Everyone is called upon for answers today. How are we
physicians to respond to the recent deaths of African Americans at the hands of
police and to the protests against police violence? We are deeply saddened and outraged
by the senseless killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. These
are but three recent examples from a centuries long, shameful list of brutal
As healers, we must grapple with the ways in which white
supremacy and white privilege have shaped American life. Though painful, recent
traumas represent an opportunity for change. It is incumbent upon us to
translate generations of suffering into progress. Each of us has a
responsibility to act.
In 1903 W.E.B. Du Bois wrote The Souls of Black Folk. In it, he discussed the “Color
Line” or segregation, calling it the problem of the 20th century. As
we witness protests throughout our country and we review the senseless murders,
disproportionate rates of incarceration of black people, and inequitable access
to the “American dream,” it is apparent that the color line is alive in the 21st
Unfettered capitalism and years of systemic racism have resulted
in rampant wealth disparities – just one of the markers of a just society. Research
shows that white
Americans tend to underestimate the wealth gap. In fact, data from the U.S.
Census Bureau show that black Americans’ wealth is only 9% that of whites, and
this gap continues to widen. Furthermore, the
lowest 25% of black families have no or negative wealth, whereas only 10% of
white families experience this level of poverty. This didn’t happen by
accident. Poverty is a form of violence especially when it follows our racist
policies that have dogged people through our lifetimes. This must change. We
must confront the economic and social disparities that plague our nation.
What are doctors to do? Those of us who are white must think
critically of the advantages that white skin has conferred, listen to our
colleagues of color, and take action to make amends. Systemic racism, like gun
violence, is “our lane” and we must do better.
We must educate ourselves and address any implicit biases we
may hold. Through honest introspection and genuine commitment to change,
doctors are in a unique position to make a difference in the lives of our
patients, and in society as a whole.
We, the Executive Committee of Physicians for the Prevention
of Gun Violence support the demands of the protestors in the streets who are
crying out for justice. They are asking us to come alive, to find our voices,
to create a just America with a strong public health undergirding.
As a physician’s organization that advocates for the
prevention of gun violence, we understand that gun violence cannot be separated
from co-occurring societal ills, namely systemic racism. We hope that by
writing this we will stimulate introspection, dialog, and action resulting in
We encourage you to deepen your commitment to creating a
just society through education and through supporting organizations engaged in
this work. We have listed just few of these below (there are many more). Additionally,
it is critical that we vote for political candidates who will fight to
eradicate structural racism in America.
Black Lives Matter
White Coats for
Black Psychiatrists of
Public Health Association – Racism and Health
Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice” by Corinne Shutack
Together we can make this country a better place to live. We
must. Too many lives are at stake.
Executive Committee of Physicians for the Prevention of Gun Violence