When you look at the medical staff’s historical treatment towards the black community, you can completely understand why so much of a high percentage of black people don’t want to receive the vaccine. For instance, James Marion Sims, known as the Father of modern gynecology, experimented on enslaved black women without anesthesia. Today, the black community has lesser access to healthy food, adequate housing, and affordable healthcare. In this episode, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen discuss medical racism and why it results in vaccine hesitancy among the marginalized sector of society. Join in the discussion regarding the potential discrimination against people who opt out of getting a vaccine, how health institutions should increase accessibility to all those who want to receive the vaccine regardless of status, and why we should learn to co-exist with people who have different belief systems.
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Medical Racism And How It Ties Into Vaccine Hesitancy
I have been getting an increasing number of phone calls, emails and direct messages regarding the ongoing COVID and vaccination situation in the United States from friends, family members and people I don’t know. I’ve discussed this in a previous episode where Whitney and I briefly touched upon my thoughts and feelings regarding strangers inquiring about our personal medical decisions. This episode isn’t necessarily so much about that, although I thought it was a good segue for this episode to talk about an article and some subjects that Whitney had put in our upcoming episode ideas.
For a little bit of behind-the-scenes, Whitney and I have a bunch of spreadsheets. All of which she has created because she is the spreadsheet queen. For those of you who don’t know, Whitney is a tremendously organized human being. It makes our business and our blog run a lot more efficiently as a result of that. In one of the spreadsheets, we have ideas for topics and things we want to dig into here on the show. Our topic is related to this topic of COVID, vaccines and medical care. The topic is medical racism. It’s going to be not necessarily a light episode per se as we dig into this subject.
As I went down the rabbit hole of the article that Whitney had attached in our spreadsheet, it led me down a whole series of rabbit holes of looking at medical racism, racial and ethnic disparities with the treatment for COVID-19. Also, understanding what has been described as vaccine hesitancy in communities of color. There’s a lot to cover in this episode. The first rabbit hole I went down that I want to use as a jump-off point is something you linked to. It’s giving an overview of medical racism and how it persists beyond historical situations, which I do want to bring up.
These inequalities are magnified by the circumstance of this global emergency. It talks about how opportunities for widened healthcare coverage but that COVID has increased the disparity in terms of people getting treated and people not getting treated. Also, how COVID-19 has disproportionately affected people in lower-income areas, people of color and people who are at higher risk based on their medical history and comorbidities. The interesting thing as we dive into this is something that I’ve also been reading about in terms of the medical care disparities with first-world nations and third-world countries.
Also, how places like the United States are getting more favoritism in terms of our vaccine access versus certain countries that are not as rich, don’t have as high of a GDP and don’t have as much access. This goes beyond what we’re talking about in terms of medical racism but it also goes into this ethnocentrism of people not getting access based on where they are on the planet. I’m not even sure where to jump off because there’s so much to talk about but what I want to talk about is that the doctor who wrote this article is Racquel Reid.
This medical doctor talks about how there are a lot of vulnerable populations that are not getting adequate healthcare. She talks about impoverished, immigrant, gender-diverse, disabled and queer patients that are shunned by the medical mainstream. The severity of the symptoms of people in these classes tends to be higher than white cisgendered people. She talks about that there are these oppressive structures including racial capitalism and how there’s a lack of boundaries preventing these abuses. Also, that there’s a tie-in between capitalism, lower-income people and people of color. This is a lot worse of a situation that I wasn’t even aware of.
This ties into our dedication to this show to educate ourselves and become more aware. I had no idea that medical racism was even a thing. Understanding this, I’m curious how deep down the rabbit hole you’ve gone on this. There are many things I want to bring up. I want to pass it back to you and ask you if you were aware of how huge this issue was and how much you’ve gone on the rabbit hole on these massive inequalities that exist in our medical system.
I wasn’t aware at all and I’m grateful for a daily newsletter that I’m subscribed to called Anti-Racism Daily. It’s opened my eyes to a lot of things that I’m sure we’ll cover on the show. The ignorance that I had and the perspective that I’m gaining from being committed to educating myself about racism every day have become important. I feel like I’m becoming a better ally as a result and I’m learning how to become a better ally. It’s also opening my eyes to the amount of ignorance that other people have. This helps make sense of it all that it’s not discussed that much.
A lot of the topics that come up in that newsletter, I’m thinking, “I don’t know anyone who’s ever talked about this before.” That is a big clue. This is why we talked about this in the show. The aim of many of our episodes is to talk about the things that maybe people don’t discuss because they’re ignorant. It’s because they’re uncomfortable. They don’t know how to discuss it. Being committed to becoming more aware is important to me. On this subject matter, I’m going to be learning as we discuss this. There’s an article that is linked to within the article by Racquel from the CDC. I felt surprised that the CDC even covered this. This was updated in December 2020 and it is titled COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. It doesn’t seem limited to COVID-19. You and I did an episode on Social Determinants Of Health.
