from such situations is that women who are African American experience subtle racism on an almost daily basis.
The Greensboro Lunch Counter
I would also like to focus on the Greensboro Lunch Counter which I had viewed on an earlier visit at the Smithsonian museum. This is the actual counter from Greensboro, North Carolina where six African American students waited to be served in the ‘white’ area of the restaurant and endured a torrent of abuse from the white persons in the restaurant with some even being beaten up for their pains. It is a harrowing but important incident in the life of the Civil Rights Movement and the fact that the counter is there sitting silently embodies the bravery of those students who more than 50 years ago stood up for what they felt was right. Although the experiences described in the hospitals here are not actually so bad, the subtle racism experienced by these persons is very instructive and is perhaps a sort of throwback to the past. Although the Civil Rights Movement is long gone, the states of the Deep South are still riddled with subtle racism.
Conclusion – affirmative action
Affirmative action is a positive development in the sense that it is a tool for minorities to gain certain rights such as decent housing, jobs and the right to vote. This is argued extensively in Caro (2002) especially in the chapters where Senator Lyndon Johnson attempts to take on Southern segregationists who are dead against the negroe’s right to vote. Although the cases presented here do not deal with voting issues, they still describe the discrimination that remains inherent in American society.
Occasionally, affirmative action can be seen to interfere with certain social mores and can also be interpreted as a disruptive influence especially in housing sitautions. There can be situations where an all white housing district is suddenly invaded by quotas for other races and that could cause a considerable amount of social disruption in the residential complex.
Busing is another issue where affirmative action is positive but can also be disruptive in situations. This occurred on quite a few occasions in Boston when school children where required to board buses without any segregation within the races and that caused consternation and confusion with inevitable strained race relations even in a Northern town.
I am all in favour of affirmative action, be it in schools, places of work and getting the right to vote as it is a just and good cause which is positive and not negative.