The last few weeks have been emotionally charged, to say the least, and I’ve been struggling to come up with just the right words to express my sadness, deep disappointment, and outrage at police brutality.
As author Jason Overstreet recently wrote, “Black people need more than police reform. We need healthcare reform. We need education reform. We need housing reform. We need wealth gap reform. Black lives matter. The whole life.” The Black community is fighting for their whole lives, and GetzWell honors and supports this fight. As part of our commitment we are donating to several well-regarded organizations that have a vision and a proven ability to push for positive change: Southern Poverty Law Center, Physicians for Human Rights, and City of Dreams.
While we mourn the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many more Black people and people of color, we are acutely aware of the radical changes that are necessary to fix so much systemic inequality in our country. As health care professionals, we are often reminded how our broken healthcare system disproportionately harms marginalized communities, but we also recognize that education reform, police reform, access to affordable housing and wealth gap reform are vital.
These big changes need to start with each one of us reflecting and doing the inner work to become aware of the presence of racism in our everyday lives, how it resides within us, and how it shows up in our thoughts and actions.
But quiet reflection is not enough—we also need to take action and there are many ways to respond to the call to join this fight for Black lives, equity, and justice. No matter how much we may believe we are aware of and desire to fight racism, we recognize we can always do better.
As pediatric healthcare providers we know that one crucial way to respond to this call for action is by talking to our children about racism and discrimination.
Children notice racial differences as early as three years old, and it is imperative—even with very young children—to acknowledge differences in positive ways rather than encouraging “colorblindness.” If you’re looking for guidance as to how to talk with your children about race or what would be developmentally appropriate for your child, I invite you to explore the resources and courses offered by organizations including Embrace Race, Dr. Kira Banks at Raising Equity, and Social Justice Books.
We have been witnesses to the largely non-violent protests in the Bay Area, around the country, and throughout the world and have been deeply moved by this powerful grass roots response to the call to protect Black lives. We wholeheartedly support these protests and appreciate their importance at this time in our history. However, we know that the pandemic is still present in our communities and can easily be spread during outdoor street protests and marches.
Masks matter. When participating in protests where people are in close proximity while shouting, singing, and chanting, mask-wearing is a must because recent studies show as many as 50% of infected cases are asymptomatic. Law enforcement can also help to reduce the spread of COVID through a variety of means, including not using tear gas or pepper spray at protests.
Don’t let down your guard and remember: asymptomatic and presymptomatic people can transmit COVID. As our communities begin reopening, whatever we can do to limit our exposure to the virus (by keeping our distance from each other, covering our faces with masks, washing our hands, staying in well-ventilated areas, and so forth) as well as limiting the time we are exposed to the virus will help prevent infections.
For those interested in diving further into what anti-racism means, these books come from a curated list of best-sellers from the New York Times:
So You Want To Talk About Race
At GetzWell, we will hold a mirror to our organizational accountability and stand unequivocally in solidarity with the Black and Latinx communities and the many others marginalized because of, among other things, skin color or sexual orientation.
Julia Getzelman, MD