We did broadly cover this subject. We’re going to get maybe a little more granular on this episode.
It’s interesting because even though we covered it and it sounds familiar, I forget a lot of this. This is another thing that I’ve realized that we have to be committed to continuously educating ourselves. Our brains retain a lot of information. If we don’t talk about it regularly and we don’t take action regularly then like anything else, we aren’t as strong. It’s like speaking a language. I studied French for many years but if I don’t speak it regularly, I’m weaker at it. It’s still there under the surface.
I’m glad that we’re revisiting this because the five key topics of social determinants of health are something we already went over but I barely even remember discussing it. Those topics are neighborhood and physical environment, health and healthcare, occupation and job conditions, income and wealth and education. These are things that I want to know more about statistically as well. Not to group people into statistics but to understand what the average person is going through and by average, a person within each group.
If we’re talking about racism, what is the average person of each race struggling with? That’s a good starting place for us. Not making assumptions about people based on what the averages are but simply being more aware. When we think about how we can support people, I suppose it’s how can we support the most amount of people. That’s where the averages come in as being important for me. There’s still so much that I’m curious about in terms of income and wealth for the average person. What does that even mean to be average?
We have the average American but what about within those ethnic and minority groups? According to the CDC article, people from some racial and ethnic minority groups have lower incomes, experienced barriers to wealth and carry greater debt. That doesn’t seem like news to me. I don’t have a lot of awareness about what exactly that means. That is an important matter for me specifically the finances around all of this. I reflect on that often because a lot of us get into this bubble mindset and we assume that other people live like us.
It’s easy to lose sight of all the differences within our income levels. That’s why I feel like this topic is important because when we start to make assumptions, maybe we leave people out without even realizing that we’re leaving them out. Since money is such an uncomfortable conversation, in general, a lot of people don’t speak up for themselves or they get angry and resentful. Who wants to see anyone left behind? If you’re not aware of what’s going on, especially when it comes to COVID, it’s going to create a lot of confusion. It’s going to create a lot of gaps in which people are struggling.
You can go on about your life thinking that what you’re experiencing is relatively similar to what others are experiencing. This subject matter is reminding me that might not be true at all. People might be struggling a lot worse. They might not have the ability to say yes to the things that I can say yes to. They might not have the access to it. Some of the challenges that they might be facing as outlined in the CDC are managing their expenses, paying medical bills and accessing affordable quality housing. We talk about this in an upcoming episode. We get into some of the homeless issues and housing issues that people are facing.
Access to food can be different for people and reliable childcare. These are some things that many of us take for granted. You and I have researched the average person within our audience, whether that’s reading our newsletter, reading our show or taking our courses. First of all, statistically, most people are white, women and have a good amount of money. A lot of us are in that place of privilege. When you have this perspective, we have to recognize that we have the privilege of having access to nutritious food. We have the privilege of having a stable housing situation.
If a reader has children, having access to child care and reliable childcare is a privilege that not everybody has. When we tie this into COVID, I know a lot of people were struggling with a lot of these things because nutritious food plays a big role in your health. Having housing plays a role in your health. I know that was something you were thinking a lot about when it comes to the homeless. Something that I was reflecting on too is like, “How are they handling this?” It’s a privilege to wear a mask and have access to a clean mask. Where do you put that mask at the end of the day? Are you putting it on the street? Are you putting it in some dirty container of some sort because you don’t have access to clean it as regularly?
That’s something that’s not talked about nearly enough. How are people handling COVID when they don’t have affordable quality housing? Given that the subject matter is a lot around race is disturbing to me. If people are having less access to things simply because of the color of their skin, it brings up a lot of strong emotions for me as a white person because I feel like, “I don’t have control over the color of my skin either but I have all this privilege. What can I do to support people that don’t have the privilege of being white?”
It’s a visceral subject because there are many factors that overlap on top of each other to create this difficult, challenging and disproportionate situation. If you have people, city planners and real estate agents redlining districts, that’s something maybe we’ve touched on in a previous episode. If you are in a redlined district in a city, that is a low-income neighborhood that has a disproportionate number of immigrants or people of color that have predatory lending practices or not allowing people to get mortgages and own their property.
There’s a lot of racism in the real estate industry and how cities and counties are zoned and redlined. If you have a redlined district that’s in a low-income neighborhood, chances are it’s probably in somewhat of a food desert. Growing up in the city of Detroit and living in Chicago and other cities and having seen that these low-income neighborhoods don’t have a lot of fresh produce in many cases. They don’t have a lot of access to healthy food, not even organic food. A lot of these places are liquor stores and corner markets that have a lot of prepackaged processed unhealthy food.
