Last night, I delivered a presentation about language rights to Somos America, an rights-based coalition in Arizona. The presentation has been designed by Midwestern Pharmacy students over a couple of semesters, and includes information about Title 6 Civil Rights Act of 1964.
While few people in the general public are familiar with Title 6 and the protections it affords everyone, almost all of us in the immigrant community comprehend the importance of communicating with health providers in a language that we understand. This statement, in part, comes out of a frustration with the medical establishment generally, and also an acknowledgement that we, as service organizations, do not do enough to advocate for our “language rights.” If we did everything possible to ensure that our right to information is secure, we can be assured that the health services people receive will serve them better than they would without that right.
At the heart of it, we are still talking about communication between people and health providers, access to information, and civil rights. This is a perfect storm, so to speak. One in which we cannot be afraid to confront or timid in our strategy and response. In the case of language rights, we have the law on our side already – unlike many laws we have seen coming out of Arizona. Further, we do not have to be citizens to avail ourselves of this right; it is a federal law that protects each and every person under the jurisdiction of the United States government. If our rights are violated, we can file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights under the Department of Health and Human Services or Department of Education, depending on where the violation occurs. Please contact Health Through Action Arizona if we can assist anyone with filing a complaint.
As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month, I hope that we can focus our energy on uplifting the strengths and uniqueness of our communities. Language and culture are among the most prized possessions of our collective. Let us protect them with courage and fortitude.
Abrazos – Zeenat