June 11, 2020
These have been unusually challenging times for us individually and collectively as a nation. A virus the likes of which the world had not seen in over a century has been ravaging communities across the world, causing death, morbidity and widespread economic disruption. Unfortunately, the United States has had a large share of the disease burden. We still are unclear as to how the pandemic will resolve. We are hopeful that medical researchers are on their way to finding an effective vaccine against SARS-CoV2 within a short period. This pandemic has affected communities of color in much greater proportion than the general population, thereby bringing to the forefront longstanding issues of health care disparities and health inequities in the US.
As we were struggling with the damage from COVID-19 and the significant economic distress in many communities, yet another incident involving the abuse of power bestowed on people of authority was brought into stark relief with the release of the video of George Floyd. The mostly peaceful protests happening across the country and across the world in solidarity of the cause of equality and justice have given us hope that good will may succeed in forcing change.
We as members of the medical community and researchers involved in finding paths to solving health care disparities and help advance the cause of social and economic justice are in a unique position to act. Many pediatric organizations including ours have individually and jointly released statements condemning abuse of power by police and championing equal rights and justice. The cause of the protests is absolutely something that we should stand by and support. This country was founded on the premise of individual liberty, like nowhere else in the world. That liberty should apply equally to every citizen in the US- regardless of ethnicity, skin color or economic status. And unless and until every child or teenager growing up in our country , we will not be meeting our ideal of liberty and justice for all. Martin Luther King’s words “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice” ring true today. Every one of us in our own unique ways must constantly strive towards making that arc just one tiny bit shorter so that we can ensure that our children and grandchildren will be fortunate to grow up in a more just world closer to the founding principles of this great nation. Let us reflect on our myriad activities and consider ways- big and small- to make such an impact on this moral arc. Each of us has some power to make a difference. The strength of our coalesced collective power backed by our strong moral foundation will be impactful enough to change our world. I am reminded of Margaret Meade’s words: “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
We can and we must be agents of change. These times call for it from each and every one of us.
Latha Chandran, MD, MPH, MBBS