I have been trying to write this newsletter for a month now, but the despair of this moment we are in has kept me from doing it. What can I say that every single business / celebrity / political figure / news reporter who is worth anything hasn’t already said?
Racism is an evil. Racism is a public health emergency. There must be a change in how we police our communities.
I have partly kept my sanity by watching the late-night comedy shows. Their truth telling, as well as their ripping to shreds of the current administration, are deeply satisfying. I am heartened by all the changes happening that are so long in coming—and those changes are not nearly enough. I think the fact that we are all captive audiences due to the pandemic has helped white people see in a way they have previously chosen not to.
I have read and watched videos of many anti racism scholars, writers and speakers.
What I Recommend
Ijeoma Oluo - So you want to talk about race
Ibram X. Kendi - How to Be an AntiRacist
Robin DiAngelo - White Fragility
I especially recommend this absolutely stunning and moving impromptu sermon by author Kimberly Jones. Jones gives a powerful, eloquent speech that explains in detail why this is happening (racism across 450 years) and the difference between protesting, rioting and looting in 2020.
And this article in the New York Times, written by Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.
Are You Willing to Give Up Your Privilege?
Philanthropy alone won’t save the American dream.
This is something I have been thinking and talking about to my peers, my family, and my community. What am I willing to give up?
I have been thinking about it in a very concrete way. As a physician, what would I be willing to do (or to give up) had I been or if I should be present when someone is calmly snuffing out someone’s life?
I am committed, essentially programmed, by an inborn quality and by my medical training, to save lives, to do all I can to try to heal. Like me, this is true of most healthcare workers.
This is why you have seen such incredible sacrifice on the part of all healthcare workers to take care of people with COVID-19, when that care becomes a risk to themselves, their own families, and their communities.
What am I willing to give up?
I am willing to give up the ease of access I have to the highest level of medical care if it means that everyone now has access to life-saving and preventative medical care.
I am willing to pay higher taxes if it means we have social services for all that need them—housing, mental health services, food, and a host of other needs.
I am willing to stand up to systemic racism and violence against black and brown bodies to ensure that we all have equal opportunities in this life.
Am I willing to give up my life?
This is the scene I replay over and over in my mind. Is there a chance that a 60 something white woman, a physician, could have used my privilege to get this to stop before it was too late, without getting shot? In my screenplay I am successful. That’s the benefit of me being the author.
Today I watched this clip from Democracy Now.
Noura Erakat, a well-known Palestinian human rights lawyer who teaches at Rutgers, is interviewed and speaks passionately about her cousin who was murdered at a check point in the West Bank. It reminded me of “home."
Her cousin bled for 1.5 hours without being taken to a hospital. The same question ran through my head. If I had been there what would I have done?
I can add my voice to the many who have said racism is a health emergency. We are all dying from it. Are those of us who have it willing to give up our privilege? Are you? The answer has to be yes.
I hope everyone had a good holiday season! I am back to the routine, despite the weather. We had a tiny amount of snow in Seattle, not even half an inch in my neighborhood. Snow causes this city to slow down to a crawl and schools close. This gave me the opportunity to stay indoors and catch up on work and reading.
When I started writing about healthcare, one of my first newsletters addressed “going upstream." One of the up-streamers I read about was Dr. Jeffrey Brenner in Camden, New Jersey. He developed a model of care, almost 20 years ago, that featured a very intensive intervention for the most vulnerable people. Dr. Brenner was highlighted in Atul Gawande’s article for the New Yorker “Hot Spotters” (which is Gawande’s term for up-streamers.)
Dr. Brenner's hypothesis was that this intervention would save the healthcare system money by decreasing hospitalizations and emergency department use. The goal was to improve overall health status while decreasing the use of resources.
However, my reading this week led me to this article:
Reduce Health Costs By Nurturing The Sickest? A Much-Touted Idea Disappoints
Dr. Sima Kahn muses on being a healthcare advocate, the troubles with our healthcare system, and how to advocate for ourselves.