You have people who don’t have access to affordable housing per se. They only have access to unhealthy prepackaged processed food. That’s going to lend itself to potential comorbidities like diabetes, heart disease, atherosclerosis and arthritis. We can talk about the challenges of people in low-income situations and the different medical conditions that they have because they’re eating bad food and don’t have the money to access organic healthy food. You have something like COVID comes in where people who have comorbidities in these neighborhoods are potentially at higher risk because they’re not eating well, not moving their bodies and eating a ton of sugar.
Here’s my thing, too. When I say this, I’m not going to get on the train of telling people, “You should eat healthier. You shouldn’t have all this sugar. You shouldn’t have all this processed food.” For a person who’s struggling to get food on the table, care for their children, pay their rent, they’re behind on their rent because of the lockdowns, to tell them, “You should think about eating more lettuce and more organic food.” I’ve seen people do that online. That’s not an appropriate response. People are doing the best that they can with the means they have.
The point is you have someone who’s in this situation eating unhealthy food in a redlined low-income neighborhood who doesn’t have access then gets COVID who may or may not have health insurance. They’re socked with a medical bill for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars after being put on a ventilator if it got to that level. If they even survived it then they have this giant stack of medical bills that drives them even into more debt.
There’s this stacking of prejudice. There’s this stacking of economic disparity, health disparity, access to healthy food, being in a redlined district and having no health insurance. It’s a screwed-up situation. The question is, what can we, as people who are in a much more privileged situation, do about it? I’m talking about how screwed the medical system is, the lack of healthy, affordable food, not giving people affordable healthcare access. There are so many issues here.
The thing that jumps out at me in all of this as I was going down this rabbit hole is the history of mistreatment by mainstream medical institutions toward the black community. That was one of the big things that jumped out when I was researching this. Studies have shown that only about half of Americans would be interested in getting a COVID vaccine and that number is even higher in the black community. There have been some anti-vaccine rallies with black activists in Colorado. Council members in Washington DC have cast doubts on the effectiveness of vaccines for the black community.
There have been some black celebrities like Letitia Wright in the movie Black Panther who shared an anti-vaccine video. These attitudes, if you look at the history of how the medical mainstream has treated black people. I remember learning in school about the Tuskegee Syphilis Study where 600 black Americans were infected with syphilis and then not given treatment. The men in this study, many of them were left to go blind and have other serious health conditions manifest because the researchers wanted to track the progression of the disease.
If you are a black American who’s aware of this history, it makes sense why you would have hesitancy when the medical establishment is trying to push a vaccine on you. It goes deeper than that. I had no idea about the origin of gynecology. The father of modern gynecology is a man named James Marion Sims, who was named the President of the American Medical Association in 1876. In 1880, he became the President of the American Gynecological Society, which he helped to find. His research on modern gynecology was mostly done on enslaved black women without anesthesia.
He invented the speculum, which is used for dilation and examination. He pioneered a surgical technique to repair the vesicovaginal fistula. The point is he did all of his experiments first on black female slaves. At that time, there was an overarching thought in the medical community that black people didn’t feel pain. Think about that. Surgical procedures, experiments, untested procedures are done on black male and female slaves because “they didn’t feel pain.” That’s horrifying when you think about it.
Digging into the history of this gynecological experimentation, there was a lot of, I suppose, good techniques that came from this but it’s horrifying to think about the children that were experimented on. It’s a huge article. He essentially treated these women and these children as guinea pigs to create the system of modern gynecology. Some people on this article on History.com were talking about, “The end justifies the means.” That’s not History.com’s perspective but of people looking at the history of modern gynecology.
I can’t get on board with that, Whitney. If we had a history of saying that black slaves didn’t feel pain and we can operate on them fully conscious without anesthesia, there’s something about me that is like, “That’s not right. That’s horrifying.” We look at Tuskegee and we look at denying medical care to black Americans. It’s horrifying. I’m bringing all of this up because of the fact that black Americans have been disproportionately hit by this virus. The caseloads are disproportionately higher in people of color. They’re saying, “We don’t want the vaccine because look at this history of hundreds of years of what you’ve done to our community, experimenting on us, testing us and doing experiments without anesthesia.”
It makes sense why many black Americans would go, “I don’t want this vaccine,” if you look at the history of the treatment of the medical establishment in black people. I have my thoughts on the vaccine, which we can or cannot get into. I can completely understand why so much of a high percentage of the black community would say, “I do not want this vaccine,” when you look at the historical treatment of what the medical establishment has done to them.When we start to make assumptions, we may leave people out without even realizing that we're leaving them out. Click To Tweet
On the other hand, I’m looking at some more articles about medical racism and one that came up is titled Stop Blaming Tuskegee. It’s Not an Excuse for Current Medical Racism. It’s an in-depth article about how people assume that’s why black Americans are hesitant but that might be the case. That history is often a scapegoat and an excuse for an explanation for why many African-Americans are hesitant but it isn’t necessarily the case. It could be religious beliefs, safety concerns and distrust for the government.
