It has been a heartbreaking week. I am grieving the loss of so many Black Americans, the violence we are witnessing, and the racism we continue to suffer from. The killing of George Floyd has laid bare a deep and terrible wound that many would prefer not to see. And yet, we cannot ignore it.
Racism is a public health crisis. As I wrote in Marching Toward Coverage, “Racism is a social determinant with deadly consequences.” The deadly consequences are visible when people use their cell phones to capture videos of white police officers beating and killing Blacks. But the deaths due to racism go far beyond that, and are seemingly invisible. This is due to the disparities in our healthcare system, both in coverage and in treatment, between whites and Blacks. The disparities are becoming more visible during the coronavirus pandemic as communities of color are disproportionately hit with the spread of the virus. But even before the pandemic, the disparities have been profound, and should have been more visible. They have been called out, and more of us need to listen:
“Over 200 African-Americans die every day who would not die if they had the same health experience as whites. Think of a huge jet crashing every day – that is the kind of disparity we are talking about.” David Williams, Harvard professor
As a healthcare professional and a white person who has tried to be an ally for Blacks for decades, it is my responsibility to make all of this more visible. I am committed to doing this.
I see some hopeful signs. The killing of George Floyd has galvanized millions of people of all races to rise up in peaceful protest, even in the time of a pandemic. We need to extend these protests into sustained action. And we must persist. Here is what I am committed to doing:
- As an author, I am committed to writing, reflecting, and sharing what I’m reading to gain deeper understanding. Ever since college, when I realized my education had been woefully inadequate in matters of race, I began a process of “radical self-education” – I read everything I could get my hands on about racism, starting with The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I have continued that journey to this day, and to that end I’d like to recommend two of the best books I’ve read in this past year: White Fragility and The Warmth of Other Suns. My personal TV and film recommendations for further education include When They See Us (Netflix) and The Hate U Give.
- As a CEO, I am committed to taking anti-racism actions with my company and our consulting practice. This includes using our platform to share data on racial disparities more frequently, and never forgetting to look through this lens. (For more on my thoughts as CEO, see my message here.)
- As a white person, I am committed to being an ally. This means I will show up and speak up for Blacks and people of color. (For a great article about being an ally, see here.) I will share what I know about white privilege, starting with this classic piece, called Unpacking White Privilege. I will continue to do my own homework and keep listening. And I will make donations to organizations that have been pushing for long term, systemic change, including the YWCA and the NAACP.
I will honor these commitments in a deep and sustained way. I believe that together we must meet this moment, and work collaboratively to move through it and beyond it. We can turn the pain of this moment into something better and make our society more whole and more just. We must make a sustained commitment to do this. As one person told me this week, “Justice is as vital to public health as the air we breathe.”
Respectfully, imperfectly, and with humility,
 Page 87, Marching Toward Coverage
Thank you BlackLivesMatter for the “Enough is Enough” photo resource. Please check out their website and show your support for the movement: https://blacklivesmatter.com/social-media-graphics/