For the health of us all, racism must be dismantled and destroyed: Dr. Vikas Saini
I join the vast majority of Americans in condemning the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police and share the grief and rage so many are feeling. We stand in solidarity with all those who oppose the violent policing of black and minority communities. Though it should not need to be said, it must be said that black lives matter.
What we saw on the smug face of Derek Chauvin was a vivid display of the sense of complete impunity that so many police officers apparently have. And it reminds us that of all the inequalities in our society, the most important one is the inequality of power.
There are a myriad of changes needed to extinguish the culture of arrogance that has taken deep root in too many police departments, but to get real change, this new movement must exercise real power.
More and more Americans are getting the picture that none of us are safe if any of us are not safe on the streets, in our cars, in our homes. The police cannot be an occupying army but must instead be answerable to the community. Exercising real power means that communities control the police department and they define what safety and security mean.
Exercising real power means that communities control the police department and they define what safety and security mean.Vikas Saini
A good start would be the demilitarization of local police forces; the creation of civilian review boards with subpoena powers; an end to immunity from prosecution for cops involved in violent assaults on members of the public; and a systematic effort to remove racist cops from the force and prevent their hiring in the first place.
However, as a member of the health care community, I recognize that the recurring spasms of police brutality are a symptom of a deeper and wider illness, that has percolated, insinuated, its way into every aspect of American life. We will not be able to achieve a just and caring system of health for everyone in the country, until we acknowledge the enormous amount of work that is going to be necessary to eradicate the legacy of racism and white supremacy that contributes to the daily oppression and perpetual violence inflicted on Americans of African descent, ongoing for 400 years.
In their hearts, everyone in white America knows this to be true, but has looked the other way and carried on with their own lives. Most have their own struggles with economic and health insecurity to deal with. Only after a shock that is desperate, tragic, and undeniable, like the murder of George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery or Breonna Taylor are people roused from political resignation and forced to face the grim reality of the society they live in.
The health of the African American community has suffered for decades and decades with higher rates of poverty, high maternal and infant mortality, hypertension, diabetes, food insecurity, income insecurity, and more. These are the results of a structural racism woven into the fabric of American life.
How are we to behave from this moment forward? An unbiased police force is a necessary beginning, but it won’t solve the problems of unemployment or lack of access to healthcare or education.
And in those areas, there is much common ground for solidarity with the majority of white America. What’s needed is a serious plan to uproot and obliterate structural racism in our society. That project is good for all of us because it can only succeed by destroying the inequalities of housing, income, education, and healthcare that have been dividing us more and more by race and by class. It means abolishing the conditions that have led to America having the highest rate of incarceration in the world.
What black Americans need is also what the vast majority of white and brown Americans need: security. It means having national health insurance for all Americans, employed or unemployed, rich or poor. It means access to the highest quality of care for all, based in neighborhoods provided by people from the neighborhood. It also means massive investments in primary and primordial prevention of hypertension, diabetes, strokes and heart attacks by erasing food deserts, crowded housing, college debt and providing a jobs program and financial support as millions struggle to survive in the midst of the COVID-19 economic collapse.
The crowds of protestors are telling America that none of it can be achieved without the destruction of racism in our society and that all Americans will be liberated if black Americans win their liberation. We must all follow their lead.Vikas Saini
We are witnessing for ourselves our own Arab spring, the breathtaking power of social media to mobilize people rapidly. But permanent victory will not be won on Twitter; it will take time and effort and will demand a long view and political resilience. If we are to fix these problems finally and completely, we must move from protest to commitment. It requires those who march for justice to build durable new organizations that have the finesse and tactical flexibility to mobilize in the streets or at the ballot box. We have to build an infrastructure for organized popular participation that enables vigilance and exerts enough power to stop the sabotage of legislation by lobbying.
Suddenly, all of that seems possible. The killing of Floyd is not the news; what’s news is the massive uprising across the land, led by black Americans, whose voices and shouts indicate that their tolerance of pain has been saturated beyond endurance and that large numbers of people of all races have withdrawn their consent from the old order. The protests in the streets, across big cities and small towns, are cause for enormous hope.
We are witnessing genuine evidence that a mass movement is emerging, powered by young people, black, white and brown, who feel compelled, like so many before them, to advance the cause of American freedom. This is a moment to rejuvenate our withering democracy and to reimagine a country dedicated to liberty, justice and the pursuit of health and happiness for all. The crowds of protestors are telling America that none of it can be achieved without the destruction of racism in our society and that all Americans will be liberated if black Americans win their liberation. We must all follow their lead.