There is a reason that as physicians, we agree to do no harm. It is because we have committed our lives to protecting the health and safety of ALL people, regardless of race, gender, age, orientation, ability. So when we bear witness to the intentional harm and resulting death of people, particularly people of color in this country, it is our duty and innate to our oath to condemn it. We must speak out against systematic and repeated acts of violence and oppression by those in positions of power against people of color. Specifically, we join our voices in the condemnation of police brutality against black people in this country which has now, more than ever, been brought to the forefront of our collective awareness.
A string of horrifying racist incidents in the past month have come to national attention: a man shot while exercising outside, a woman killed in her own apartment, a man murdered by a knee pressed into his neck. All three were unarmed African-Americans.
The policing of and the wielding of violence against people of color is a long standing pattern in this country. Communities of color face different standards where they are disproportionately scrutinized and any act arbitrarily seen as a transgression is met with excessive force. This deliberate system of white supremacy allows for such policing and violence to continue because there is no accountability.
It is why the white men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery felt entitled to the authority to detain him in the first place. Why a white woman felt within her power to threaten and weaponize the police against Christian Cooper in Central Park. It is why it took several days to charge George Floyd’s killer. Meanwhile, mostly white and armed protesters who storm government buildings are met with minimal resistance.
We as physicians are tasked with the well-being of our communities. For this reason, social advocacy is a key part of the care we provide. As we have seen time and time again, systemic racism is a major threat to the health of our patients and communities of color. Black Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police brutality. Our patients are Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. They are Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Rodney King and so many others. Their lives matter and we as caregivers need to come together to demand change.
Our communities are hurting watching people who look like them get murdered in broad daylight with little repercussions for the perpetrators. They are also affected by social determinants of health that adversely impact their well-being, lower their quality of life, and shorten their lifespan. During this pandemic, we see African Americans disproportionately affected by Covid-19. Systemic racism is a public health issue and it is clear that a fundamental change to our society’s institutions is desperately needed to correct entrenched biases. Real, structural reform is necessary in our laws, our health care system, our justice system, our schools, etc. We need to question if the resources going to policing institutions might be better spent on other public services that would actually help people.
As we fight for accountability and fundamental change, there are ways for each of us to get involved: educate yourself, leverage your privilege, use your platform, intervene when you can, sign petitions, donate to funds, participate in demonstrations, contact elected officials, speak to your peers about issues, donate supplies, be vocal, organize. Anything you can to dismantle this system.
CIR stands in solidarity with our patients and the communities who are hurting right now. Most pressingly, we call on the officers responsible for the death of George Floyd to be brought to justice. It is an affront to witness incidents like these happen over and over again. We will continue to fight and organize for racial justice and the people’s well-being.