We’re mad! We’re hurting! But, we’re healers, so we won’t be stopped!
During my adolescent years, I once fell off a play structure about 12-15ft tall and landed flat on my chest. For a few minutes (but what felt much longer), I experienced a terribly frightening sensation of being unable to either inhale or exhale. I’ve come to learn that the clinical explanation of that experience is that the impact of hitting the ground with that force caused my diaphragm to spasm, preventing my lungs from filling with air. I couldn’t breathe. The wonderful ending to this story is that eventually the muscles spontaneously relaxed and my breathing resumed.
Last week, when I saw the compounded and concurrent stories of George Floyd and Christian Cooper, it was as if I was falling from that pole all over again. Having spoken to many of you who are similarly angry/incredulous/frustrated/hurting, I feel like WE fell off that stupid pole together and had the wind knocked out of us.
The past few weeks of this Covid-19 pandemic has been challenging enough. As an acute respiratory distress syndrome, this virus literally attacks the lungs until they no longer function. In just a brief period of time, we have lost over 100K lives across our country. They could no longer breathe. Sadly, there was no spontaneous relief for them. A disproportionate number of the lives lost have been those of our black and brown brothers and sisters. Why is this?
Last April, an article in The Atlantic noted how viruses can actually infect other viruses. It occurred to me that this is exactly what we are experiencing right now. Covid-19, as deadly as it has been, is infecting a much larger, giant virus called racial prejudice. This virus is pervasive, it’s systemic, and it’s highly contagious. It was racial prejudice, not Covid-19, that reared its head in Central Park last week. It was racial prejudice, not Covid-19, that led an officer to use his knee to deny another human being of air long enough to cause his death. George Floyd could not breathe!!!
The challenge of racial prejudice outside of our organization only serves to remind of the requirement of internal vigilance to ensure our thoughts and our actions always affirm value and dignity to everyone in our organization and our community.
I certainly don’t have any wonder drug or miracle cure, nor will I try to seduce you into thinking that any of these things are particularly easy to solve. But solve it we must do! One thing I do know is that we have far greater control over what happens inside our organization and how we show up in our community. It’s in this spirit that I declare the following:
- Black Lives Matter!
- We will be working to immediately safely restart our HealthPATH programs with renewed vigor to inspire hope and encouragement
- We are already restarting our health equity and diversity and inclusion efforts
- We will continue to lift up our trauma violence interruption programs, complex care management services, and similar efforts that combat the systemic devaluing of lives in our community. They must know that we see them, we care about them, and we are here for them
- We must continue to ensure that the diversity of our community is reflected across the entirety of our organization
- We must honor the dignity and humanity of all our patients and each other
- We serve ALL!
I love you all! Stay safe, stay strong, and stay united!!
Chief Executive Officer