If you are anything like me, then you are experiencing a wide range of emotion in response to recent events—helplessness, frustration, anger, sadness, fear, isolation, compassion—to name a few.
Recent episodes of violence on African Americans, including the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor at the hands of armed vigilantes and law enforcement have been horrific to witness. These losses of life are set against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has magnified disparities that exist in our society and amplified the divisions that exist and persist among members of our society.
In this past week, there has been widespread social unrest and protests. I encourage you to remember the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. before condemning these actions. “[A] riot is the language of the unheard… And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”
The size of the socio-economic and racial/ethnic gulfs that exists within our society seems immeasurable and expanding. The scale of illness, of loss of life, and the social and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic are almost indescribable. In this context, these events should be uniting our country, our society, and our humanity to overcome these challenges.
Sadly, the path toward unity seems difficult to find right now.
As physicians, researchers, educators, and students, we are committed to serving and improving our communities through the training of the next generations of medical, public health, and science professionals, as well as the pursuit of new knowledge in biomedical science. These goals are not qualified by race, ethnicity, gender, or another personal attribute or identity. Indeed, medicine and science are disciplines that when applied to their true purpose, transcend such labels, and our goals can only be fully achieved by including all members of our society.
Our community benefits from individuals who have different backgrounds and perspectives. The first step is to treat each other with respect and dignity. It is from that starting point that I am hopeful that these events will lead us on a path to meaningful conversations about how to mend these disparities and divisions in our society.