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Think of the most interesting man you know. Now imagine what he would be like had he grown up in a tarpaper shack without indoor plumbing, joined a monastery, had an extensive career as a female model, actress, author and screen writer, then traded in his weave and acrylic nails for a Ph.D. in neuroscience. If you have been able to conjure up that image, turn it up to 11... and let's do it!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The "R Bug"--it is like a virus

I came out of my meeting at the Medical Center feeling so rejected you would have thought I was returning from a blind date with a skin head.

Having to circumnavigate the nuances of being a large, outrageous, black doctor in the old-boys-school ego sport of medicine has given me occasion to become familiar with superficial judgments like racism, sexism, and weight-nazism.  However, I'm one of those easy going, non-threatening,  well-educated, likable negroes,  who prides himself on not being hypersensitive, self-pitying or reactionary.

Still, what I experienced today at the hospital was racism, pure and simple.  To me, racism is like tofu, I'll swallow it when I have to, but you won't ever make me like it.   Normally in a situation like this one today, my reaction would be to throw my head back, and go into my "Not only am I a doctor, I am a University of Michigan graduate--don't ever mistake ME for someone who cares what YOU think." That's a tried and true way to avoid the fact that I'm a human, and I care very much what other people think.  Regardless of what I might tell myself and others to avoid the butt-hurt of rejection.  

My flight to safety in the higher ground of education and occupation grading wasn't working this time though.   Why not?  Because usually my encounters with blatant racism is at the hands of Asians, old white men, or their lucky-sperm-flow, intellectually inferior,  private schooled children.  This person didn't belong to any of those groups.  This was a big black woman, who could have been me in drag, if she had been better at applying mascara.  

How could this be?  Big brother is not supposed to be sitting across a desk, with a face full of Revlon "Dark and Lovely" wearing "Just My Size" cinnamon pantyhose.  How could this woman be treating me like this?  This is supposed to be a sister.  A few years ago, this woman and I might have dropped to our knees together at the Nordstrum's make up counter and said, "Yes there is a God!" when we saw the Barbara Walden's "Walnut to Wicker" line of foundation shades.  She had to have been there. I could see it in her "Berries in the Night" colored lipstick.  This woman should know better I thought.  Then I thought again, long and hard.

Racism-driven behaviors are like a flu virus among humans.  We are all susceptible to them from time to time.  If we think we are not going to fall prey to racist thoughts and actions... we're just deluding ourselves.   Like we all get the flu, we all get the racism bug, at various times.  Like any other disease state, and that's what racism is, a disease state in the mind, it affects some of us more often and more severely than others.  Generally anti-black racism presents in blacks as self-loathing.  However, not always--and this was a prime example of that.  

Like disease states of the body, thrive in certain environmental conditions, (e.g. cold, damp air) disease states of the mind thrive in certain places.  Racism, or as I call it, "the R-Bug" thrives in television, movies, the fashion industry, newspapers, books, humor, the Internet and pornography.  Unfortunately, these are places humans often go.

Because the R-Bug is like a virus among humans, black people are no less susceptible to it than any other people.    The R-Bug is a disease state of the mind, that affects us all in various ways, at various times, but is not a constant.  That's important to understand because we tend to label people who contract the R-Bug  as being racist.  That's silly.  You don't become a cold just because you catch a cold, are highly susceptible to catching colds, or get a really bad one.

The ability of a disease to survive lies largely in its ability to remain undetected.  In the case of the R-Bug, one of the ways it plagues us is by misleading us into condemning the person suffering from it as opposed to focusing on the nature of the disease state.   We single out people who are heavily afflicted with the R-Bug (look mommy I made a new word).  Anyway we publicly admonish them and then feel satisfied.  "There we've had justice, now let's go get sushi."  That's dangerous, and it allows the disease state to further itself among us.  We  have to look at the R-Bug for what it is--a disease of the mind.

People are not the R-Bug.  People are highly susceptible to the R-Bug, just like we are  to other bugs, like colds and the clap.  When we learned that epilepsy was a disease we began to effectively treat it, opposed to drilling holes in peoples' heads to let out the demons.  Likewise the sooner we recognize the R-Bug as a very deceptive and clever disease of the mind, as opposed to a character flaw--the sooner we can treat it, effectively.

Understanding the nature of the R Bug, and the various ways it can present, is particularly crucial to people in the United States, because we are not Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, Oceania, North or South America; we are all of them.   Peace out--Dr. G. 

1 comment:

  1. Well said Dr. Billi. This is the 1st post I've read on your blog, but I'll certainly be back for more.