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COVID- 19: 75217 Should Be The Priority in Dallas

COVID- 19: 75217 Should Be The Priority in Dallas

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to be socially distant and we are experiencing anxiety and growing concern for the future of our city.

With the increasing number of barriers working against us, we cannot be certain black, brown communities in our city have access to COVID-19 testing or treatment. The COVID-19 map has given many a false sense of reality. Pastor Michael Waters states in a recent article that it is always worse for these communities. And it will be worse in 75217.

On January 30th, Dallas County Health and Human Services and Parkland Hospital held a public presentation on the County’s Health Needs Assessment. In the presentation, it was sited that the Hispanic/Latino population is the highest uninsured. Zip codes 75216 and 75217 experience the highest levels of health disparities and African American men in these zip codes over-represent the correctional health population. In 75217, we do not have adequate grocery stores; 40% of the population does not have the internet. The access and infrastructure are lacking on a regular day, pre-COVID-19. We can only expect that these health determinants will also shape the coronavirus curve.

When I first saw the map of COVID-19 confirmed cases in Dallas, I noticed the wealthiest areas in the city had the most cases. I assumed that perhaps people in zip code 75225 were at higher risk because of business travel or spring break vacations. 

Confirmed COVID-19 cases per zip code as of 3/27/2020

A 911 call on Friday, March 27th caused a paradigm shift. I left my work Zoom conference call abruptly. I had received a text saying that I needed to call an ambulance. I could hear a young girl sobbing across the road. Her dad, a Latino single father, started feeling mildly ill a couple of days ago, and now had a high fever, shortness of breath, and was hallucinating. Initially, I was paralyzed in my response because I could not rush over to see the situation for myself.

Ambulance Pleasant Grove 51 arrived in under 10 minutes and from the end of my driveway, I pointed the two white responders to the house. I was impressed and proud of the promptness of our Dallas Fire-Rescue Department. In previous experiences, response times have not been under 10 minutes in the area.

Soon my neighbor was in the ambulance. One responder seemed to shoo me away, even though I remained more than six feet away.

Finally, I sensed that the ambulance was about to pull away. “Preguntale a donde van?” “Ask them where they are going?” said my neighbor’s brother. He had not been able to ask, or the responders were not interested in communicating. Several neighbors were also outside watching. I signaled and the EMT rolled down his window. He had a penetrating look of disgust and disrespect.

“What do you want?!” he scolded.

“Where will you take him?” 

“Baylor [Hospital]!” he yelled in annoyance.

The demeanor of the responder was unacceptable in a role that should show compassion. Although disappointed, I tried to create an explanation for the behavior. He has been working long hours; he is putting his family at risk. Maybe my neighbor’s house seemed inadequate or maybe it was the poor neighborhood with no sidewalk, or he was frustrated with the family’s lack of English?

No explanation will suffice. How can we be sure that there is equity for all patients and their families during a time of pandemic.

I am a cultural broker in my Latinx community. Through the years, my responsibilities have increased from helping my parents navigate systems to assisting others in the community. This is a shared reality among many of us first-generation sons and daughters of immigrants.

Many American citizens are first-generation Americans with Latin American immigrant parents.  They grew up being cultural brokers within their families and even their communities.A cultural broker can be defined as one who translates the rules and culture of the wider society to members of a newcomer or minority population and advocates on behalf of that group.

The cultural brokerage system in the Latino community is essential to the community’s wellbeing. Although there may be an abundance of information circulating on COVID-19, it is at times like this that the communication of trusted, accurate, and culturally relevant information is most needed.  I am a collector of information for resources, schools, court orders, and other pertinent information that I can share as a trusted source in a culturally sensitive way with my family, friends, and neighbors.

The emergency responder that yelled at me did not understand my role as a cultural broker. He lacked cultural competency and provided me a glimpse of the possible lack of training needed to suppress racism and discrimination engrained in our society’s structures.

Our essential businesses and hospitals are working hard. We are proud of our county and city. We are all in this together; we are all experiencing change. All these statements are true. It was one 15 second interaction with one person you might say, but I cannot let it go. Why does it matter? It matters because one bad reaction can cause trauma, like in the crying little girl who does not understand where they are taking her dad, distrust, and fear from those neighbors watching from their homes, and anger in those that know this is not justice.

Elected officials, healthcare workers, employers, schools and those with privilege must think first of communities that were failed by our systems before the pandemic. Listen to our families and situations even if it makes you uncomfortable. We cannot allow our current culture of social distancing to increase our apathy for social injustices, even at the smallest level. Do not let the opportunity to show kindness and care for one another as human beings go to waste. 

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