Updated: Jun 6
The last week has been hard. Traumatic. Exhausting. Frustrating.
Everywhere you turn, you cannot escape from the harsh reality of racial injustice.
The social media timeline littered with the video of a black man being murdered in the name of ‘law enforcement’.
“I can’t breathe.” – one of the final statements George Floyd uttered before his death.
I’m not sure what makes me shudder the most. The fact that I watched a man be brutally killed in broad daylight. Or perhaps it was the lack of empathy of the police officer as he continued to exert disproportionate force on the man’s neck. Or maybe the fact that the man’s outcries of pain were ignored.
“I can’t breathe”.
In medicine, this is probably one of the most worrying statements to hear. We’re trained to assess medical emergencies in the order of priority: Airway, Breathing, Circulation etc. The statement “I can’t breathe” raises immediate alarm bells, knowing fully well that life may be at stake. Yet in this situation it did not matter.
It’s difficult to carry on as normal after seeing a man be killed. A man that could have been your loved one or anyone you know. A man who was a victim of someone’s racist judgment that ultimately lead to his life being tragically lost. It's becoming all too frequent. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Belly Mujinga all lost their lives at the hands of racial injustice.
It is irrational to even question the existence of racism at this point. It is even more ridiculous to question why Black lives matter. Black lives should matter to every medical professional. It is by no coincidence that the BMJ published an issue on ‘Racism in Medicine’ this year.
Racism impacts us all.
Racism impacts our patients.
Racism impacts our colleagues.
Racism impacts our interactions.
Racism impacts Medicine.
At its worst, racism kills.
We cannot ignore this.
The evidence is striking.
Data analysed and collated by Dr Amile Inusa and Olamide Dada
Health inequalities: Black women are 5x more likely to die during childbirth than white women in the UK. Black people are 4x more likely to die with COVID-19 than white people in the UK.
The ethnicity pay gap means that for every £1 a black female doctor earns, a white female doctor earns £1.19 and a white male doctor makes £1.38.
95% of the frontline doctors that died because of COVID-19 were from an ethnic minority within the first month.
Ethnic minority doctors are reported to the GMC more than twice the rate as white doctors. Ethnic minority doctors are more likely to be referred to the General Medical Council, have their cases investigated, and face tougher sanctions than their white colleague
Black NHS staff report the highest incidence of bullying & harassment from their colleagues and leaders. Doctors from ethnic minorities are still twice as likely to be affected by discrimination at work and are at increased risk of experiencing bullying and harassment from both colleagues and patients
In NHS healthcare leadership, 92% of board members in NHS trusts are white.
This is the reality for Black medical professionals in the UK.
We can’t run from it. The dark shadow of racism looms over us wherever we go. Whether it be overt or covert, it is there. To ignore the damaging impact of racism is to ignore the pain of a people.
It is tiring to explain repeatedly why we matter or how institutional racism affects us, but we do it anyway. We want people to understand why things need to be changed for the better. We desire change not just for ourselves, but for the generations to come.
We advocate. Even when the going gets tough. Even while experiencing the effects of our own racial trauma. We advocate because the future depends on it.
Our vision is paramount to the work we do:
We envision a future where diversity in Medicine thrives and every person is able to fulfil their maximum potential irrespective of their race and socioeconomic background.
We are dedicated to supporting individuals of Black heritage in Medicine to the best of our ability and we are committed to doing all that we can to stand against racial injustice.
If you are non-black person reading this, know that your colleagues need you. Know that your voice is equally as crucial to the conversation. Know that your actions matter. We all have a part to play to support each other and the prevention of further heinous crimes which are incited by racism.
What can you do?
SIGN THE PETITIONS
Take meaningful action. Every signature represents a voice saying that the situation should not and cannot be ignored.
There are a number of fundraising pages to support the loved ones in raising funeral costs of those who tragically lost their lives. You can also donate to charities and organisations actively fighting against racial injustice.
Speak to people and recognise what you don't understand and be willing to learn. There are a number of resources e.g. books, podcasts, article and media that can be used to educate yourself.
To understand is the beginning, to act is the result.
"Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And that's the only way forward." - Ijeoma Oluo
CHECK IN ON YOUR BLACK COLLEAGUES
For your colleagues performing their daily duties can be difficult; plagued with the fear of not knowing who is for you and who is not simply because of the colour of your skin. This an emotional and traumatic experience. Ask how you can provide support.
Written By Olamide Dada