EDITOR’S COLUMN: It’s National Minority Health Month — What Changes Have You Made?

No matter how educated you are, you can always continue to learn even more.

Case in point: I just learned that back in the day, in April of 1915 to be exact, Booker T. Washington first proposed “National Negro Health Week,” convinced that “without health and long life, all else fails.”

With time, his idea evolved, eventually resulting in April being observed as National Minority Health Month focusing on raising awareness and working toward eliminating the health disparities confronting racial and ethnic minorities in America.

The month also provides a platform to shine a spotlight on the long-entrenched injustices lived each day by people of color, also allowing the opportunity to highlight the many accomplishments of Black public health champions who have committed their lives to protecting and advancing the health of people from marginalized communities.

First, I submit that we should make this a yearlong trek, not something that’s done for a mere 30 days. Second, I need to state that no longer what the U.S. Census or boxes we’re asked to check on standardized exams or job applications, I refuse to utilize the term “minority” when describing myself, or other Blacks and Hispanics in America. After all, in just a few short years, if not already, those who should be described as “minority” — at least in terms of the number of citizens in the U.S., are not people of color but whites.

We already know about Dr. Charles Drew, father of the modern blood bank, who ironically died after being involved in an automobile accident and refused admittance to a segregated hospital. We know about the government-funded Tuskegee Syphilis Study that denied treatment to almost 400 Black men over 40 years in order to gain new medical insights about the disease. And most recently, thanks to Oprah Winfrey, we know the story of Henrietta Lacks, whose cancerous cells were used in order to make significant gains in medicine — all without her consent or the knowledge of her heirs.

But there are so many other men and women of color who have served on the battlefield in order to contributed as scientists, physicians and health advocates but whose accomplishments have been downplayed, denied or eclipsed by their white counterparts — often being entirely omitted from historical records.

Of course, if we must also note that those whites who have been recognized as the forefathers of modern medicine were students of African scholars who had already perfected some of the medical procedures or had acquired knowledge essential to today’s medical world. And yet those African scholars of medicine have been perfunctorily ignored.

Tragically, race is still a key predictor of the quality of health care a person will receive in the U.S. Race, or more appropriately racism, continues to impact America’s public health agenda. That’s reason enough for us to insist that America and the rest of the world should be honest, erasing and replacing the numerous “historical narratives” on which our country is based and admit that not only has modern medicine has been built on the backs of marginalized populations but that the contributions of people from those same communities have improved all our lives, and our health, for the better.

About D. Kevin McNeir – Washington Informer Editor 158 Articles

Award-winning journalist, book editor, voice-over specialist and author with 17 years in the industry. Currently an education and religion beat reporter for The Washington Informer. But I also tackle local (D.C. and Maryland) politics, entertainment, business and health articles to maintain my edge.

Born and raised in Motown and a staunch Wolverine – that is a graduate of the University of Michigan, I left corporate America (IBM) to pursue my passion for writing, accepting a beat reporter’s gig under the tutelage of the late Sam Logan, founding publisher of the Michigan Chronicle. I continued to hone my craft at N’DIGO Magapaper, Windy City Times and The Wednesday Journal, all in Chicagoland; the Atlanta Voice and The Miami Times. I’ve been fortunate to be chosen twice as the Feature Writer of the Year by the Chicago Association of Black Journalists. Later, as the senior editor of one of the country’s oldest Black-owned newspapers, The Miami Times, I helped my staff bring home the NNPA’s highest honor – Publication of the Year, 2001. That same year I picked up first and second place awards for news and feature writing, respectively, also from the NNPA.

Today I’m based in the nation’s capital where I’m honored to serve as the editor for The Washington Informer. Recognizing the importance of education, I’ve earned two master’s degrees from Emory University, Summa Cum Laude and Princeton Theological Seminary, majoring in theology and philosophy.

If I can slow down, I may actually complete and publish a collection of essays I’ve been working on for many years, “Growing up Motown,” sharing childhood memories of experiences with musical legends like Marvin Gaye, Kim Weston, the Four Tops, the Miracles, Gladys Knight and Take Six. My favorite foods: spinach, lasagna, pancakes and Oysters Rockefeller. My mom, 86, always my “best friend” and “cheerleader,” now lives with me and she brings me great joy. I’m a fiercely protective yet encouraging father and grandfather always down for traveling, shopping or celebrating the natural beauty of God’s world. I live by the following words: “Less is more” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

You can reach me on Twitter (@dkevinmcneir), Facebook (Kevin McNeir) or via e-mail, mcneirdk@washingtoninformer.com