Two shocking stories involving racism and babies have landed in the headlines this week. Firstly, a black nurse is suing Hurley Medical Center in Michigan after staff in the neonatal intensive care unit barred African-American healthcare workers from caring for a white infant at the request of the father. A second story making headlines concerns a white adoptive parent of a black baby who says a white passenger on an airplane struck her son and called him the N-word because he started crying due to altitude changes as the plane descended for landing. Many people have responded to the second story with horror, but there's a debate going on about the first story.
Do parents have the right to choose who cares for their children? Not when their decision is based on racism, and the parent in this case not only didn't want black nurses handling his child he also reportedly sported a swastika tattoo. While it's understandable that a white supremacist wouldn't want a black nurse treating his child, the hospital was wrong for allegedly catering to his preferences. That's because the medical center is bound by the laws of the U.S. government, which prohibit race-based discrimination. As recently as the 20th century, many hospitals in the U.S. were segregated but federal civil rights laws made this practice illegal. That means black doctors and nurses cared for white patients and people of color could not be turned away from "white" hospitals. Since there's no such thing as a "white" hospital anymore, white supremacist parents should seek out the services of white nurse midwives who can come to their homes. It's ridiculous, however, for them to expect medical centers to bend to their racist whims.
Some people have argued that the father's request is the same as a Hispanic patient requesting a Hispanic nurse or a woman requesting a female nurse. Nice try but not quite. If a Hispanic patient speaks primarily Spanish and prefers a healthcare worker who can communicate in that language, it's not discriminatory. If a female patient practices a religion that forbids her to disrobe in front of men, it's not discriminatory for her to request a female healthcare worker.
Moving along, I hope we can all agree that the second news story is despicable if true. Thirty-three-year-old mother Jessica Bennett has accused Joe Rickey Hundley of ordering her to "shut that n---er baby up" when her black adopted son Jonah began crying as their Delta plane made its descent into Atlanta a week ago. After Hundley reportedly hurled a racial slur at the child, he then slapped him in the face, producing a scratch beneath Jonah's right eye, according to Bennett. Hundley faces up to a year in prison if he's convicted of assault. The 60-year-old denies the charges against him, but a witness reports hearing a disturbance in the back of the plane and seeing Hundley hit the child. In addition, Hundley confessed to misdemeanor assault after a fight with his girlfriend in 2007, the Daily Mail reported. While assaulting a woman is awful , striking a strange toddler and insulting him because of his race is unconscionable. I hope if Hundley and Hurley Medical Center are guilty of what they've been accused of, they're punished to the full extent of the law.