April 17, 2020
To avert repeated COVID-19 outbreaks, access to healthcare for all
Like you, I have watched the events of these past days and weeks with a mixture of anguish, grief, and outrage. We join the world in honoring their memory by saying their names out loud: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Sean Bell, and all the others on the long list of those who have been killed, abused, harassed and discriminated against, senselessly and illegally at the hands of police across this country, simply because of the color of their skin. We offer our condemnation of the perpetrators and the system that enables them, and our sincere support of the struggle for racial equality. But we know that our sentiments are not enough.
Racial justice is not directly part of our mission, and yet we see every day how the structures of racism leave the most vulnerable among us, the people we provide care for, in an endless cycle of economic inequality, poverty and little or no access to health. And the racial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic are an unmistakable truth exposed for the world to see, as plain as day.
When we have a tax structure that benefits the few over the many, when we prioritize police department budgets over healthcare, housing, education, and social welfare, we diminish the lives, the hopes and dreams, and the vast human potential of a large section of our fellow Americans, and we are lesser as a country for it. Perhaps if we rebalanced our priorities, we wouldn’t be asking ourselves why people of color have suffered disproportionately from the coronavirus, or how a police officer can crush the neck and chest of an innocent black man with impunity. It would be a great start, but it still would not be enough.
We have to be honest and face the hard truth that racism has been programmed into our culture, into our institutions, and into each of us, often in subtle ways that may not be readily obvious.
Doctors of the World was founded on the principle of offering care to the most vulnerable people among us while also bearing witness to, and calling out the conditions that cause disparities in health outcomes. As a global organization, we can be proud of our activist ethos, values and history. But these laurels are not strong enough for us to rest upon, especially in this fraught moment.
We have a moral obligation to hold up a mirror to ourselves and take stock. We have to challenge ourselves and each other to identify the things within our power that we can and must do to dismantle structural racism, and to build a system based on fairness and equality.
As James Baldwin righteously said, “I cannot believe what you say, because I see what you do.”
This is a moment for us to lean into the pain and suffering of our black and latinx sisters and brothers, to actively seek out and hear their stories, and to internalize their experiences of oppression.
Above all, this is a time for us to see each other’s humanity.