I thought Jim Crow was dead, buried, and moldering in his grave nearly 60 years ago when the United States Supreme Court struck down state sponsored public school segregation. Ten years later the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted to drive a stake into the heart of Jim Crow. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 followed and segregation between the races has been erased ever since.
But old attitudes tend to die hard, and it appears that Jim Crow’s ghost has been haunting the hallways of Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. Tonya Battle, a veteran nurse employee of 25 years there, was shocked recently to discover that her employer had agreed to a man's request that no African-Americans care for his baby.
Yes, more than a decade into the 21st century, and 60 years after the death of Jim Crow, a hospital in a northern state, which happens to be located within a community consisting primarily of blacks, actually honored the irrational and outrageous request of a white racial bigot based solely upon the dark color of her skin.
The bigot approached her while she was caring for his child in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, asking to speak to her supervisor. She pointed the charge nurse in his direction.
Then the bigot showed the charge nurse a tattoo of "a swastika of some kind" and told her that he didn't want African-Americans involved in his baby's care. His request made its way through the hospital’s management ranks, and was granted. Nurse Battle's manager called her at home to tell her she would be reassigned -- and why.
A note was posted in a prominent spot on the baby's medical chart: "Please, no African-American nurses to care for ... baby per dad's request." For more than a month no African American nurses were assigned to care for the child. After that, the hospital's lawyer objected to the decision, and the note was removed. The staff then told the father that they could no long honor his request.
So nurse Battle is now suing the hospital, claiming it engaged in unlawful employer discrimination based upon race. She was “shocked and in disbelief,” her attorney told reporters. "She was very upset. She was very offended."
Of course she was, and there is no doubt in my mind that nurse Battle has a richly deserved payday coming for what happened to her. It’s hard for me to believe that a hospital’s management could be so utterly stupid and insensitive in a case like this.
That bigot should have been told straight off that his prejudiced request could in no possible way be honored, and that if he didn’t like it, he would have to find medical treatment for his baby elsewhere.
But instead, for more than a month, the frightening ghost of Jim Crow was allowed to haunt the premises of Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan