Thursday, June 21, 2007

What Can We Do?

I notice I grind my teeth. Badly. In my sleep, when I'm tense, and especially when I'm irritated and trying to bite my tongue. I went to happy hour Tuesday night and we (myself and 4 other girls) got on the topic of educating young girls about their bodies and sex. I am all for education, seriously, I am. But then folks began to talk about how we need to teach girls that their body is a "temple" and it's "sacred" and virginity should be saved and on and on and on. I just can't get with this virtue script. I prefer terms like "informed choice" and "responsibility" and "self-empowerment." I guess all of these can co-exist, but the more we talked the less I believed it. It seemed like the old abstinence vs. protection debate, and although everyone claimed that what they were saying had nothing to do with their religious beliefs, I continue to think otherwise. What was most irritating to me was their intention to take this message to the masses of folks living in impoverished environments. All year, hearing folks talk about the communities they want to work in has made me tense. It seems like such a good idea...after all, we have race in common. But then it doesn't because it is overwhelmingly obvious that we don't share too much more than that simply because our upbringings were so vastly different. So what you have is boarding school educated brown people with ivy league degrees trying to run primary health care clinics in the middle of public housing settings. This could work. It does work. But at the same time, I think it's problematic because the differences in lifestyle is definitely noticeable. There is so much judgement that people don't even realize they are passing, and I feel it even as a college educated woman. So how must the people in these communities feel? Does this affect "compliance" to the plan of care created by the provider? In class people actually suggest things like Morning Star chicken nuggets to these families. And I'd love for someone to show a single mother with five kids how to eat organic fruits and vegetables everyday on the food budget she has. And kiss my butt organic, whole grain, and fruits and vegetables aren't more expensive than hot dogs, wonder bread, and ramen noodles. I keep saying, somebody has to tell the truth. But today I realized that they can't tell the truth I'm talking about because it isn't their truth to tell. They just don't get it. They can't get it because they haven't lived it. This was really a revelation for me because it allowed me to forgive them. You can't be mad because somebody who hasn't walked a mile in your shoes doesn't know what it's like to walk a mile in your shoes. It only makes sense that people make comments, suggestions and judgements based on their life experiences...what else can they make them with? This is why we don't simply need people of color in health care provider roles, we need people from the communities that lack these providers to actually obtain the education to be the providers in their own communities. I gave my school much credit for the diversity of our class, but I soon realized that while they picked more people who picked a colored box on the form, we are still very much lacking the economic diversity among brown folks. Most of the brown people I know at school come from an environment of privelege, even if only middle class privelege and I tell you, that makes class discussions so frustrating.

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