It’s important to ask people. I don’t know if they’ve even fully understood. Each person is going to have different viewpoints on the vaccine for different reasons and that’s part of what makes us complicated. There are a lot of things at play in terms of our individual comfort levels, history, education, how the government is talking about it and our access. There’s a lot going on with that vaccine. I’m not going to assume that I know why a black person would choose to or anybody outside of myself, another white person. It doesn’t matter. I don’t know if the vaccine is so much of a racial issue but it certainly is interesting statistically because it says that black Americans are more hesitant than white Americans to get the vaccine. I didn’t even know it myself. This is all news to me.
I’m grateful for this article, which is on NPR, that goes into some more depth about it, which I haven’t finished reading. That was what I have read in the article thus far. It’s important to cross-reference. This goes for us and this goes for the reader. Please cross-reference and don’t make assumptions. There are many people that lead with their ideas and it gets perpetuated. This responsibility for us on this show to do our best with the knowledge that we have goes to you. I encourage you to cross-reference things like that because I don’t want us to be responsible for perpetuating some cliché explanation for black history.
There’s a doctor named Dr. Ruth Mahoney who’s referencing the struggle to overcome these attitudes of thinking that the vaccine is bad. It does talk about distrust of the government. It talks about the suspicions in the community of how quickly the vaccine was brought to market. It is a complex discussion in terms of why people have the attitudes that they have. The thing that I wonder about in looking at the history of all of the intersections that we’ve been talking about of economics, lack of medical care, low-income neighborhood, lack of safe housing, lack of access to food. This is an offshoot but it’s related. How are we as a society going to treat moving forward people who have chosen to be vaccinated and those who have not chosen?
This is a discussion I was having with two friends who had called me. I’m having a lot more conversations of people texting me out of the blue wanting to talk about the vaccine with me. I had two people do it and they texted me first. They texted me out of the blue, “What are your thoughts on the vaccine? I respect your opinion. Can we talk about it?” I’ve had two more than hour-long conversations about the subject. One of the things that get brought up is if you have a population, in this case, we’re talking about black Americans, saying there’s a high percentage that doesn’t want to be vaccinated. How are we as a society going to treat people who don’t want to be vaccinated? In terms of access to events, sporting events, concerts, movie theaters and travel.
We’ve talked about vaccine passports. The vaccine passport thing is not a new concept or something that’s been enforced. There are a lot of countries, in particular African countries, that if you want to enter the country, you have to get vaccinated for things like malaria, yellow fever, etc. The concern that I’m seeing is that people who are in communities of color, lower-income communities who don’t want to get the vaccine. Are we going to, as a society, deny them access to things they want to experience? I’m curious to see how far this is going to go.
In New York City, they’re already requiring digital vaccine validation to enter someplace like Madison Square Garden if you want to see the Knicks play. There are other states like Texas and Florida. The Texas Rangers had their opening day and 50,000 people were in the stadium. If we blow this out, is there going to be discrimination against people who choose not to be vaccinated? I’m concerned about that point. I’m concerned about discrimination and racism against people who opt out of getting a vaccine.
This is becoming contentious because I’m seeing on social media this virtue signaling of, “I got my vaccine. I did it for the common good. You should do it for the common good, too.” I’m seeing other people who are anti-vax saying, “Screw you. I’m not getting the vaccine.” The issue of vaccination is further dividing people into visceral and violent ways. My concern is, are we going to have a society that says, “You’re vaccinated. You’re going to have access to all these things but for everyone who didn’t get a vaccine, you’re screwed.”
My point is that in the conversations I had with friends, I said to them, “I am hanging back. I’m waiting to see what happens for me. I’m waiting to see what happens with people’s health and how their bodies respond to this vaccine. Number two, I’m also waiting to see how is society going to enforce public gatherings, travel and events between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.” I am concerned that there’s going to be a disproportionate amount of oppression and potentially more racism for people of color who do not choose to be vaccinated. I’m super concerned about that.
I don’t feel concerned about it because I feel open-minded about it. One thing that I liked in that NPR article that I referenced is that there’s a difference between being hesitant and refusing. I’m hesitant. I’m not refusing it. If it’s as simple as, “Get this vaccine and then you can do this important thing that you want to do.” To me, that is fine because it’s about pros weighing out the cons. That’s all. I suppose that I don’t have any major reasons not to get the vaccine. I’m hesitant and a lot of people are in that same boat.
It is fascinating. One of the points in the article is that three months into the vaccine rollout, black people make up 2.9% of Californians who have received the vaccination, even though they account for 6.2% of the state’s COVID deaths. One of the reasons I suspect is that the first mass vaccination sites set up in LA were at Dodger Stadium and Disneyland and they were difficult to get to from black neighborhoods without a car. That’s an important thing though. Maybe black people as a whole are not necessarily hesitant or refusing it. It’s too hard to get to.
This is why we can’t make these assumptions. It’s a lot about access. There were many issues with voting in this country and a lot of them seem to be racial issues. We have to take into account that not everybody has the privilege of owning a car. Not everybody has the privilege of having flexible hours. Not everybody also even has the ability to get up appointments. There’s another linked article in the LA Times that white affluent people were getting a lot of the appointments, even at clinics that were intended for hard-hit black and Latino communities.
Part of the issue here coming down to racism is this whole concept of privilege that a lot of us have, myself included. I have to check myself every time I feel entitled and I feel those moments sometimes because culturally, people in general and this might not even be a racial thing. Some people have a higher experience of entitlement because of the way that they’re raised. Also, because of the people that they’re around with and the experiences that they’ve had. I try to ask myself whenever I’m feeling entitled, “Is this coming from a place of being at a certain income bracket? Is this a gender issue? Is this a race issue? Where’s this entitlement coming from?”
Part of my hesitancy with the vaccine too is that I’m not in a position where I feel like I need it. Whereas some people are in jobs. They’re being exposed in ways that I’m not. I have the privilege of staying home and working. I also have the privilege of a personality where I don’t care. Staying at home is not that big of a deal for me. I’m happy to do that. I would rather do that than get the vaccine. Some people want to socialize more and some people, based on their jobs or their lifestyle situation, their housing, there are a lot of factors where they might be around a lot more people than I am.
I feel like they should be able to get the appointments first. Why would I take an appointment from somebody who wants it more than me or needs it more than me? That feels silly. I have heard people say like, “Don’t worry about it.” I’ve heard all sorts of sneaky things. It makes me uncomfortable that some people are using their connections to get appointments. Some people have skipped the line because they knew somebody. They’re taking the back door to get a vaccine. I can’t even relate to that behavior because I don’t feel desperate to get the vaccine. It triggers me because I’m not a fan of cheating but maybe that person was desperate for a reason that I can’t relate to. Regardless, it is disturbing to see that white affluent people are taking away appointments that were intended for somebody that is of a different race and income bracket.
The end of this NPR article says that if we want to address this mistrust of the vaccine, it requires a paradigm shift. If you want black people to trust doctors and trust the vaccine, don’t blame them for distrusting it. The obligation is on health institutions to first show they are trustworthy, listen, take responsibility, show accountability and stop making excuses. That means providing information about the vaccine and making the vaccine easy to access. What is paternalistic?
Paternal means fatherly but I don’t know about paternalistic. I’ve never heard that before.
Let’s look it up. “Relating to or characterized by the restriction of the freedom and responsibilities of subordinates or dependents and their supposed interest. It is an action that limits a person or group’s liberty or autonomy and is intended to promote their own good. It can imply that the behavior is against or regardless of the will of a person.”
You talk about people jumping the line for people that are higher-risk groups. We go back to what we were talking about people in low-income neighborhoods, people with existing comorbidities, people at a higher risk based on their race, their gender, what have you. In my conversations with friends, interestingly, you bring this whole skipping line issue. They’ve made references. It’s funny. The people I’ve talked to are like, “I know someone.” It’s like, “You’re a super healthy person who has access to healthy food. You live in a safe neighborhood. You’re not destitute. You’re not at a risk of being homeless. Why do you feel the need to leverage this ‘hook up’ that you have to go and get the vaccine early?”
We go back to entitlement and privilege and it’s like, “I’m not interested in taking someone else’s spot who’s in a much higher risk category. I’m not in a rush to get it.” It is fascinating how people are desperate to get this vaccine so they can “get back to normal life.” I get that. It’s always a question of when you’re jumping the line and leveraging your connections, who are you affecting as a result of that action you’re taking? This goes down to self-awareness, which we talk about all the time on this show. If I’m initiating an action in the world, how aware can I be of the ripple effects of that action?
If I jump the line and I bump someone else out and I get jabbed before they do, what effect is that having on the distribution and the availability of another person who might be much higher risk than you? That’s important you brought that up. I had someone say, “I can hook you up if you need it.” It’s like, “Thank you but I don’t need it. I want everyone else who believes they need it to get served in the way that they need to get served.” This comes down to examining other areas of our life, too.
This is unrelated but related to racism. With the unbelievable squeeze in the housing market, the racial disparity in terms of people coming up and paying cash for these houses and people who are in lower-income situations wanting to potentially buy a place or have access to affordable real estate. They’re getting completely squeezed out of the market. This idea of privilege, racism and entitlement bleeds into many aspects of our life as human beings.
