White, privileged, and diabetic

privileges/racial superiority I receive from being perceived as white with diabetes:

  • I receive and/or am more likely to receive better quality health care and treatment than a person of color even if we have the same insurance status, income, age, and similar medical condition
  • The majority of my medical providers at the clinic are people who look like me, especially doctors (white males)
  • I do not have to be concerned about my race affecting the quality of treatment I receive by my endocrinologist (such as the amount of time the doctor spends with me, the way he talks with me, what options he suggests for me, trust, if they will give me free samples, self determination, if I am considered rational, how aggressive they are or I am perceived to be, etc.). I do not have to experience racism from my health care providers.
  • When I attend a diabetes support group, I can expect that most if not all the people are people of my race
  • I can afford to have an insulin pump, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and other new technological gadgets for diabetes management because historically white families who have immigrated to the U.S. are allowed more economic opportunities than people of color, and our family has benefited from that. Part of our family immigrated from Germany, owned land (that was stolen from indigenous people), and were given more economic privileges (such as non-exclusion from certain occupations) based on their skin color like many white people are.
  • I can always see an endocrinologist or other diabetes specialist that reflects my race; I have never had a doctor that wasn’t white and of another racial background
  • The video game character “Captain Novolin” reflected my race as the powerful diabetic superhero.
  • My race (white culture) is widely represented in popular diabetes media. This can be seen in things like magazines, books, film, websites, advertisements for diabetes supplies/services, diabetic icons, fundraisers, etc.
  • When I attended diabetes camps, mostly everyone (both counselors and attendees) were white.
  • Although there are books written on diabetes by people of color, all the books I own on diabetes are written by white authors.
  • I do not have to think about my race at all if I don’t want to regarding diabetes. I do not have to respond to racism, it is a choice for me.
  • I do not have to experience racist actions against me and my (white) community and deal with all that comes with that, on top of managing my diabetes, because we are the key perpetrators of racism. We (white people) are the key perpetrators of racism because we uphold institutionalized and systemic racism in direct and indirect ways (consciously or unconsciously). White people exclusively benefit from institutionalized racism and in turn it oppresses and marginalizes people of color. Public education, employment, policing, the prison industry, media and corporations, the government, organizations, the unequal distribution of resources, and so forth are most commonly set up through racist policy and practice to exclusively benefit white people at the expense of people of color. Racism was invented by white folks for these sorts of purposes, i.e. white supremacy.
  • I nor my family have not been told that I/we have a genetic predisposition (or are biologically inferior) for diabetes based on our racial characteristics. I am told by science that I am less likely to have diabetes because I am white.
  • At the clinics I use, the cleaning and maintenance staff are usually people of color while the staff that are in higher level positions are usually white.
  • If I pursued becoming a diabetes educator or other diabetes professional, I would have a much higher chance in being hired based on my race.
  • I can deflect personal and collective responsibility of white people for dismantling institutional and interpersonal racism by using diabetes as an excuse of ‘already having enough to deal with’

  • The popular lens of people who have made historical discoveries and inventions of diabetes technology (insulin, pumps, glucose meters, medication, etc.) usually reflect people of my race as the holders of knowledge, and excludes or looks down upon discoveries/insights from people of color and their contributions within the field of diabetes.
  • The officially recognized name of the disease I have is derived from European language (Greek)
  • When I attended a diabetes research conference at Microsoft, all or almost all of the speakers and researchers represented my race and researched from a white male perspective
  • More than I can see. My white privileges and unintentional racist ways of acting are hard for me to see, because I have been given white privileges and training to be racist since I started living and was never taught about them or took the time to learn about them until recently. I am trying to uncover the things that are easy to go unnoticed/invisible to me, yet I know I am probably missing many more. This list is what I can think right now of how I benefit from being white with diabetes.

Obviously, no races are superior, however our institutions practice and teach us as if the white race is supreme. Everybody deserves basic human dignity, rights, and respect, and to not have to deal with something as destructive as racism. Yet here we are, and the disease of racism needs to be addressed and healed.

