|Photo courtesy of the American Public Health Association|
By Dr. Georges Benjamin, MD
“I can’t breathe.”
With those last words, George Floyd, an unarmed, handcuffed black man, died this week after being pinned down by a white Minneapolis police officer, an atrocious action that has sparked outrage throughout the nation.
We raise our voices, too, horrified, stunned and angered.
We are appalled but are not surprised by the despicable way Floyd was killed. We weep for the man, his family and a country that continues to allow this to happen. We also join in the chorus for justice and ring the alarm to all Americans. Racism is a longstanding systemic structure in this country that must be dismantled, through brutally honest conversations, policy changes and practices.
Racism attacks people’s physical and mental health. And racism is an ongoing public health crisis that needs our attention now!
We see discrimination every day in all aspects of life, including housing, education, the criminal justice system and employment. And it is amplified during this pandemic as communities of color face inequities in everything from a greater burden of COVID-19 cases to less access to testing, treatment and care.
Americans cannot be silent about this.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. observed, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”