Skip Navigation
NPR News

Do Public Apologies Matter?

Jul 14, 2008

Share this


Explore this

Reported by

Michel Martin

Happy Bastille Day!

And what that has to do with us? Not a darn thing, except I'll take any excuse for a party. Champagne, anyone?

Onto today's business, which is not the happiest. (You might want that glass of bubbly, I don't know.)

The American Medical Association (AMA) is offering apologies for its legacy of aiding and abetting racism in the medical profession. I want to point out the Washington Post piece, which broke the story last week. It details exactly why the AMA's history of excluding African American physicians matters, or did matter.

African Americans within the medical community were often denied hospital privileges, or access to continuing education, so they had a hard time being trained on the latest techniques. They were also denied scholarships because, often, the AMA would not give any support to doctors trained at black hospitals. And on, and on ...

Is this ancient history?

No.

Dr. Carl Bell, one of Chicago's (and frankly the country's) most prominent physicians, experienced many of these things in the late 1960's and early 70's. Bell was one of our guests on today's program, along with AMA immediate past president Dr. Ronald Davis, who wrote the apology.

Our question to you: Do you care? Does this matter?

Does this make clear the organization's "current moral orientation," as Davis put it, or is it just a way to relieve past guilt.

... Too little, too late (or some other point of view we haven't thought of)? No need to open old wounds? Do public apologies matter?

And, today's conversation about undocumented immigrant undergrads ... Here is where I hope we can have a deeper discussion because, frankly, I don't think we got all the way there in the interview, for which I take full responsibility. I'll just say it: it was interesting to hear the existentialist, as well as the practical dilemmas of undocumented college undergrads, but I still feel there are social equity issues that were not fully explored.

Is this a sins-of-the-fathers question, like the apologies for past racism? Are we asking children who were brought here by their parents without papers to pay for their parents' decision by denying them access to higher education, for which they would otherwise be qualified?

Are we encouraging more people to break the law? Are we flouting the law? ... Or, is this common sense, suggesting that if people are here in the U.S., they should be as well trained as possible?

Mariana Zamboni, one of our guests in today's discussion, had these thoughts after the interview (posted with her permission):

... I left feeling unaccomplished, especially when I had to answer the question Ms. Martin asked Professor Wong and I about social equity and granting undocumented immigrants privileges/rights above those waiting in line. Although I support the importance of complying to the law and understand that undocumented immigrants broke the law by entering the country without proper documentation or overstaying their visa, reality is that when migration determines if you live or die, waiting in line for 10 years is not feasible. The factors that lead many immigrants to leave their countries is rarely addressed. The war and poverty led many Guatemalans to migrate many illegally, like my family. What is rarely discussed is the involvement of the U.S. government in training and financing the war in Guatemala. So, we are here because they were there. U.S. foreign policy has had a huge impact on the economic development and social conditions of many Latin American countries, and as a result [there is] pushing and pulling to immigrate to the United States. But, it was difficult for me to express this sentiment on the air because I come from a country that if you speak up against the government you are killed. And, although I don't think I will lose my life, I felt very scared to share my opinion because I am not a naturalized U.S. citizen yet, therefore, I was afraid to speak up. So, through this email, I hope my voice can be fully heard.

What's the right frame for having this discussion? Should we revisit? ... And with whom?

Also regarding today's program, if you have time, I'd love for you to read Ha Jin's story in its entirety. You don't need to be a fan of his work to devour the details of his first summer in America — although, I think it will convert you, as well as the other three essays (one was so heartbreaking, I had a hard time getting through it ... if you have young kids yourself, I bet you can guess which one).

And, TMM's CHEAPSKATE week. What about taking a vacation (horrors!) at home?

I confess my family did not grow up going on vacations, so I don't find this so startling as a concept. But, what I do wonder is: if taking a "staycation," how do you keep your office from bugging you when they know you're at home?

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR

Visitor comments

on:

NCPR is supported by:

This is a Visitor-Supported website.