What are the costs of institutionalized racism and diabetes care? If you have experienced white/perceived white racial privilege, what are your privileges with diabetes?

Have you ever been to the White Privilege Conference? I was really lucky that it was hosted in my city last year. I attended a conference on white privilege in mental health and many of these same points were brought up, yet I never thought to relate them to diabetes health. I will definitely be thinking more about this!

I find that age relegates my status to less than young people, too.

I have not been to the conference, though I have heard about it, how was it? Seems like there would be a lot of connections with mental health and diabetes..I'd be interested in hearing any more thoughts that come up or you want to share, thanks for the response!

I've selected doctors who happen to be Indian for a while, figuring they will be likely to be underselected by the burgeoning T2 population (I was in Champaign, IL, a diverse college town but it also provides medical services/ specialists for a rural county that is generally rather caucasian...) so that I will be able to get in to see them better. I was in a hurry to get a pump. I liked the doc and did the same thing when I moved. I like my doc. Staff @ the office are bothersome sometimes but ok. I figure a small clinic is ok compared to a bigger clinic although sometimes I think maybe the hours would be more convenient? When I was heavier, I picked heavier docs, figuring that they'd be less likely to bust my chops for being heavier.

Hmmm.. I am a white diabetic and when I was diagnosed, I had no insurance. I was definitelky discriminated. My husband was laid off in April. I went into DKA coma end of July. When I woke up, they literally kicked me out. Blood sugar of 300 and instructions to take 25u Levemir and 5u reg with meals. No syringes, no insulin and no glucometer. Went to pharmacy and paid over 400 dollars for insulin, bought a glucometer and 1 box of strips for $120, syringes for $11. I travel for a living and couldn't work because my sugars were too high and labile...I received no financial help from anyone!!! Thank GOD my husband got a job in Dec and we were able to get insurance to cover insulin...We sold everything we could for those months to support my "new habit"--insulin and testing supplies. So, I was never privledged with being a white diabetic. I think people see what they want to see and not the big picture!

I find it interesting that you have primarily white doctors. Since my diagnosis at age 6 I've had 5 endos, and 4 were not white. I've had 3 PCPs in my life and 1 wasn't white. Of course, it doesn't matter to me what race they are, it's just an observation.

Must depend on where we live.

Jujube I agree with you. I think people see it the way they want to see it and not the big picture. I am not white and I had most of the above happen to me. My education and what I do for a living have given me the opportunity to have the privileges described above. When I was first diagnosed I was put in a private room in ICU for three days and had a private room the days that followed. With my insurance that I had my bill that would of cost a person with no insurance 40,000 dollars was only 200 dollars. At that time I was laid off but had to take my savings and other money to pay 1000 a month for insurance. I often thought of the disperity in health care from a money perspective and not a race perspective.

I have had a lot of tests that most endos dont perform because they are too expensive for others done because I wanted answers to questions. I test at least 1000 times for a 3 month period as a type 2 because I can afford to go out and buy test strips when I use up the ones supplied by insurance. I never had a doctor discriminate against me. My money is just as green as the any other person of any race. I think the title should be more like green, priviledge, and diabetic. I dont really believe in a race bias but more of a money and insurance bias.

Patient X you hit the nail on the head, if you know what I mean. If you have no insurance or crappy insurance , these Dr's don't care much about you. But if you have good insurance , they order every test they can think of and then some just to make a buck.

Well, if you want to flagellate yourself, go ahead. I personally have rarely experienced discrimination, but my parents and grandparents did, not for being non-white, but for being Jewish and East-European. (They changed their names in order to hide the fact). I've had doctors of all nationalities and ethnic groups, have worked with all groups, and socialized with all groups, and I feel responsible for what I myself do, but not for the actions of others. And one point in particular: when you're a minority, OF COURSE you're probably going to be the only one of your group in a class or clinic or whatever. Unless you want to go back to segregation, that is!

