Cancer, Cultural Competence, and Good Medicine

Cancer, Cultural Competence, and Good Medicine

A friend’s mom was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. Her experience provided a jolting dose of the reality that lies behind the rather lifeless terminology that advocates sometimes use – in this case, cultural competence — and what it means for good medicine. Cultural competence, as former Greenlining Fellow Daniel Cano pointed out, simply means “care that respects diversity and honors cultural factors central to patients’ lives, including language, communication styles, and traditions.” Particularly in a state as diverse as California, good medicine can’t happen without it. My friend and his family are immigrants, having come to the U.S. from Asia when he was a child. He picked up English…
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Tales of White Privilege – Police Edition

Tales of White Privilege – Police Edition

From time to time I’ve written here about my experiences of White privilege – sometimes to incredulous responses from White readers who steadfastly refuse to believe that White privilege exists. Well, it does, and I saw it again during a recent vacation in Utah, when a highway mishap caused me to need help from the police. Though police shootings of unarmed, young,  Black men don’t get the headlines they did a couple years ago, they keep happening – as the family of Antwon Rose knows far too well. White folks like me simply don’t live in the same world when it comes to encounters with police officers, as my recent…
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Who Will Save Journalism?

Who Will Save Journalism?

As both a citizen and an advocate, I’m terrified by what’s happening to journalism in America. We seem to be watching the disintegration of the news business, and no one seems to know what to do about it. Here at The Greenlining Institute, we change policy the old-fashioned way: by doing research, listening to communities, and trying to put what we learn into ideas that will help level the playing field for people and communities for whom the “American Dream” has too often seemed like a distant, improbable fantasy. Then we try to persuade those with power – legislators, regulators, corporate leaders – to put those ideas into action. That…
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Why I Don’t Speak Spanish: The Collateral Damage of Prejudice

Why I Don’t Speak Spanish: The Collateral Damage of Prejudice

I wish I knew how to speak Spanish. Not only would it be incredibly useful in my current job here at Greenlining, I can think of hundreds of occasions in the past when it would have helped. But I don’t speak Spanish for precisely one reason: prejudice. In 6th grade – the last year of grade school in my district – we’d learned a smattering of Spanish via a teacher who came into our class once a week, Señora Rosa. Starting middle school the next year (1968, for anyone who’s counting – but please don’t) offered me my first chance to take a foreign language class every day. With a…
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An Open Letter to the Next Mayor of San Francisco: Confront Gentrification

An Open Letter to the Next Mayor of San Francisco: Confront Gentrification

The sad, sudden death of Mayor Ed Lee shocked not only San Franciscans, but people all over the Bay Area.  As a person, Lee was almost universally liked. His low-key, gentle style came as a relief after the flamboyant personalities of Gavin Newsom and Willie Brown. His policies proved more controversial, but whatever one thinks of specific decisions, there can be no doubt that during Lee’s tenure, San Francisco gentrification went from being a concern to a full-blown crisis. As a 24-year city resident, I feel compelled to offer a few thoughts to the next mayor of San Francisco: Dear Mayor, I don’t know your name yet, or your politics…
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Native American Genocide and American Exceptionalism

Native American Genocide and American Exceptionalism

In 1846, California had a Native American population of about 150,000. Just 27 years later, that figure had plummeted to just 30,000. I didn’t learn that as a schoolkid in southern California in the 1960s; I picked up that and lots of other facts I was never taught from a recent book called “An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe,” by UCLA history professor Benjamin Madley. And that got me thinking about “American exceptionalism.” American exceptionalism, explains historian Ian Tyrrell, “refers to the special character of the United States as a uniquely free nation based on democratic ideals and personal liberty.” California’s 19th century Native American…
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