In the latest edition of Sky Magazine (Sept. 2012 pg. 28), by Delta Airlines there is an interview with the cofounder and Executive Vice President of General Blood, LLC, David Mitchell. General Blood takes blood donations from areas that have an excess, mainly the Midwest, and redistributes them to areas where not enough blood is donated, mainly coastal areas. Among the questions addressed is “Why the excess of donated blood in Middle America?”

On a per capita basis, people in the Midwest tend to give more blood than people on the coasts. There are a lot of reasons for that. There are higher immigrant populations on the coasts, and many immigrants are deferred from donating – not because they are immigrants – but because of where they’re from. If you were born in an African country, forget about it. If you’ve lived abroad for many years, forget about it. But if you’re giving blood in Des Moines, chances are you grew up near Des Moines. Land and labor are much cheaper in the Midwest than on the coasts. And when the pastor says during church that there’s going to be a blood drive, most people in the congregation sign up.

Mitchell blames the low rates of blood donations on the coasts to African immigrants. But the numbers, even according to black sources, don’t add up. According to The Root:

Only 3 million African Americans are immigrants. Of that number, nearly two-thirds were born in Latin America, the other one-third of the immigrants were born in Africa.

Needless to say, it doesn’t make much sense to blame the dearth of coastal blood donors on 1 million people. It would make more sense to blame it on the unwillingness of blacks, in general, to be donors. According to Blood

To meet the needs of patients, Blood Centers of the Pacific must collect more than 150,000 pints of blood each year. Yet, of those eligible to donate blood, less than 4 percent do. And of those who give, just 3 percent are African-Americans.

Blacks make up over 12% of the U.S. population – but less than 4% of blood donors. I suppose it would have been unacceptable for David Mitchell to have simply pointed that out – and surely he is aware of it. As for being disqualified from donating blood because of having lived abroad (outside Africa), this does not appear to be the case at all. According to the Red Cross

Those who are at increased risk for becoming infected with HIV are not eligible to donate blood. According to the Food and Drug Administration, you are at increased risk if:

  • you are a male who has had sex with another male since 1977, even once;
  • you have ever used a needle, even once, to take drugs or steroids that were not prescribed by a physician;
  • you have taken clotting factor concentrates for a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia;
  • you were born in or lived in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Niger, or Nigeria since 1977 (This requirement is related to concerns about HIV Group O.
  • you have taken drugs or money in exchange for sex since 1977;
  • you have ever had a positive test for HIV virus;
  • you have symptoms of HIV infection including unexplained weight loss, night sweats, blue or purple spots on or under the skin, long-lasting white spots or unusual sores in your mouth, lumps in your neck, armpits, or groin that last more than a month, fever higher than 99 degrees that lasts more than 10 days, diarrhea lasting over a month, or persistent cough and shortness of breath;

Funny how political correctness takes a back seat to safety when it comes to blood donations – except that certain African countries, that have very high HIV infection rates (such as South Africa) are conspicuously absent from the above list. But that’s for another post.

I also found Mitchell’s insinuation that church-goers are more likely to be blood donors than others interesting. If so, then the highest concentration of donors should be in the South. I think it’s more accurate to say that conservatives are more likely to be donors than liberals. Conservatives are more generous than liberals and whites are more conservative than non-whites. Hence, whites are more likely to be generous than non-whites. That’s the answer that David Mitchell would have given – if it were permitted to speak the naked truth, about race, in publications such as Sky Magazine.