The last two weeks following the inhumane death of George Floyd has shed light on a deadly virus that has been ingrained in this country for centuries. Mr. Floyd’s passing was the latest demonstration of police brutality fueled by racism against African-Americans. I believe that racism is as lethal as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The main difference is that as COVID-19 infiltrated society, it was quickly recognized as a threat and the whole world was placed on notice and acted swiftly to implement preventative measures to combat this disease. Racism is often an unconscious bias that goes unnoticed. It cultivates within us for years and years, often passing along from generations, and it influences how we perceive and interact with others who appear different from us. Racism is a virus that you can’t physically see, but you know it exists in the air and within people’s hearts; it’s hard to qualify or quantify. It may seem like racism is a thing of the past because there are so many successful Black Americans in society, but this could not be further from the truth. Unless you are personally affected, it’s easy to overlook and forget that racism still exists and is much more widespread than what appears at the surface.
It was oddly comforting that the entire world was affected by the coronavirus, that the virus did not discriminate against any particular gender, race, or culture. It felt like we were all in this together battling a common enemy; everyone was doing their part to get us through these unprecedented times. One guiding principle was protecting the vulnerable, particularly the elderly, from its deadly effects. In regards to racism, there are clearly those who are more affected by social injustice than others. For centuries and even up until two weeks ago, those at the margins of society had little to no voice to speak for themselves. But now, there is a voice. The voice is loud and strong and it comes from us all no matter our skin color. This is more than an issue about racism against the Black community in America, it’s a human rights issue.
As a physician, I am blessed with a special voice and I strive to stand with all those who face oppression every day. I've seen what inequality looks like in the form of healthcare disparities particularly among patients of color. I believe that all healthcare professionals are called to love and serve every single patient equally regardless of disease, socioeconomic background, skin color, race, or religion. Let us all take a moment and learn from this wake-up call. I’ve learned that it’s not enough to be passively non-racist, but it’s critical to be actively anti-racist. We will inevitably suffer setbacks along the way and not everyone will be for this cause, but we cannot let that discourage us. I plead for all hands on deck to propel and sustain this movement for our Black brothers and sisters, as well as for humanity. Social media, believe it or not, has actually done some good by exposing the virus. It has shed light on an issue that has been, for the most part, invisible and ignored for centuries. Don’t let this passion, spirit, and energy fall waste to the next trend that comes along. Whether you post about it, speak about it, read about it, the most important part is that we all come together to BE about it. When we examine our hearts and choose a love that is colorblind, those little changes will eventually transform the world.