The term Black Lives Matter was first heard in the media in 2013 when citizens seeking justice took to the streets and social media to protest police brutality and racial discrimination after the death of Black teen Trayvon Martin. After the death of George Floyd earlier this year, the streets were again filled with angry and confused protesters demanding justice and racial equality while shouting the phrase, “Black Lives Matter!”
While recent media brought attention to racial injustice when it comes to police brutality, there still lay other related issues that have yet to be addressed, such as the subject of the unfair treatment of Black professionals in the healthcare system.
Shanee Beckless, Registered Nurse of CHI St. Vincent Rehabilitation Hospital, states, “The country is evolving right now with the Black Lives Matter movement.” She adds, “I believe that healthcare is part of that, because we take care of each other; we take care of people, and we want to have more Blacks in nursing school and more Blacks in the healthcare field.”“
“Being an educated black woman, we are thought to be lesser than an educated white woman. When that happens you have to bite the bullet and keep trying, hopefully you’ll get the respect that you deserve.””
— Shanee Beckless
A major problem when working in the healthcare field while Black is being taken seriously. Even after a Black person has spent their time and money becoming a qualified healthcare professional, he or she is likely to be pushed aside or away. “Typically a black woman is not regarded as knowing anything. We’re thought to have less knowledge than a white person would. So, we have to prove ourselves,” Beckless recalls of her work experience. “Being an educated black woman, we are thought to be lesser than an educated white woman. When that happens you have to bite the bullet and keep trying, hopefully you’ll get the respect that you deserve.”
Black people in the healthcare system, such as Beckless, have to work twice as hard, if not more. Even after Beckless has dedicated the last fifteen years of her life to helping people and learning more everyday, her knowledge and credibility is still doubted. However, the lack of belief in a Black person’s ability to perform as well as a white person’s is not the only racial problem in the healthcare field.
The lack of Black people working in the field is another issue. “This year they did hire a black manager, and she wasn’t there for a good four months before they got rid of her,” Beckless recalls of this matter. “The facility is primarily white, the managers are primarily white. I talked to that manager and tried to convince her to try to hang on as long as she could, but she’d said she couldn’t tolerate it anymore.”
From diversity in the workplace, working twice as hard, to dealing with racist patients, Beckless says, “I smile and I try not to let the comments or their attitudes affect the way that I give my treatment, my healthcare treatment to the patients, because a lot of them are confused. I know that I can do it, that Black people can do it.”