The torture and murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the horrific display of racism and intentional endangerment in Central Park this past week were not aberrations or unfortunate misunderstandings.
Nor were they ambiguous or unavoidable – any more than were the murders of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, or of Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland and Michael Brown and Tamir Rice and the congregants of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and the countless other Black Americans who have been victims of violence by institutions rooted in racism and the perpetuation of inequity.
There is scarcely a Black or Brown person alive in this country for whom grief and fear are not chronic conditions. To all of you experiencing pain and trauma yet again – trauma within the trauma of the COVID-19 public health emergency, which has made systemic racism just as palpable – we mourn with you.
More importantly, we fight with you. Whether we are advocating for policy changes in the light of our current emergency that will ensure healthier communities and greater equity in health care and mental health; or whether we are doing direct delivery of care and oversight of programs that lift up the most threatened among us; or whether we are supporting any or all of this through administrative, custodial, technical, technological, or academic labor, our job is to demonstrate what is possible with a fierce, bold, and unapologetic commitment to breaking systemic chains and creating a new reality rooted in justice.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” However you feel about the protests and revolts occurring throughout our country, we are in the privileged position of giving voice to the unheard through our work, through our unabashed insistence on foregrounding equity and justice in that work, and through the opportunity we have to proclaim what we know to be true – that racism is a public health crisis.
The silver lining of this terrible moment in history is that more and more people in NYC and around this country are receiving this message, understanding it, and starting to proclaim it themselves. Let’s inspire them and welcome them into our work protecting and promoting the health of all New Yorkers. It’s through solidarity alone that the crisis of racism can ultimately be overcome.
Though we are physically distanced, it’s our connections to one another that help us cope with events that evoke visceral reactions. I encourage you to reach out to colleagues and friends and to visit the NYC WELL website for links to mental health resources.