The Afrocentric weekly, USA Today, recently published a column by James Keys. Keys writes:
Unfortunately, others who need transplants, especially minorities, experience a different reality. About 20 people in the USA die each day waiting for transplants. This fact is particularly significant for minorities because they suffer more frequently than whites from diseases of the kidney, heart, lung, pancreas and liver that can lead to organ failure. For instance, according to the Department of Health and Human Services:
•Native Americans are four times more likely than whites to suffer from diabetes.
•Blacks and Asian and Pacific Islanders are three times more likely than whites to suffer from kidney disease.
•Minority communities don’t donate enough organs to keep up with the needs of these communities. Blacks, for instance, are 13% of the population but only 12% of donors. Yet nearly a quarter of the people on the kidney waiting list are black.
The entire U.S. population would benefit, of course, from greater donor participation. And though race isn’t a determining factor in who receives what transplant when, transplants within the same race can improve the chances of success.
If Keys, and USA Today, want to increase the number of black organ donors, they would do well to ask themselves why black donations do not match black need. One person who asks this question, and gives a dubious answer, is Vivian Nereim, in quoting Dr. Clive Callender, in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. She writes:
Dr. Callender founded the National Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP) after he and a team of psychologists researched the reluctance to donate organs in black communities.
“We were first made aware of this problem in 1978,” he said. At the time, about 70 percent of those waiting for organs in the southern United States were black, but far less than 10 percent of donors were, he said.
His team identified several reasons why African Americans were less likely to donate organs. The first was a lack of information: “Nobody was taking the time to ask the community and educate them,” he said.
Some people were also wary because of religious misconceptions.
“People will say, ‘You don’t have your kidneys, you won’t get your wings,’ ” he explained.
In addition, Dr. Callender found that many people did not want to donate organs because they distrusted health care providers.
Dr. McCauley said some African Americans still harbor distrust, remembering injustices like the Tuskegee experiment, a 40-year study during which researchers withheld treatment for syphilis from a group of poor black men.
It might come as no surprise to learn that the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, being an organ of racial orthodoxy, conveniently left out one of the reasons that Dr. Callender (a black man himself) lists. In “The Black House“, we find the missing reason. Reason #5:
The fifth obstacle has to do with racism – the fear that if I leave my organs behind as a Black person, they’re only going to go to White people. That isn’t the case and we need to overcome that because at Howard University, when I started the program in the 70s, 80% of the organs we got for our Black patients were from Whites. Now, 70% of the organs that we get for our Black patients are from Blacks.
Is Dr. Callender condemning racism in the black community? Let’s not be silly! All he’s saying is that the organs donated by blacks are very likely to end up in other blacks – so there is little to fear! Yes, he calls it “racism”, but he gives no indication that his loyalties lie anywhere other than with his own race. A case in point: He founded the “National Minority Organ/Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP) in 1991 “to increase awareness and encourage more Blacks to become donors”. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that – but any white person who shows similar loyalties, and concern, for his own race would not be quoted (respectfully) in The Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
The way I see it, the organ-donation establishment has three possible solutions to this problem: They can work to decrease anti-white racism among blacks, they can convince blacks to lead more healthy lifestyles, or they can allow people to specify the race (or religion, gender etc.) of potential recipients. All three would be worthy goals for people such as Dr. Callender to pursue. Regarding the last one, if we own our bodies to the extent where our permission is required to harvest organs from them, then it is also reasonable to demand that we have some say in who receives them.