Oppression, doctors, and immigration inspections

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m reading Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. So far, I’ve only managed the first chapter (as well as all the front matter). The first chapter has been a bit of a challenge – but I did find that after a while the ideas and concepts were repeating themselves, with slightly different nuances. I am finding that as I read, I compare to the US election, the US anti-immigration/anti-refugee/anti-muslim rhetoric, as well as my context as a patient (which doesn’t’ really compare from a hate perspective, but the themes of objectification still happen – patients become their diseases).

“It is only the oppressed who, freeing themselves, can free their oppressors” (Freire, 2000, p. 56)

“the former oppressors do not feel liberated. On the contrary, they genuinely consider themselves to be oppressed” (Freire, 2000, p.57)

“certain members of the oppressor class join the oppressed in their struggle for liberation…they cease to be exploiters or indifferent spectators or simply the heirs of exploitation and move to the side of the exploited, they almost always bring with them the marks of their origin: their prejudices and their deformations, which include a lack of confidence in the people’s ability to think, to want, and to know” (Freire, 2000, p.60)

My key take aways:

  • Oppressors dehumanize people and think of them as “things” rather than human beings.
  • The oppressed need to be the ones who break the cycle
  • The oppressors, when things are equal, feel as if they are oppressed
  • The oppressors struggle with feeling that the oppressed are competent

One of the reflections I had while reading was questioning why I feel uncomfortable with the idea of even asking my care providers (physicians specifically) permission to use their real names / identities in my research. I struggle with even asking them if they want to be a more active “part” of my research, proofreading my interpretations of events and perhaps clarifying their own intentions in the process. A friend mentioned that she was collaborating on research with her surgeon – and I found that to be a very uncomfortable idea. I find that I worry that asking for collaboration puts me at risk of losing healthcare – of being fired by my doctors – and that is definitely a sign of oppressor/oppressed relationship. The funny thing is that I have no issue asking any of the nurses or other allied health professionals (e.g. physical therapists).

I find that when it comes to healthcare, I’m putting the doctors on a pedestal, and reinforcing the power relationships. This might just give me the courage I need to ask the question – in the non-clinical context.   The care providers that play an active role in my story are almost all clinical professors and a such also have non-clinical email addresses. I find that I think of myself, a PhD Candidate, as somehow inferior to the MDs who are providing my healthcare. The reality is that they have a different set of expertise. I have my own expertise, and it is just as valuable as their expertise. Only, I really do have to submit my life to their hands when it comes to my care (especially the case with surgeons). What is especially odd here, is that I have in some ways collaborated with their research, providing blood samples for their experiments, but also providing pictures of my body, which they used in publication about the type of surgery I had. So I felt OK helping them in their research, and yet I feel uncomfortable asking them to help in mine.

An Aside: Another book that I finished reading on this trip is: Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream by Joshua Davis. It is the true story of a robotics team from an impoverished school district in Phoenix Arizona. The setting was rather appropriate for where we are now – as I sit writing this post from the Arizona dessert just south of Why Arizona – where there are signs indicating that human smuggling is illegal. Anyway, this book does a really good job of humanizing the children of illegal Mexican immigrants. The children go to the same schools, and are raised as American rather than Mexican. And yet, if they want to become “legal” they need to go back to Mexico – a place that their parents fled when they were very young – so they have no context of Mexico, nor anyplace to live or call home there. If found that as I read the book, I understood better the rhetoric of what is happening here. Anyways, I really wanted to share the book, as it is very well written and a great story. As we drove past an immigration checkpoint (well within the borders of Arizona), we reflected on how we didn’t have any ID beyond our California drivers licenses. However, we also reflected that we are white, and as result, it isn’t going to be an issue. That is a sad truth.

Back to the healthcare question – would you feel comfortable asking your doctors to participate in your research? Why or why not?

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