Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Tonya Battle, an African-American nurse at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan, claims a note was posted on a nursery assignment clipboard reading “No African-American nurse to take care of baby.” Ms. Battle has sued, seeking punitive damages. The hospital’s president explained that the father bore a swastika tattoo, which concerned supervisors about the staff's safety.

This being the United States in the twenty-first century, whoever received the father’s request should have bellowed, “Dude, even the state of Mississippi just ratified the Thirteenth Amendment. You can either accept the nurses we give you or take your business elsewhere.” But no. According to Ms. Battle, the note in question was later removed, but black nurses weren't assigned to the baby's care for a month.

What troubles me about this story isn’t the racial angle as much as the fact that more staff—of any race—didn’t scream bloody murder. We seem increasingly reluctant to take moral stands. Ms. Battle served as Rosa Parks here, but why weren’t more voices raised? The major issue is, I think, deference to authority.

For a realistic and compelling view of this phenomenon, see the recent film “Compliance,” about employees in a fast-food restaurant who humiliate a fellow worker at the behest of someone claiming to be a cop. I guess they weren’t aware of Gandhi’s advice, “Never do the wrong thing, even if the authorities require it.”


  1. I once read an article about the importance of being an anti-bigot! Not just remaining silent or inactive, but letting intolerant people know that their attitude or behavior was not acceptable.

    It takes courage to fight the good fight as you are doing, Jeff!

    I have a wish that this innocent child grows up to be an anti-bigot, as children often can see the examples that are set for them by their parents as negative as well as positive.

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