I wish my experiences with health care were not lived through the parameters of race, class and gender, but they are. I cannot conceive of hospitals and medicine without thinking about the thousands of African slaves brought to this country and worked to their bones. I cannot conceive of hospitals and medicine without thinking about the thousands of Black womyn who were involuntarily sterilized in this country. I cannot conceive of hospitals or medicine without seeing my grandfather – in his winter – lying on the couch, exhausted and in pain from chemotherapy. I cannot conceive of medicine or hospitals without noticing that the majority of HIV/Aids deaths (and infections) in this country are usually poor people of color who have little to no access to the medicine and precious knowledge that would save our lives. These experiences stay with me. They are apart of my very being and breathe as real as I do.
A few months ago when I was diagnosed with having the HIV virus (something I will formerly address on this blog later- but it is part of the reason why post have been so scattered), I immediately found that having to come into more direct contact with Western medicine was going to be a rehashing and analysis of trauma. Part of the mission of this blog is to express and explore the human experience from the perspective of a Queer, Black, Male bodied, Communist and that still holds true. I am excited to start a new chapter in the life of this blog- starting with this post. I hope it makes up for my long absence.
“That’s a lot of trauma.”
The White doctor uttered as I sat in the chair giving him a rundown of my childhood. I suppose that I can be summed up in that manner: trauma. I also suppose that most of the people I grew up with can be assessed the same . . . But our lives are not merely death marches. People of color in this country have had to make beauty from the torn shards or poverty and destruction. And so it naturally follows that we would not solely view our lives as that. I may have grown up materially poor and dealt with the ills of drug abuse and domestic violence but I also knew about “love” and the movings of things not understood by White folks. In this case – as is most times the case when White folks seek to analyze experiences they have never had- cynicism is a White thing. Because that Doctor, in all of his knowledge and wisdom didn’t understand what Nikki Giovanni put so well in a poem: “Black love, is Black wealth.” Because of their privilege and materialistic socialization of Western thought, I would argue that White people have a harder time understanding the meaning of that quote because they see narratives of color as a doomed work of fiction- where there is little hope because of the poverty and inability of the people to move out of their social condition. (Never mind racist capitalism and the absurdity of pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps) I understand the trauma of my youth and the joy. I see them as the ongoing dialectic that has created me. I understand and love those experiences in order to make peace with them, so that when life’s great storms return I can better deal with them. I left the office horribly upset. It wasn’t until later that day, once I could process with a friend, that I realized how important race was in that situation. The doctor’s inability to connect with me on that spiritual point was an issue for me. With the HIV population growing in communities of color, there is also a rising need to have care providers that are of the communities they serve. I do not need to be under that White gaze while I am trying to figure out what is wrong with my body.
This is true of healthcare in general. People of color often have distrust for medicine in this county because of the historic underpinnings of the interactions had in the hospital. Black folks, in particular, have been the subject of experiments with drug vaccines, disease, eugenics, forced breeding, and other genetic manipulation. When you combine that with the fact that most people in this country cannot afford health care decent enough to see a doctor whenever necessary and the additional fact that the institutions of high education that give out credentials, to become licensed, are mostly White- then you have a pretty strong material reasoning to avoid/ distrust hospitals. Western medicine has given us little hope, despite the immense promise it holds when combined with a more holistic realm of thought.
Part of my communism, is believing in an alternative health system. The advancements of technology under capitalism are wondrous. The beauty of humanity is that we have become able to envision and see a world much larger than the one that currently exist- this applies to medicine and the science that is constantly pushing it forward. The tragedy of capitalism and the mind/body dichotomy of the West is that we cannot see the full potential of our work because of the nature of the system. Capitalism is a system of waste and profit: it wastes our energy and planet in order the gain profit for the wealthy. Because the goal of these industries is capital then it makes no sense to cure disease or make medicine free because fully healthy workers could not be as easily exploited due to the fact that our minds and bodies would be stronger. We would be more able to struggle against our conditions. Western thought, in medicine, has led us to view our bodies as battlefields. Most medicine is designed to destroy the problem at all cost- meaning you might end with a more severe problem than you started with. One has to look no further that the barbarism of chemotherapy to see my point. I believe that this is because the West has never understood that treating the body requires spiritual health (by this I mean things like: being at ease with a doctor who understands you, having a peaceful home life, having meaningful relations with other humans) and a connection with nature. More and more research is finding that the biggest part of fighting the diseases we face is no more than changing our diet and pursing bliss. [that was overly simple but still truthful.]
And so, in my journey and in the service of communism, I see it as an important part of the project to share my narrative and examine the intersections of these life events as they (and I) evolve.It is important to reclaim the older knowledge from our ancestors as we move forward. Solutions to our problems will come from the combining of old wisdom and new thought. I apologize for my absence from this blog and promise to be more active. Here is to a new and powerful 2012, filled with health, life, and revolution! Luta continua!