Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Healthcare Debate and the accountability to History

For this blog post on healthcare and an accountability to history, I am using law enforcement as a means to make clear that an accountability to history prevents or makes challenging the idea of transforming the U.S. healthcare system because of an allegiance or affirmation of historical norms. These historical norms inform the discourse and engagement of the subject in question necessarily challenging progressive, visionary movements. Simply stated, it’s about power.

It is unfortunate that people, communities and nations seldom, if ever, fully break from their history. History, considered by some in the academy to be a structure, is the embodiment of communal and national discourse, it is a mixture of the complex, complicated and the uncanny, even absurd. It is queer and seldom understood without controversy, and that is the history occupied by the people of America. History, at least from the perspective of this writer, would seem inescapable. I guess at some level we are all accountable to history, and this would seem to be our collective identity and destiny.  Accountability within the context of this piece on history is the idea that actions of the personal-intimate, structures, systems and their institutions emerge of out a reckoning or affirmation/allegiance with the past, with history. History requires an answer, an answer, for example, regarding American Slavery, Jim Crow, segregation or an economic system detrimental to millions or a healthcare system which would seem to be more about wealthcare than healthcare.  Another example from a different prospective might be, I know that African Americans were lynched in certain parts of the south and therefore my actions are informed by that sorted history.  History, more often, than not, requires an action which may become the answer.

This post on accountability and history became more evident after seeing the victory party at the White House on May 4, 2017, after the House GOP passed healthcare legislation harmful to millions of people. The lack of diversity at the victory was astonishing particularly after an administration as diverse and progressive as the previous administration. Yet there it was plain to see, the very history my parents, grandparents and great grandparents had fought to escape, at least, overtly.
Considering this present moment in history, with its alternative facts, a truth contested, the absurd and outlandish run amuck, with literally millions of lives at risk, my accountability to my history, the history of the African American, and gender and sexual minorities, is not only central but crucial in the maintenance of hard-won freedoms. As I write this post, I find that history itself to be contested space, for it is the historical space from which power and its actions emerge.  An example of history as contested space is a 2014 CBS article entitled, Rewriting History? Texas Tackles Textbook Debate. There were significant arguments about some people and their narratives getting more attention than others, this argument came from both the liberal and conservative historians. 

Jacqueline Jones, chairwoman of the University of Texas' History Department, said one U.S. history high school book cheerleads for President Ronald Reagan and the significance of America's free enterprise system while glossing over Gov. George Wallace's attempt to block school integration in Alabama. She also pointed to a phrase stating that "the minimum wage remains one of the New Deal's most controversial legacies."[1]
"We do our students a disservice when we scrub history clean of unpleasant truths," Jones said "and when we present an inaccurate view of the past that promotes a simple-minded, ideologically driven point of view."[2]
Objections such as Jones' were the most common, but some conservatives complained that the books marginalized Reagan and other top Republicans, even as they heaped praise on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.[3]
"I guess Ronald Reagan did nothing in two terms," scoffed Republican board member Ken Mercer of San Antonio.[4]

History presents this writer with a human narrative of contested space as various opposing socio-cultural-educational-politico-religious and economic forces use history to inform their identity, position in society, economic status, social status, and actions.  Regarding identity, the construction of race in the U.S., is integral to regimes of power, imagination and economy of which law enforcement is a critical component of demarcation.  Considering the aforementioned, as an African American transgender woman, because of the history of my people in the U.S., I conclude that my people will probably never be treated fairly by law enforcement. The historical origins of law enforcement in places like the colony of Carolina, as slave patrols with slave codes[5], would seem to affirm my conclusion as the origins of law enforcement still to some degree dictate the relationship of law enforcement and the African American community writ large.  Think about that, when some law enforcement officials see an African American, particularly a Black man, I use the word, “Black”, intentionally, the runaway slave narrative is running in their mind either consciously or subconsciously.  Yet the narrative has expanded as communities of people not African American encounter, rather abruptly, this cruel ideological narrative.

There are some law enforcement officers who engage the African American community from the historical narrative of a runaway slave.  Considering the aforementioned, it is rare that those with preconceived notions of the runaway slave engage the African American community consciously in the present historical moment.  I would not call this racism, per se, although there are implications. More so, I would say it is a lack or rejection of currently historical knowledge. Said another way, the election of Barack Obama, a Black Man, to the office of U.S. President, the most powerful man on the planet, two times had a severe psychological impact on many, particularly some in Law enforcement. 

The words of Minnesota State Representative Ilhan Omar, the country’s first Somali-American Muslim legislator, speaking out about an incident in Minneapolis, MN, where a white woman from Australia who called police about a crime that she thought was being committed was gunned down by a Somali policeman, speak to the reality of an accountability to history and a devastation heaped on people at will.  She says, “The idealist in me continues to be surprised, but I know this incident is another result of excessive force and violence-based training for supposed peace officers. ... Changing the body camera policy won’t solve the inherent problem. The current officer training program indoctrinates individuals of all races into a system that teaches them to act first, think later, and justify with fear. It’s time we explore solutions beyond improved training and cameras to capture evidence. We need to look at a complete shift in the culture of the police department, away from the use of lethal force and deadly weapons."

Of course, along with this history is the conditioning which maintains the imagination which inhabits the mindsets of many people. If, for years, your family consistently said derogatory things about black and brown people this would be conditioning which could eventually lead to racist attitudes.[6] Conditioning, that is significant influence on or determinant of mechanisms, i.e., the construction of race as a supporting system for a capitalist economic structures as well as constructing a narrative and various forms of oppression to include slavery, and Jim Crow, were all put together to create, maintain, and secure conditions which would be favorable to white supremacy, power and privilege which even now their descendants benefit from, though more and more begrudgingly.

Now, looking at the healthcare debate from the perspective of history, I can understand why healthcare is such a tough issue.  Fact is, an historical analysis of the socio-cultural and economic conditions and privilege associated with such would seem to reject or at least put off a system of healthcare which seeks to care for all. Yet, here we are and so, as the Republicans spend more and more of their political capital having spent years seeking to repeal the ACA or Obamacare, to reclaim the mantle of power given to Barack Obama by the people I suspect the issue has never been about healthcare at all, at least not exclusively. but more so, it’s about historical precedent, that is, power and its definition.

[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.