What prominent Blacks in the health profession have weighed in on disparities in Black health care? U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher has been very vocal in criticizing the trend of poor health care for Blacks. Joining him is former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Louis Sullivan. And adding his voice to the chorus of critics—Black and otherwise—is the internationally known and remarkably gifted neurosurgeon, Dr. Ben Carson. He is the youngest Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery in the history of the distinguished Johns Hopkins University Hospital.
When it comes to overall cancer deaths among minorities, the distribution is skewed. Succinctly put, Blacks experience more deaths than any other minority group in the U.S. The disparity between Blacks and Whites is particularly noteworthy. Whether it’s prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, or breast cancer, more Blacks die than any other race. Connected to this abysmal reality is the fact that when it comes to African Americans, disparate attention transcends the world of medicine and permeates—like a cancer—the cold hard body of the blind White women who holds the scales of justice. Plainly stated, not only are Blacks more likely to receive sub par health care, but young Black adolescent males are more likely to receive life sentences without the possibility of parole than young males of any other race.
I’m not talking about the traditional 15-24 age category. I’m talking younger than that. It’s bad across the country, but it’s worse right here in California according to a new university study that’s very unsettling.
The University of San Francisco (a Jesuit institution that’s also my alma mater) conducted the study that resulted in a very disturbing title: “Sentencing Children to Die in Prison.” According to the November 19, 2007, issue of the Los Angeles Times, “California has sentenced more juveniles to life in prison without possibility of parole than any state in the nation except Pennsylvania, according to a new study by the University of San Francisco’s Center for Law and Global Justice. California currently has 227 inmates serving such sentences for crimes committed before they turned 18; Pennsylvania has 433.”
Actually, the study should have been entitled: “Sentencing Primarily Black Children to Die in Prison.” Why? Because, not surprisingly, the study found that in the United States African American juveniles are 10 times more likely than are their White counterparts to be given a sentence of life with the possibility of parole. And, as stated, it’s even worse in the Golden State. According to the Times, “In California, black juveniles are 20 times more likely to receive such sentences.”
The chief author of the study, Michelle Leighton, is quoted as saying: “For many children, [this sentence] is an effective death sentence carried out by the state slowly over a long period of time.” In the United States, a police state for Blacks according to some critics, there are 2,387 juveniles serving life sentences—more than in any other country in the world.
In fact, the next closest country is Israel; and it’s a far, unbelievably distant second to the U.S., having only 7 juveniles that are currently serving life terms. If the government of the United States doesn’t get them with the inadequate, ineffective “penicillin” of shoddy health care, it gets young Black males with the life-altering, oppressive, disproportionate life terms in prison say the critics. In fact, 51 percent of juveniles (most of them presumably Black) who received ‘life without the possibility of parole’ sentences are first-time offenders! They had no prior record. Yes, whether it’s the ‘injustice’ system or the lethargic medical system, Blacks have it bad. So, the question is posed:
Are revolutionary new approaches to medical treatment for African Americans needed to stem the tide of deadly medical outcomes? “Revolution” is indeed the operative word; and “Black revolution” is even more poignant, conjuring up an array of images that make many Whites more than uncomfortable. When asked what the term “black revolution” means, Mumia Abu Jamal, in his book, Death Blossoms: Reflections from a Prisoner of Conscience (1997), answers:
“The word revolution means transformation; it means change. When one considers from any objective perspective the condition of African-American people in this country—if you didn’t find the need to change that condition for the better, then your interest was to keep things as they were, to preserve the status quo. If you look at the condition of African-Americans today, we’re at the bottom of the every social indicator—in terms of educational attainment, in terms of work income, in terms of our life expectancy, in terms of our health. Every indicator of social well-being and status. Why are we at the bottom of those lists? I would say that it isn’t a reality that could be isolated in 1970. It is a reality that continues to this day. Revolution is a necessity. Change is necessary—to change a situation that is deadly to us.” (Emphasis added.)
In the final installment, find out what proposed “revolutionary” changes are being offered—what “prescriptions” proffered—in connection with Black health care.
Dr. Firpo Carr n can be reached at (800) 501-2713 or email