Paul R. Lehman,Tonya Battle and another case of ethnic discrimination

February 17, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, discrimination lawsuit, Disrespect, Equal Opportunity, equality, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, minority, Prejudice, President Obama, Race in America, segregation, whites | 3 Comments
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Ethnic prejudice is still so engrained in the psyche of some Americans that they continue to do irrational, illogical, and stupid things. A case in point was reported by The Huffington Post (2/16/13) in an article, “Tonya Battle, African American Nurse, Sues Michigan Hospital For Race Discrimination.” According to the article the lawsuit states that “Tonya Battle was barred from treating an infant patient at Hurley Medical Center because she is African American.” In addition, the article noted that in the complaint, “Battle claims that the newborn’s father showed her supervisor ‘a swastika of some kind’ and asked that no black people be involved in his child’s care.”
Why would someone living in a diverse society like America, make such a request thinking it was a proper thing to do? The answer is that at one time, not very long ago, ethnic prejudice against African Americans was common practice. The laws against such practices began to change in 1954 and continued through the 1960s to today; however, the psyche of many Americans still remain entrenched in ethnic prejudice. If blame is to be placed on anyone in this case, it should be with the hospital and its representatives. Three things happened in succession that should not have taken place when the request was made: acknowledgement, acceptance, and activation.
The problem began when Battle’s supervisor acknowledged the request as legitimate and reasonable. Anyone can make a request for anything, but to acknowledge the request as reasonable usually takes an understanding of what is being requested and if the request is appropriate. Evidently, the supervisor did not stop to consider her African American co-workers when she acknowledged the request. Instead of discounting the request as being absurd, inappropriate, and unreasonable, her actions made it seem legitimate and reasonable.
After the requested was acknowledged, the supervisor then took the next step and accepted it as legitimate. Her actions, in essence, indicated to the father that she agreed with the reasonableness of his request. Again, the fact that her acceptance of the request affected other people at the hospital seemingly did not cross her mind, or if it did, she quickly dismissed it. The supervisor, apparently, was not awareness of, thinking about or was ignorant of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations that prohibit discrimination. In any case, she was not conducting herself appropriately in her position with respect to her co-workers. She must have thought that European Americans still have to power and privilege to discriminate when they desire to do so.
The next step taken by the supervisor, putting the request into action, is the most serious action of all because it not only ignored the well-being of the African American nurses but also put the hospital in jeopardy. The article noted that Nurse Battle said that she “was shocked, offended and in disbelief that she was so egregiously discriminated against based on her race and re-assigned.” We are told in the article that “Battle, who was taken off the case, was allegedly later told by a supervisor that the patient’s request was granted. The [law] suit also states that a note was appended to the patient’s file that read ‘No African American nurse to take care of baby.’”
Today, as American citizens, we look around and see examples of how society is starting to embrace its diversity in a positive way, and we often forget that just because laws were written and instituted to remove elements of discrimination in society that all is well. We need look on further that our political system to verify that all is not well. Many Americans have yet to accept Barack Obama as President simply because he is African American. We must acknowledge that the prejudice that was ingrained in the European American’s psyche for several hundred years will take some time to be removed, if ever. In some cases we will rely on mother nature for assistance, otherwise we must look to education and information for help.
The Battle lawsuit should serve as a reminder to all of us that much work remains to be done regarding eliminating ethnic prejudice. Some of that work should come in the form of education that debunks the false concept of multi-biological races. Science has proven beyond a doubt that all human being are 99.9% alike; that skin color, eye color, hair texture are all superficial elements. Human blood and organs are not assigned an ethnic designation regarding use, so why should we be so ignorant about physical appearance? The longer we accept and recognize the false concepts and assumption about race, the more we will see examples like Battle’s.
The hospital where this incident took place should institute a program of ethnic education for all its employees in order to avoid a repeat of the Battle experience. The education should not focus on how different we are, but how much alike we are and the minor differences are just that, minor. The fact that the supervisor acknowledged, accepted and activated the biased request showed ignorance and a lack of regard and sensitivity towards all the African American employers, not just the nurses. The supervisor’s decision led to a collapse of communication of among professionals, a reassessment of standards and values by everyone involved in the hospital environment. An apology will not be sufficient to remedy the harm that has been done to the African American employees because from the action of the supervisor, the problem is systemic, not arbitrary.
We as a society need to get to a point where anyone making a request that discriminates against any ethnic person or group would feel uneasy doing so because he or she knows that it will not be granted. Getting to that point, however, will require consistent attention and hard work. Evidently, we still have a ways to go



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  1. And the battle against equality continues…

  2. Sorry, Dr. L, I meant to say the battle FOR equality continues…

  3. Paul, The paper has your review, and it should be on the book page this Sunday or the next. Also, I asked the Oklahoma Hall of Fame to re-consider last year’s decision. They agreed, saying the selections will come in early April. Ann is sick with the crud, and I survived yesterday’s colon probe. No fun fasting for 24 hours before the procedure. We’re trying to make arrangements for John’s exit next month from the treatment center. Have app[lied for The Pershing Center, a sort of halfway house in OKC. (My computer is acting up, but such is life in this age of marvels.)

    See you soon.

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