Physicians Committee President Neal Barnard on Fighting Systemic Racism
Statement of Physicians Committee President Neal Barnard, MD:
We at the Physicians Committee and many others have issued statements to show our solidarity in recent events. But a statement of solidarity is not enough. Allow me to quote some comments from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, with whom we often collaborate in our nutrition work, on May 30:
“Last night, when I walked from Borough Hall to the heart of the protests in Brooklyn over the murder of George Floyd, I reflected on the pain I felt for him. It is a pain we've felt, again and again, over the years, as we've watched countless Black people across this country fall victim to police abuse.”
The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25 was more than an atrocity. It was proof that the continuing, nearly identical scenarios of Black men and women murdered by police officers continues unabated. More broadly, it highlighted the fact that racism is endemic in our culture, taking an ever-greater toll.
At the Physicians Committee, we work to save lives. The heart of our organization is to speak out against injustices when and where we see them and to hold those responsible accountable. As a health organization, we see firsthand the devastating effects of systemic racism, which has resulted in widespread health disparities among communities of color. We pledge to fight for life-protecting, life-promoting policy changes.
As Eric Adams said: “Now it’s time, I believe, to regain our rightful place of being connected with nature and connected with our health. We should not be living with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and all the chronic diseases that are running rampant through our society. This should not be the legacy for our children. Let’s regain our right to be healthy and to raise healthy children and families in the process.”
Racism cannot be cured. It does not go away. It can only be counteracted. Racism is a stench that exudes from human pores and needs to be washed away, every single day.
As doctors and as human beings, we need to remove the stench of racism, end the damage it has caused, and restore dignity to make the very best of health available to everyone.