People say that history repeats itself, and never has that felt more true than now. With every new report of another black person killed by police, it feels like we are reliving the past. My heart is heavy and my eyes are drowning in tears at the thought of yet another black person killed at the hands of law enforcement. And for what? Out of fear? Out of power? Superiority? What were the thoughts going through these officers’ minds when they held down George Floyd despite his desperate pleas for a sip of air?
We thought that times were different from the era of slavery and Jim Crow, but racism has just taken a different form. How many more lives will need to be lost for there to be real change? It’s not that George Floyd’s death was different or the first of its kind, it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the camel kicked back.
Now everyone is “woke” to the issues that have plagued the African American community since the inception of this country because we can no longer turn a blind eye to what we see on the internet – whether it’s police brutality captured on video or a president who can say and do as he pleases without being reprimanded when his Twitter fingers become trigger fingers.
“All lives” cannot matter when black lives are discarded like trash. The inception and continued efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement highlight this social tragedy; not all lives are equal.
My mother always says to me, “Knowledge is power. Learn as much as you can!” When the truth of what is happening in this nation is held only in the hands of the powerful, it silences those most affected. The movements gaining traction now recognize the wrong that has plagued our communities and are putting those wrongs on a dish to be served cold to the cooks who made it.
I hope this movement doesn’t die out and we aren’t silenced by some flashy policy that looks nice on the outside but is riddled with loopholes. The 13th amendment to the United States Constitution states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” When the 13th amendment was written into the constitution in 1865 we didn’t know our “freedom” was conditional and the system would target us to fulfill the “except” role via incarceration for petty offenses. One hundred fifty years of redlining to hinder generational wealth and education, targeting African American men to increase the incarceration rate and, therefore, legal slavery has highlighted how that loophole was the first of many to come.
We must take note from Germany after World War II. They made museums of the concentration camps, wrote their wrongs in their history books for children, and put it out there for view. They recognized what they did was inhumane, so they educate the people about it in hopes that history doesn’t repeat itself.
The United States needs to acknowledge its wrongs, both historical and current, and legislate change to break this cycle. Educating our youth about our shameful past and present, requiring education on mental health and de-escalation training for law enforcement, and reversing laws that were put in place to suppress a population group would be a start, just to name a few.
I’m not sure what will come next at this point. Things are changing like the weather changes in Texas: on a daily basis. Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee once told me, “Own your piece of the solution.” My piece of the solution is to make sure I treat all people equally and to not be quick to judge. That includes finding time to serve my community where my skills can best be utilized. I know the Lord will put me where I need to be to best glorify Him, whether that be in surgery or family medicine or pediatrics or OB. Only He knows, and only time will tell. In the meantime, I pray our nation finds a way to close the wounds that have never truly healed.