It is so daunting. This horendous problem. These terrible injustices. Our broken society. Our broken hearts. How do we even begin to heal a trauma so vast? How do we change the racism that has been so deeply embedded in our society for generations? How to we put an end to these horrifying acts of violence? I know it's easy to get weighed down by these massive questions.
My soul is heavy. My heart feels like it's ripping. I wonder if my words will express correctly what I'm trying to say. I wonder if my words could possibly be enough to make any bit of difference. And I really hope I don't f*%K this up. Because I'm human and it can be scary to speak up and speak out. But what's scarier is what will happen if we don't say or do anything. If we allow this trauma, this ache, this anger, this fear to fester inside of us it will find it's way out in terrible ways. If we push it down, if we shield our eyes to the atrocities around us, if we choke down what needs to be said, if we deny what needs to be done, it will come back to us in a hateful world of our own making. Silence is dangerous. Paralysis is not an option.
Black people are dying at the hands of those sworn to protect them. And violence is begetting violence. People of color have been disproportionately dying at the hands of the government since the founding of this country. This is not new but it is finally being publicized in a way that nobody can deny it. We must take this sense of urgency that has been missing and use it to take action. Now!!!
Use the platforms you have. Paint, write, march, use social media (in your voice), make this conversation a part of your normal dialog with coworkers, friends, and family. Yes, it will be tough at times. You will mess up and you will most likely come to realize some things about yourself that you hadn't before. That's okay. When that happens and you not only face it, but you own it, that's where real change comes.
Public health professionals, it IS our duty to address this endemic infection. As Nancy Krieger, PhD, says in her 2015 paper Police Killings, Political Impunity, Racism and The People's Health: Issues for Our Times, we have "the capacity - the analytic tools, the data, and the knowledge - to make the connections palpable - and actionable - between the many forms of racism, whether structural, everyday, gendered, or environmental, and the myriad ways they become embodied and manifest as health inequities".
Birth-workers and reproductive justice advocates, this IS about reproductive justice! Everyone is somebody's baby. Mothers should NEVER have to birth their beautiful black and brown babies into a world where they worry and prepare for the possibility of such tragedies as those endured by the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile this week. We have a voice in our communities and we are the healers that know how to hold space when our mamas are hurting.
Sexual health educators, this IS about a breakdown in the capacity for human connection. We loose the basis of sex positivity when that rudimentary ability for empathy and connection is lost. This must not be an oversight in our lesson plans; from the way we present culturally conscious information to the conversations we have the ability to start, we must address this.
As a public health professional, as a birth worker and reproductive justice advocate, as a sexual health educator, and as a light-skinned Latina mother of a gorgeous brown baby boy, I promise use my privilege and my voice.
Whoever we are, whatever we do, we have a voice and a responsibility to use it no matter the size of our stage.