Although we’re talking about medical racism, I want to continue to educate myself and become more self-aware of how my ignorance and my unconscious actions might be creating more harm than good. Using a vaccine appointment is one example. It’s important that we create awareness around the ripple effect of our day-to-day actions and how they might be affecting other people in ways that we don’t even intend or understand.
Speaking of understanding plus circling back to this paternalism, I found an opinion piece on the Wall Street Journal that said, “Honesty is the best policy in selling vaccines. The communication strategy is paternalistic and outdated. Public health authorities, politicians, sports heroes and celebrities are taking to the airwaves to tout the vaccines. Protecting people from doubt is central to the strategy. That entails suppressing questions rather than answering them. Any hint about vaccine imperfections could make people apprehensive and must be avoided. Anyone who rejects the vaccine is stigmatized as foolish and irresponsible.”
“A better approach to persuasion is to assume or speaking to mature self-interested decision-makers offer transparent and comprehensive information about the risks and benefits of the vaccines and engage patients in the decision-making process. Many medical treatments require consideration of the balance between harms and benefits. Applying shared decision-making to the Coronavirus vaccine requires authorities to change their mindset. Instead of pressuring patients to ‘do the right thing,’ the emphasis would be honest disclosure about what to expect.” Reading that, I’m like, “Absolutely.” It is all this do the right thing mentality.
I don’t think there is such a thing as doing the right thing. I’m like, “What do you mean? Do the right thing for who?” This whole idea of doing the right thing for your community is appealing on some levels. This comes down to who do you put the oxygen mask on first? If you are not comfortable making a decision, why should you make that decision for the group if you’re going to be potentially harmed by it mentally or physically? We got to also take mental health into consideration because mental health certainly plays a big role here.
I bet you that there’s a lot of links between medical racism and mental health, too. Mental health is a huge concern. It was heightened and it’s happening with the trials for George Floyd. This is bringing up a lot of tough emotions for people about racism. This has been a mental health issue for most people that face racism, maybe even every day of their life. Getting this concept of doing the right thing, if a bunch of white people is telling you to do the right thing, you might be hesitant to trust them. You want to make sure that you’re taken seriously and you’re getting the information that you need.
For me, as a questioner, I don’t say yes to things that I don’t understand. When I have said yes to things that I don’t understand, it doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel like the right thing for me. When I have done things because somebody said it’s the right thing to do, I’ve learned the hard way that may not and often isn’t the best thing for me. I need to trust that I’m a mature and intelligent person. I got to trust my abilities to reason. For someone that’s like, “I want you to let go of all of your doubts and trust me because this is the way to go.” It’s like completely ignoring your intuition. This ties into this conversation, too.
We got to trust the fact that people are hesitant. They’re not refusing. They’re hesitant and they need somebody to have a detailed dialogue with them that is going to support them in making the decision. It’s not going to be about peer pressure, which ultimately a large part of this is. There’s a lot of peer pressure with the vaccine and it’s coming from a good place. Given what that article was saying statistically about the number of black people that have died from COVID, there’s this idea, “We’re trying to protect you and other people.” I get that but it’s not that simple.
It’s not like just take the vaccine, you’re suddenly protected and everybody else is protected. It’s much more complex than that. Anybody who’s hesitant about the vaccine deserves to have more help in determining it. If you differentiate between refusal versus hesitancy, people that are refusing have probably made up their minds already. Somebody that’s hesitant, that’s their way of saying, “I need more help in determining when to get this and if I should get this.” That’s a complicated thing. Many people tend to view hesitancy as an opportunity to pressure somebody without supporting them in the way that they need to make a decision.
You articulated that eloquently instead of shaming someone acting like they’re wrong. I’m seeing a lot of shaming around the idea of personal sovereignty versus the good of the group. This subtle messaging online of like, “Forgo your personal sovereignty and your preferences completely because this is about the good of humanity.” You talked about intuition, Whitney. When I start to see that messaging, my gut is like, “This is some crap right here where you’re trying to shame me or make me feel bad for not doing it for the good of humanity.”
I’m not shaming anyone for making that choice but I’m seeing a lot of shame-filled messages trying to make people feel bad about being hesitant rather than, “Here’s a great article about a simple breakdown of the ingredients. Do you want to research this?” “Here are some good research articles from trusted sources talking about the actual ingredients and what they are.” There are some articles out there. I’ve started to research the difference between the Johnson & Johnson vaccine versus the Moderna and the Pfizer.Please cross-reference, ask questions, and don't make assumptions. Click To Tweet
I am more comfortable with the idea of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot because it doesn’t have the mRNA sequence, the genetic variant that Moderna and Pfizer have. I’m digging into a little bit more about recombinant DNA technology and whether or not I want that in my body. Rather than shaming people or making them feel bad for exercising their agency and their sovereignty and saying, “I don’t know yet.” I’ve had a couple of friends that have some weird exchanges where I’m like, “I don’t feel like you’re shaming me. I feel like you’re being a little pushy and I don’t like that. Don’t push me. I’m going to do what I want to do.”
