We are writing to you today with heavy hearts – hearts filled with sadness after witnessing Mr. George Floyd killed in front of our eyes and the widespread expressions of sincere anger that have resulted.
While details surrounding Mr. Floyd’s death, and the following violence and destruction continue to come out, many of us feel the fabric of our communities and nation tearing apart. Sadly, we recognize that the causes of our nation’s dysfunction are not new – this is just the latest iteration – now made instantaneously visible through the advent of technology. Today as we face a tremendous crisis, perhaps the greatest we have ever seen, we must hear the most important call to action of our time.
Structural racism and race-based violence are among our nation’s enduring sins and serve as the root cause of many health-related problems such as gun violence, maternal mortality, substance use disorder, and inequities in health insurance coverage, and access to care. This is reflected in the dysfunction of our justice system, our educational systems, our neighborhoods, and most recently the health outcomes around COVID-19.
What is occurring in Minneapolis and elsewhere in our country is not about just one person, or one single event. George Floyd is just the latest victim in a long line of Black and brown people impacted by structural racism.
While racial inequities in Minnesota are among the worst in the nation, we know these issues are endemic to all communities across our nation. This reality affects us all, regardless of economic or social status, as Dr. Armen Henderson, a DFA Copello Advocacy Fellow, recently experienced firsthand in Miami.
It angers us that the President of the United States chooses to tear our nation’s wounds further - dividing us by conjuring partisanship, visions of flying bullets and dogs attacking protestors – malicious tools from a history not yet forgotten. We recognize it is our time to lead. Our profession has a respected, knowledgeable, and effective voice which, especially now, we must use to the benefit of those who are not being heard. Collectively, we can change the national discourse and set a course towards a better future.
Our hearts are filled with passion; thus we will not wallow in our despair. There is freedom in action – in trying to make big ideas happen, working together to make the foundational changes necessary to promote equality and equity. If we’re really going to heal our nation – we cannot just feel angry or simply put on Band-Aids - we must collaborate and take meaningful action on these fundamental, structural issues.
As a first step in supporting our actions, DFA will host a Webinar about the Intersections of Racism and Health that will be scheduled to take place in the next few weeks; watch for the invitation.
Each of us as individuals can take action right now, by engaging with policymakers and your local chief of police on your concerns about the impact of structural racism. Phone your chief of police and tell them you want to have a conversation about what they can do to help. Personalize this suggested message and send it to your federal legislators now.
Thank you for your work, and for your willingness to stand up and make your voices heard.
Evan Saulino, MD, PhD, Board Chair
Krishnan Narasimhan, MD, Vice Chair
Joe Kanter, MD, MPH, Treasurer
Meenakshi Bewtra, MD, MPH, PhD
Cedric Dark, MD, MPH
Jeff Huebner, MD
Dona Kim Murphey, MD, PhD
May Nguyen, MD, MPH
Julie Parsonnet, MD
Christine Petrin, MD, MPH
Farheen Quarashi, MD
Meghana Rao, MD
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I cannot accept”
- Angela Davis