In the midst of a pandemic, the most recent series of assaults and deaths of black Americans at the hands of white ones has erupted in protest of systemic racial oppression.
As a naturopathic doctor, one of my core principles is to treat the underlying cause of disease. Sometimes the cause is not eating vegetables. Sometimes the cause is 400 years of systemic oppression.
Right now, the COVID19 pandemic is disproportionately sickening and killing African Americans. (All people of color are getting hit hard, but this week I want to keep the focus on African Americans.)
Why is this happening?
- Disparities in access to medical and preventive health care.
- Healthcare providers dismissive of black medical concerns. One example is Rana Zoe Mungin, a 30-year old teacher who died of COVID19 after being turned away for testing twice. (Here’s a discussion of the phenomenon from New Hampshire Public Radio.
- Well-earned distrust of the medical system. (See this article from The New York Times.)
- Physiological repercussions of historical trauma. (Check out this great Instagram post by my colleague Dr. Gaynel Nave.) This trauma is also current and ongoing.
And it’s not just COVID killing black people. It’s racist police, racist neighbors, a racist medical system and a whole country built on the backs of people of color.
Some recent names, in case you hadn’t heard them: George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY. Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, GA. Tony McDade in Tallahassee, FL. Dion Johnson in Phoenix, AZ.
As a doctor, I stand for treating root causes. That means I stand against racism in all its forms.
For those of us with the privilege of light skins, what can we do?
- See and acknowledge the racism in society and in ourselves.
- Dig into the past and current history of anti-black oppression.
- Seek out and listen to black voices (as well as those of indigenous and other peoples of color.)
- Then amplify those voices.
- Speak and act in solidarity with anti-oppression movements.
- Support black individuals and businesses.
There is a lot to do, whether or not you take it to the streets.
You know I’m not someone to stay silent. But I’ve had a tough time this last week finding my words — because I got stuck looking for the right ones.
Here are two quotations from Black women that I’ve been holding close to my heart. First, from my childhood friend Renee White, quoted with permission:
“White folks need to dismantle white supremacist structures. We need to see that work done loudly, publicly, and embracing the professional and personal toll that will be required. I figure since the very existence of my people puts us at risk then that’s the least they can do. I’m done being gentle with my words. I know my white friends can handle it.”
(Watch her 2020 keynote speech at Wheaton College, where she is the provost.)
Second, from creator Kandise Le Blanc, whom I don’t know personally:
“I want your activism to be questioned and challenged and criticized by Black people. I want you to grow from your mistakes so we can grow as a nation”.
(Read her whole piece here.)
Silence is complicity. So I am speaking up.
I will work against any system that continues to diminish, target and murder people based on the color of their skin. I am imperfect in my actions, and remain committed, as I have throughout life, to increasing freedom and equality in this world.
If there was ever a time to be courageous, it is now. The world is at a tipping point. What we say now and do now will define life for generations. I hope you will join me in this work.
P.S. There’s a tremendous amount of great stuff happening on Instagram this week, where many people are working to actively amplify the words of black people. Below are some of the folks I’m following and reposting, plus resources many folks have shared. I encourage you to check them out. Some awesome people to follow on Instagram:
- Dr. Gaynel Nave
- Dr. Staci Parker
- Dr. Asia Muhammad
- Dr. Dorian Richardson
- Dr. Jaquel Patterson
- Prentis Hemphill
- Alishia McCullough
- Chrissy King
- Jessica Wilson
- Brown Skin Matters
- Justin Robinson
- Joan Morgan