You raised some excellent points, greenclouds. I have a less-common perspective as a multi-racial person who is white enough to "pass". Most of the time I get all the white privileges based on my observable skin color, but I also get to be the Chippewa/Ojibwa in the room hearing the white people make crass, thoughtless and insensitive comments about "indians". It doesn't happen all that often, but when it does I feel oddly invisible and outraged. One memorable event about thirty years ago was listening to people in a church meeting suggesting that it was probably a good thing to sterilize "indian" women because of the poverty on the res and because "they" (I/we) refuse to assimilate "the way other immigrants do". Um...immigrants?

I also get to watch the stereotypes about "indians" in movies, television shows, advertisements, sports programs, etc. with weird stereo vision: one part of me seeing "indians" from a white perspective and another part of me seeing whites from an "indian" perspective. It's a very odd way of being, but I've been doing it for so long that it's second nature to switch back and forth in my head.

Other than the fact that the pump adhesives I use are all either transparent or white (and I don't mean Caucasian flesh-toned, I mean stark white!) I'm not so sure I agree that being a white person with diabetes makes me privileged. I could cite the pediatric endo who treated me for the first third of my d-Life (Hispanic), and the various caretakers I've had, and I think it more has to do with where I lived than what they are capable of. When I lived in Long Island, my endo was an orthodox Jew. Now living in northern New Jersey, my doc is Italian. I feel like when I've been treated at University/teaching hospitals, I've been seen by more a more racially diverse group.

The woman whose picture is on the Sof-sensor box is not white... and she gets to eat carrot cake! (And Natalie HATES that... the cake part, not her being Asian). Is that a privilege?

Perhaps I'm naive, but I don't believe the diabetes care someone receives has anything to do with their race. Economic status and ability to pay for it, yes... that's just the way it works in the United States. But to believe that a white person would be given test strips, gratis, because of the color of their skin while a person of color would have to pay through the nose for it is, to me, ludicrous. Again, this is my own opinion - I've never expereinced it.

Usually I think of health care in our country as being driven by profit. I'm no expert but in my experience doctors treat patients equally.I had a wonderful doctor for 28 years who was from the Philippines and now have a doctor from Africa. The doctor who delivered my babies was from India. Apparently they come to the USA to make money but we benefit from their knowledge.

My endo is a white male also with Type 1 diabetes. When it comes to the insulin pump he's more pushy with a white person getting one than he is with someone who's not white. He only has like two other people who are not white. All his other patients are white. When I became pregnant there was a month waiting list to get into to see him but I was able to get in the next day. He actually bumped another patient who wasn't white to another date and time just so I could get in and get the blood work that I needed.

Cherise, how do you know these things about your endocrinologist? The number of his patients who are not white? The fact that he "bumped" a non-white patient in order to see you? Do you work in the same clinic?

I am Eastern-European....and while yes, I have indeed noticed that the vast majority of doctors and nurses are white...I have not really seen any special treatment towards me. Possibly I have not been in the game long enough. But the wait times are still brutal, that I can say.

LaGuitariste, you find out a lot from talkative nurses and registration staff especially when they want to ■■■■■ about things and you lend a helpful ear to them. I dont work anywhere in healthcare. I'm a graphic/web designer but cannot work right now.

If you think just being white has all the best treatment, try being white, female, and with no insurance.

SarahB, I know what you mean by being white, female and having no insurance. Until October 2010, I had no insurance so for 5 years I had no insurance. The only time I would see a doctor is when I would need refills on insulin but with assistance programs I actually could stop even doing that because they would contact the doctor to get the prescription sent to them. It wasn't until I married my husband in October 2010 that I was able to start getting better treatment, but it has caused me complications for those 5 years. My first husband wouldn't put me on his insurance at all.

Cherise, that's terrible! It really sucks how insurance is basically the deciding factor in diabetes care and management.

I was, at the time, working, but my employer didn't offer insurance to "contractors." I wasn't making enough money to cover the $400+ needed for private insurance, but none of the assistance programs would help me out because I "was making too much." ($10 an hour.)

I had a whole conversation with a guy at Medtronic where I said, "So what you're telling me is that, in order to get help paying for my supplies, I have to quit my job," and he said, "Basically, yes."