To the Editor:
The article “Strategies for Expanding Your Patient Base in Diverse Communities” [May 2000, page 31] was excellent overall, but I was disturbed by the authors’ decision to follow the current fad and refer to people of European ancestry as people of “white Anglo backgrounds.”
“White” is a value-laden word connoting purity (the only “white” patients I’ve seen have either been severely anemic or dead). Moreover, I’m sure that many people of Irish or German-European descent, as I am, would not care to be referred to as “Anglo.” I would think either “Caucasian” or “people of European descent” would be more accurate terms.
Dr. Devitt raises important questions and reinforces a point Dr. Strothers and I tried to make in the article, which is that no one likes to be lumped into broad ethnic categories. We used the term “Anglo” not to represent British ancestry, but rather to describe people whose first language is English and whose culture is non-Hispanic.
I could be described in Dr. Devitt’s terms as Caucasian or European-American. I’m clearly not white (actually I’m pale-orange and kind of freckly). People of my skin color have the luxury of pretending for months or years at a time that we live in a color-blind society. If I’m to become one with people of color in my community, I must break through my own personal denial and own the fact that I’m unlikely to be pulled over by police in certain neighborhoods because of how I look and I’m more likely to be referred for a cardiac catheterization due to chest pain because I’m perceived in the health care encounter as “not a person of color.”
Dr. Strothers and I agree that in skin color we’re all just different shades of human, but describing myself as a “white Anglo” is one imperfect way to acknowledge that the experience of people of color is different and that I am willing to be part of a diverse community that works to change these dynamics.