On May 25, George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. I was living in Minneapolis in April 1992 when the Rodney King verdict was announced. I remember sitting in my car in traffic on I35 in profound disappointment and partial disbelief. How could a video not have been enough to make a difference? That disbelief dissolved because I realized that it was yet another example of how systemic racism sustains itself.
Twenty-eight years later, hundreds of lives later, scores of videos, and a bloody waterfall of #sayhisname and #sayhername – and little has changed except the growing frequency of death at the hands of police as we see new videos and read new names weekly, if not daily. And those are just the stories that make the news.
The Center for African American Health (CAA Health) was established to support the health and wellness of African Americans precisely because of the persistent health disparities that have plagued us for generations. At CAA Health, not only do our Black Lives Matter, but supporting the quality of life of Black lives is our mission. We also know that racism is our public health crisis. The inequities across the various social determinants of health – health, mental health, education, income, life expectancy – all have the same root cause – Systemic racism.
Structural racism, white supremacy and anti-blackness have long been foundational building blocks in every aspect of American life – redlining, strategic food deserts, the preschool to prison pipeline – the list of systems and institutions that were designed to oppress our people goes on.
The peaceful protests undertaken by individuals in communities across the nation and around the world have sparked needed conversations in every corner of our society. Civic and social groups, companies, neighborhoods, and individuals are once again faced with discussing the truth of the inequities that exist in so many aspects of our society. Which is a nice beginning.
Systemic racism can no longer be something we try our best to endure or navigate. It must change. We are committed to working with other organizations with a similar focus to promote the care and well being of communities of color. We are also committed to working with any ally organizations sincerely committed to dismantling systemic racism and white supremacy. The days of insincere platitudes are long gone. This work can only be about urgent action to create enduring change.
Despite the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic, people of all ages and backgrounds are clearly saying that systemic racism and the unbridled brutality of law enforcement must end. So, we are gathering across the country, marching shoulder to shoulder, across the city and the state, raising our voices in peaceful protests, and confronting those who choose to use this platform for vandalism, violent outbursts, and civil unrest.
It is my hope that this time there will be a willingness to not only listen to the diverse voices across the country, and within our city, who are stepping up and stepping into the conversation – but to also begin to do what’s right. We cannot let society look away and continue the status quo. Now we must work in solidarity to condemn these injustices across every sector of our communities.
As an organization with a long history of working to increase resources to eradicate health disparities that have existed for far too long, CAA Health is part of the fabric of this community. We will continue to mobilize our neighbors and convene our many partners to address these injustices and the disparities that have continued to cause trauma, which has deepened the chasm of inequality.
In 1954 my uncle was murdered by his white coworkers, in what was called an “accident”. I grew up knowing that for us, harm can occur in an instant and without cause. I am a daughter, sister, niece, cousin, and friend to so many beautiful, brilliant, strong Black people. As a mother of two African American boys, I feel the heaviness of this time – this day – this hour. Despite the toxic stress, sorrow and anger of these past weeks, I remain determined and hopeful. We are a people grounded in spirit and we will continue to stand because ultimately ours will be a story of liberation.