“It’s my legal right as a human being to decide what I want to do with my body. I don’t want you to push me. I want to do my research. I want to wait and see and then make a decision when I feel the decision is right to be made.” I have a friend of mine who was messaging on social media about the celebrities and the politicians and people. He’s like, “They brought out Morgan Freeman. They brought out Kareem Abdul Jabbar.” They’re laying it on heavy celebrities talking to the black community specifically about, “You need to go get your vaccine.”
He was saying, my friend who’s black, that increases his distrust when he starts to see that heavy-handed messaging of like, “They brought up Morgan Freeman, who I’m supposed to trust because Morgan Freeman played God in a movie and it’s Morgan Freeman.” He was going on this diatribe about like, “Let me decide for myself. Stop pushing me with these celebrities telling me to get it.” It is a complex issue. Do you know what I’m pro, Whitney? I’m pro each human being deciding what is best for them and not shaming other people for their decision. That’s why I am pro.
I am pro each individual doing the research deciding for themselves what is in the best interest of their mental health, physical health, family’s health and community’s health. Make your decision and stop shaming people for what decision they’re making or not making. I can’t stand this crap anymore. I almost am at a point where I want to have a policy. I’m getting close to where I don’t want even to discuss this with people anymore because I’m starting to feel people pushing me to make a decision. I’m like, “Stop it. Stop pushing me. I don’t like it. I’m going to decide what I decide and you have no right to judge me either way.”
We’ve talked about me wanting to get off social media and disconnect. This vaccine thing is getting me close to the edge of like, “I don’t want your DMs and I don’t want your calls.” I’m getting to the point where I don’t want to discuss it because I don’t want to be shamed for my decision. This is an issue we want to hear your feedback on. If you, dear reader, have a perspective, if you happen to be a person of color, we want to hear specifically how you feel about this. How do you feel about the medical community pressuring you to get it? Are you pro-vax? Are you anti-vax? Are you hesitant? Are you refusing?
We want to keep the conversation going because as many episodes, these are not a full totalitarian examination of a subject. It’s more Whitney and I educating ourselves, opening ourselves up and wanting you to weigh in with how you’re feeling about it especially with this episode. If you want to shoot us an email, it’s [email protected]. You can shoot us a direct email with your thoughts and feelings. They’re completely confidential. You can shoot us a direct message on Instagram. We get a lot of people reaching out to us that way.
We don’t want to be shamed. We don’t want to be judged. We will not shame or judge you. If you want to come to us with a direct message or an email, please make it respectful and kind. Share your story and share your perspective. Please, no shame and no judgment. We’re not about that. We want to have an open, educated discourse on how you’re feeling about this. If you want to come at us with that flavor, cool. If you want to come at us with shame and judgment, kindly don’t message us. There’s enough of it in the world. We don’t want to add to it.
You will be blocked. There’s one person in particular. I don’t know if this person reads our blog regularly but it’s the one person that wrote us something nasty, which you might remember. It was sometime in 2020 and it was also COVID. This person was triggered by our thoughts and discussions around COVID. I returned from a little road trip that I took and I posted briefly about it on social media simply talking about how I was going on a road trip and what I was doing to take care of myself. I don’t even think I mentioned the word COVID.
After I posted about this, I thought, “Maybe some people would come at me and try to shame me for taking a road trip.” There’s a lot of shame around travel. I wasn’t trying to defend myself by any means. I was pointing some things out that I was doing regardless of travel, which is I have double masks. I love wearing my masks. I have a great collection of cloth masks. I’ll shout out the brand, Canopy Verde. I love those masks so much. I love that brand in general. I wear a medical mask, the disposable kind, which you can reuse a few times for my understanding. I wear that underneath my cloth mask.
I got some great new hand sanitizer from this brand, Sanikind, which there is a naturally formulated hand sanitizer within a refillable container made from ocean plastic. It’s awesome. I love the colors and I love everything about it. I was using it as an opportunity to shout out those two brands. I expected maybe some people would question me traveling but instead, I got the exact opposite where this person completely rudely, from my perspective, shamed me for believing in COVID. I don’t even remember the exact words that were used. Dr. Fauci was brought up. This person said that COVID wasn’t real and I believe everything Dr. Fauci said.
