Free vision test for Latinos draws critics in Aspen
ASPEN – Messages with strong racial overtones were left on the answering machine of a local eye doctor who is offering free glaucoma screenings for valley Latinos next month.
Dr. David Singer discovered two messages on his office answering machine after an article was published in The Aspen Times about the offer.
“How much is this exam going to cost for a legal resident, compared to the free rate offered for these illegal, boarder-jumping Latinos?” the first caller asked.
The second caller labeled the free screenings “reverse discrimination” and said it was “pretty screwed up” that Singer was making the offer. She also said the doctor may face lawsuits.
Singer will now offer the free screening to all people, regardless of race.
Singer, who started his Aspen practice five years ago, said he was saddened by the messages. He said he planned the free screenings in response to research showing Latinos are more likely to have the disease than Caucasians, but are less likely to be screened.
He said everyone will be treated equally during the examination, set for Dec. 6 starting at 9 a.m. and running most of the day. An interpreter will be available.
In a follow-up discussion with the Times, the first caller, who refused to be named, said he called because he found it unfair that he should have to pay for a screening when “some Mexican, probably illegal, gets it for free.”
“The reason I don’t want to give my name,” he added, “is because some bleeding heart around here will probably call me a racist and take away from my business.”
A dejected Singer said he had hoped this type of sentiment didn’t exist in the valley.
“I think a lot of people come to the valley thinking of it as a type of Nirvana,” he said. “But in many ways that’s a false perception. Just under the surface there’s a lot of ugly feelings around here.
“The sad thing is to learn that we aren’t that different from anywhere else.”