by Dr Ben Danielson
In this period of continuous calculation, communities observe and listen attentively. What you say and what you do get noticed. Subtle and overt assertions are important. Actions and acts of omission are important. Of all the outrageous numbness you seem to feel during this time, it is perhaps the most hurtful to hear yourself talk about yourself as an industry leader in fairness in contexts like the hotel. Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic Community City.
We hear your bewilderment, your confusion, when you say it is difficult to accept substantiated allegations of racism and other prejudice because you are seen as a leader. Maybe you really believe your words; maybe it’s more of a public relations defense.
Sometimes the strategy works. There are those who really want to believe that you are the “best” of the good guys. There are those who want to avoid the pain of facing the truth of your actions. It would be so much more comfortable to build a universe in which it is somehow more valid to choose words rather than deeds, where it is possible to choose not to know the evil that you have done and to choose, instead. , to embrace the heartwarming words “industry leader in equity.”
When you fall in love with your own words, even when you mean them, you lose track of the hard work required to do the right thing. To be seduced by noble terms like “running a children’s hospital in equity” is indeed a strange organizational disease. It must make discerning observers wonder how your delusion about your greatness has created a hazy haven for abuse.
You clearly don’t know what anti-racism means, so please stop using that term as well. Accepted understandings of anti-racism call for it conscious and deliberate actions to dismantle racism. Powerless equity centers, unprocessed accounts of racist acts and ignored data showing racism: these are conscious and deliberate inActions. So please, until you understand what anti-racism means, please don’t use the term to describe how you behave.
A fundamental part of the fairness journey, the anti-racism path, is to disavow simple flowery words on paper. It is not a radical or new idea. Langston Hughes wrote about this decades ago in a poem called “Sweet Words on Race”:
Sweet words that take
Their own sweet time to bloom
And then so quickly fades
In the inner ear,
Deny the nascent promise
From their virgin hour
You may like your words, but please don’t expect us to like them. Please don’t present them as a shield against proper scrutiny. Please do not wear them as blinders against transparency. Please do not ask us to join in your delusion.
It’s not the community’s duty to teach you this, but the communities most affected by racism have little stock in a hospital boasting of being a national leader in fairness. It is a meaningless name, made in this way by our lived experience and our history. Or maybe it makes too much sense since the bad voices, those of a racist healthcare system, determine the ranking.
It is not the duty of the community to teach you, but you should know that when you say that you are an industry leading hospital in equity – after a comprehensive assessment and its damning conclusions – it is the height of pride. You must realize now that pride is how you got to this state, is one of the root causes of your perpetuation of racism.
You may think that having a Center for Diversity and Equity in Health has made you a leader in equity. You can sort of say that the internal measurements you have taken make you an industry leader. Communities are smart. Communities know that creating centers for equity and hiring black and brown people with fair titles, but not giving these centers and those titles meaningful power is a powerful obstacle to equity. It is a tactical method to prevent fairness from happening. It is part of a set of anti-fairness and pro-racist strategies. Communities know: when you measure injustice – perhaps a lack of linguistic fairness or prodigious, racist calls for safety – then do nothing about your findings, you are operating with a heinous awareness of the evil you are doing. done. It may be more cruel, more insidious, certainly more intentional, than if you were unaware of the wrong you were doing.
If you think that taking a few steps towards fairness makes you better than other hospitals, then you are seriously wrong. Taking partial action and being willfully irresponsible for what you find is something far from driving. If you repeat this cycle by submitting to an assessment and then trying to hide its findings, you are showing the community that you haven’t learned anything in the past year.
Please don’t continue to brag about your excellence in fairness. It causes us pain. If it was just your own delusion, it would be bad enough, but it causes us pain. If that just gave your board and donors a way to get back to business as usual, that would be bad enough, but it also causes pain in the community. It is a form of erasure, seeking to deny our pain with the counter-argument of your flowery self-deception. Communities like ours have faced enough ignorance, enough erasure, enough denigration. Our cause is just – you are accountable. Don’t add more trauma by trying so hard to deny us.
The community loves Seattle Children’s Hospital. I would say the community loves it more than those who tirelessly defend it today. The community sees the opportunity, the gifts, the people and the hope. The community expects the hospital to be where it should be. The community sees the potential that, without her current leadership, it could truly become, beyond just words of excellence in equity.
So please don’t call yourself a leader when it comes to equity. This will only be true when the community calls you an equity leader.
Dr Ben Danielson is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine and a former Medical Director of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic.
?? Featured Image: Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH) staff members silent protest on August 11, 2021, outside SCH’s main campus in Sandpoint. (Photo: Alex Garland)
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