Hand Washing and Race at Boston Medical Center

On Thursday, I was finally discharged from Boston Medical Center after nine full days in the hospital.  The reason for such a long stay–and my adventures while admitted –will be revealed in a few upcoming blog posts.  For now, I am healthy, healing, and one gallbladder lighter.  We’ll leave it at that.  Anyway, during my stay, I spent a lot of time lying around in the same room, seeing the same signs, the same whiteboard, the same snowy tv, and the same view of the city, and one thing that struck me was the hospital’s “hand wash or hands off” campaign flyers. 

Boston Medical Center is the city’s safety net for the poor, homeless, and many with few healthcare options.  Despite the pressures of being the busiest emergency room in the city–by far–the department at BMC is one of the most efficient and effective in Boston and a model for urban medical centers nationwide.  In addition, the health workers treat everyone with the same compassion, respect and level of care, irrespective of race, ethnic background and economic status.  That is why I found the signs promoting hand washing so out of place, and strangely old school racist–the kind of subtle message that equates “good” and “right” with white and “bad” and “wrong” with dark.  Here’s an example:

BMC hand washing campaign

The clean hand is a smiling white boy with rosy cheeks and the bacteria-riddled dirty hand is of some other ethnic origin.  Why does whitey always get to play the good guy?  I say teach whitey a lesson in humility by making him the festering disease hand.  See how he likes “hands off” for a change.  No wonder that when Kiri Davis repeated the Kenneth and Mamie Clark doll experiments in 2005, she got similar results: even black children prefer to play with white dolls.  It’s time that minority dolls had a fighting chance.  I think it starts by making whitey the dispicable dirty hand.  What do you say, BMC???

4 Responses to “Hand Washing and Race at Boston Medical Center”

  1. jonny goldstein Says:

    It’s time to show whitey as the bacterially festering vector of disease that whitey is. Thanks for this public service announcement.

  2. Giro Says:

    First of all Scurvy is Whitey’s disease of choice. Don’t think he got off lightly with that one. Secondly, I assume this was an editorial oversight, but you left out how much valium you were on during those nine days and that by the time that sign started “talking” to you were swimming in a sea of nirvana.

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