I’m like, “Where is this person getting all this information and assumptions about me?” I blocked them and I thought to myself, “That is not communication. I do not tolerate this bombardment of assumptions about me that are negative.” The energy behind it from my reception point was that this is not somebody that I feel like is trying to engage in a respectful dialogue with me. Thus, that’s why they are blocked. I still feel uncomfortable about blocking people because I’m not trying to keep myself in some protective bubble. If somebody wants to come at me with a different opinion, play devil’s advocate, share their different viewpoints, fine. We need to work on our communication.
Deep down, even that person doesn’t have a communication method that works for me and something that resonates for me. It feels like an attack and I’m blocking attacks because energetically, they drain me and they don’t elevate me. I don’t think they elevate the other person. I don’t want to reward that behavior with a response or the opportunity to do it again. This person is looking for an outlet for their feelings and I have compassion for that.
To wrap up this conversation, people are coming at COVID and experiencing COVID from a lot of different perspectives. Some people don’t believe it and that’s part of the group that refuses to get the vaccine. Some people truly do not believe COVID is real. Some people truly believe it’s a hoax. They feel like they’re being manipulated and I can’t relate to that. It’s okay. I understand that person exists in the same world that I live in. There’s a difference between accepting and understanding and trying to live in a world where there’s room for everybody. There are a lot of different beliefs and experiences. There’s so much going on.
I don’t tolerate disrespect, attacks and rude behavior. I don’t tolerate someone yelling at me, name-calling, bullying, harassment of any type and shaming. It doesn’t add up to anything good. If that same person wants to come and find a way to respectfully communicate, find a way to talk with words that don’t evoke shame and truly come at it as agree to disagree like, “We’re two people with different belief systems. We have things in common. I respect you and you respect me. Let’s coexist and have a kind conversation about this.” That’s the ideal.
I know this person has read at least one of our episodes. If that person’s a regular reader, they might “hate” to read. They might never make it to the end of this episode because we’ve triggered them so much but maybe they do. This message is for them, for anyone else who completely disagrees with us, that we are okay with that. We strive to have conversations with more people that don’t fully agree with us. It’s important for us to speak to people who are different than us because if we don’t do that then we stay in a bubble and we go through life with the blinders on. That’s a good way to end this episode.
Being white people, there’s a lot that we will never understand about the non-white experience in life. You will never understand what it means to be a woman. I don’t understand what it means to be a man. There are many differences between us as human beings. I don’t want to stay in a bubble. I want to find ways to support people who are different than me if they’re interested in my support. I encourage the reader if you’re looking for more ways to work on racism, sign up for the Anti-Racism Daily newsletter. That’s my favorite resource. If you have another resource that you recommend for me and Jason, please send it our way because we do love reading these articles.
A lot of the time, we find them through quick searches, so we’re only skimming the surface. If there’s more on the subject matter that you’ve come across, please send it our way. You can tweet it to us. You can direct message and email us. There are a lot of different ways to get in touch. Our usernames collectively are under @Wellevatr in all these different platforms. We each have our individual accounts, @WhitLauritsen for me and @JasonWrobel for Jason. We have our email. You did say that we do keep things confidential, certainly but sometimes, we take inspiration from your email.
If there’s ever anything that you don’t want us to spin off of publicly or you’re concerned about, please make that ultra-clear in your communication. We don’t want to do any disrespect to you if we end up doing an episode or something that’s based on something that you said. We will always leave your name out unless you give us explicit permission to use your name. Sometimes, your messages do inspire us because you bring up points that we may not have discussed before and they might be things that we’ve never even thought of before, so we welcome that. We are so grateful for you as a reader. We appreciate your time. We appreciate you considering all these different ideas whether you agree with them or not. We would love to hear from you soon.Agree to disagree. Let's co-exist and have conversations even if we have different belief systems. Click To Tweet
We’ll be back with another episode. We release new episodes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We now have most of our episodes up on YouTube. If you’re not already watching the YouTube channel, please go check it out. We do not have the URL secured yet but you can just type in This Might Get Uncomfortable and you will find the show. Thanks. We’ll see you soon. Until then, all the best with you and your exploration on topics like racism and vaccines. Bye for now!
*We use affiliate links in our show notes. This means we receive a small sales commission if you purchase an item based on our recommendation.
- What A Black Woman Medical Provider Sees Watching The Covid-19 Pandemic Unfold
- Anti-Racism Daily
- COVID-19 Racial And Ethnic Disparities
- Social Determinants Of Health And Other Global Issues – Previous episode
- The Father Of Modern Gynecology Performed Shocking Experiments On Slaves
- Stop Blaming Tuskegee: Critics Say It’s Not An Excuse For Current Medical Racism
- [email protected]
- Canopy Verde
- @WhitLauritsen – Facebook
- @JasonWrobel – Facebook
- Honesty Is The Best Policy In Selling Vaccines
- Understanding COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy In The Black Community
- A Simple Breakdown Of The Ingredients In The COVID-19 Vaccine
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