#WhiteCoats4BlackLives

The capturing on video of the recent death of Terence Crutcher due to a police shooting has renewed concern about the respect paid to black lives in U.S. society.  ReflectiveMedEd reprints these remarks from a #WhiteCoats4BlackLives event at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine which was part of a national observance that gathered significant media attention. (See MSNBC link)

Loyola Stritch Medical Students Participate in National Justice Action

The following remarks were delivered by first year student, Kamaal Jones at a “die-in” on December 10, 2014 in the Atrium of the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.  This event was part of a nation-wide day of action at medical schools calling attention to the need to become a more just and inclusive society toward persons of color.  The staged “die-in” specifically expressed solidarity with all seeking justice for deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.  This action was student-led and coordinated by Chizelle Rush.

kjones-bGood afternoon, my name is Kamaal Jones and I am a first year medical student here at Stritch.  I first would like to briefly acknowledge all those involved in making today happen, specifically Chizelle Rush, who really took the lead in mobilizing and organizing us for this event.  Today we, along with over 1000 medical students across the nation, are here to stand in solidarity with the recent protests which have captivated our country.  For those who may lack some familiarity, these demonstrations have been born from a long history of issues with racial profiling and police violence in our society, and specifically, the grossly disproportionate levels at which the lives of Black and Brown people are taken by officers in this nation.  The tipping point which has served as the catalyst for these most recent events was the August 9th killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as the July 17th killing of an unarmed man named Eric Garner by an NYPD officer in Staten Island, NY. In both of these incidents, Grand Jury’s decided not to seek any charges against the officers…

We are here today because we recognize that these acts have not happened within a bubble.  What we are witnessing now are the continued ripple effects of a dark history of oppression and aggression, that has left no generation of Americans untouched and has socialized us all, to in many ways and often subconsciously, fear that which we identify as Blackness.  These learned biases have lead to a distorted and reduced perception of the value of Black lives. It is uncomfortable. But it is our reality.

Further, we give recognition to the fact that this is not all police officers– it is about a system.  We additionally recognize that such biases are not relegated to the criminal justice system. In fact they have trickled into and permeated every aspect of our society.  The same biases and prejudices which have been shown to be dangerous when affiliated irresponsibly with a badge, can be just as dangerous when affiliated irresponsibly with a white coat. The taking of life, in all of its forms, is a heinous act and one which we as society can no longer stand for.  But the pain of such an incident becomes that much more magnified when it is carried out by someone who has been sworn to protect us or to heal us, and when time and time again, there are no institutional repercussions or ramifications in place.

Therefore, if the established system refuses to make an indictment, today, as a society, we indict ourselves.  We indict ourselves as a medical community, for the creation of a system which fails to protect people of color. On this day begins a shift towards a new paradigm.  One in which we openly recognize the troubled history of this nation’s past, acknowledge the present privilege and responsibility that comes with wearing these White Coats, and pledge ourselves to create a future in which the lives of all people, are held at a high and equivalent value within our society.

As today is recognized as International Human Rights Day, it is only fitting to end with an excerpt from the Declaration of Professional Responsibility: Medicine’s Social Contract with Humanity.  It reads, “today, our profession must reaffirm its historical commitment to combat natural and man-made assaults on the health and well-being of humankind. Only by acting together across geographic and ideological divides can we overcome such powerful threats.  Humanity is our patient.”  Thank you.

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