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Offering Compassion to the Victims of AIDS

September 03, 1989

The predicament of Elizabeth Glaser and her family's struggle with the AIDS virus is heartbreaking, and her advocacy work for AIDS funding and research is courageous and commendable. But a very telling quote in the recent View article on the Glasers came from Sandy Brock, wife of Reagan's former Secretary of Labor Bill Brock: "She has (the AIDS virus), but she isn't black, she isn't poor, she isn't homosexual, she isn't a drug user. She is 'like the rest of us.' " (emphasis mine).

What Brock perhaps unwittingly suggests is that because Glaser is a non-black, non-gay member of a privileged upper-middle class, her plight is somehow more worthy of attention and sympathy than, say, the homeless minority mother dying on the streets or the gay son or father, afflicted by the virus, his financial resources depleted while facing social discrimination that includes the highest incidence of "gay bashing" in the past several decades.

AIDS has disenfranchised many groups of people, and the roots of this lie in attitudes like Brock's, people who can only "confront our anger and our prejudices and start doing something" when an acceptable role martyr like Glaser is presented.

This social stratification of society, where a fatal virus isn't worthy of attention until it shows up in the white, heterosexual, drug-free neighborhoods, is one of the reasons too many government and medical officials dragged their heels in the initial phases of the AIDS crises until it was too late and we were confronted with the worst public health catastrophe of the late 20th Century, one that took away the Glasers' daughter. A compassionate, concerned awareness of those whom AIDS affects must be given to all sectors of humanity, even if they're not always "like the rest of us."

CRAIG LEE, Los Angeles

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