I entered the office of the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, Kansas City, on a muggy, late-summer day during my family medicine rotation. The air-conditioned building boasted a large front room with sporadically placed desks, children’s books and toys, and what looked like a large food pantry. I flexed my elbows and wagged my arms to fan out the sweat from my Black body enshrouded in my white coat.
This unrest reached a high point in September, when nurse Dawn Wooten filed a formal complaint against Dr. Mahendra Amin, a Georgia physician working at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center, who she claims performed mass hysterectomies on detained immigrant women without consent. While the country reacted in shock, the reality is that coerced sterilization against communities of color is not new. The United States has a shameful history of exploiting Black and brown women’s bodies as part of a larger objective for population control rooted in white supremacy — and the medical field is partly to blame.
I wish it were different — / Dying patients, struggling hospitals, overworked health care workers, / topsy-turvy economies, politicized safety precautions, and the / uncertainty / of tomorrow.
Mrs. H’s story is just one of millions of Americans who have become victims of structural violence and suffered from the social determinants of health. With a clearer understanding of the complex factors that contribute to patients’ health outcomes, I now aim to reunite the erroneously separated domains of medicine and social sciences.
As I grew up, I felt these lines and had a vague idea of where they lay. I knew where in Louisville I felt “safe,” and I also knew where the “bad parts of town” were located. The lines and their forced labels serve to enhance the lives of some people, myself included, while limiting others. Two cities exist within one border separated by an undeniable feature — skin color.
I agree that protesting is best done in peace, / But wasn’t that tried by taking a knee? / Or hashtags that said Black Lives Matter, / And praying that change would come with the chatter.
“Defund the police” has become one of the slogans of the protests shaking our nation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. But what does this term truly mean, and could defunding the police be helpful for both the police and the health care community?
Interviewers who ask these questions in a professional setting typically consider these issues to be academic — purely topics for discussion that might provide useful insight into the way the applicant views the world. But for applicants who have been affected, these issues are not merely academic and their discussion can invoke significant emotional turmoil. So before we continue to tacitly accept this shift in interviewing, it is important to consider its purpose and impact on those being interviewed.
Pressed for time, the report shall be quick to conclude: For eight minutes and forty-six seconds, Mr. Floyd could not breathe with a knee on his neck, and thus met his untimely, unconscionable death.
But we should not need to view videos of Black individuals suffering or in pain in order to mobilize. Others, unrecorded and alone, die by the hands of our state. It is time for Americans to turn their gaze away from violent images of Black death and inwards to consider the invisible and not-so-invisible ways we uphold white supremacy every single day.
The histories of Fox Point and Brooklyn reveal how where we call home is deeply intertwined with identity, power and privilege. They tell the story of structural racism — a patterned, “normative, sometimes legalized” process by which communities of color are marginalized. The sequelae of structural racism have dire health implications at the neighborhood-level.