At Science for Georgia, we believe that we are obligated as humans to name injustice in plain language when we see it. This past week, we have seen a police officer literally crush the life out of George Floyd for nothing more than a bad check. This action has lit a fuse under a powder keg of fear, frustration, and terror that have yoked people of color since the dawn of America.
As people have justifiably spilled out into the streets, we’ve seen the police/military use excessive force to clear peaceful protesters in order for the President to stage a photo-op with a bible. We’ve seen reporters arrested. Encouragingly, we’ve also seen police officers kneel in solidarity with protesters and retired and current defense leaders condemn the use of the US military on US citizens. And well over half of Americans are “sympathetic to people who are out protesting right now.”
Science for Georgia fully supports the protesters. We will do everything in our power to make sure these protests become the springboard to respectful dialogue and meaningful change. True change is a long game. This cannot be swept under the rug when the protests end and the streets clear. Now is the time for a national focus toward true reform to end systematic oppression.
The COVID-19 epidemic has laid bare the open wounds caused by inequalities: unequal economic opportunities and less access to healthcare, healthy food, and safe housing lead to chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and obesity. These are the very conditions that have caused a disproportionate number of people of color to die from Covid-19 (on top of unequal access to healthcare and testing); the very conditions that make it nearly impossible to break out of a cycle of poverty caused by health and economic disparities.
African Americans make up 13% of the American Population but account for 23% of Covid-19 deaths. Alarmingly, “counties with higher populations of black residents account for 58% of Covid-19 deaths nationally”CNN
This cycle is being made worse by Covid-19. The working poor have the least monetary cushion to rely on during unstable economic times. Furthermore, the very children who need schools the most have the least access to online learning and the least access to their parents’ help and guidance because their parents are more likely to be “essential workers.”
Have you taken a moment to look at the essential workers that are keeping us all alive? The mail-carriers, the delivery people, the grocery store workers? “People of color make up the majority of essential workers in food and agriculture (50%) and in industrial, commercial, residential facilities and services (53%).”
People of color are the vital components of our life-line, and yet, people are still finding time to harass people for #livingwhileblack and, more tragically, police are still finding time to use excessive force against people of color instead of trying to work with the communities in most need. These stressors have negative effects for generations.
Science for Georgia doesn’t pretend to have the answers. We do believe that everyone has the ability to take action to make the world better. As we forge ahead together, let’s make sure to keep these hard conversations respectful, fact-based, open-minded, and constructive. We are all isolated, worried, and frustrated enough as it is; we need to start discussions.
We end our blogs with “Take Action” suggestions as often as possible. We have looked for actions that can be permanent and lasting, not just “write a letter, tweet your thoughts and prayers, and drop the mic.” The path to meaningful change must be walked by all of us together. Some suggestions are listed below:
- Every time you interact with an essential worker (not just a doctor, but a nurse, a med tech, a mail carrier, a delivery person, a grocery worker) – look them in the eye and say “thank you” – let’s remember we are all humans in this together.
- Get children back in school, or they (and their parents) risk becoming yet another casualty – slow the spread by wearing a mask and maintaining your 6-feet. Pressure your school board and Chamber of Commerce.
- Believe people of color when they speak out.
- Contact Science for Georgia about getting involved with us in supporting our partner group: Break the Cycle of Health Disparities.
- Support our Black Scientists. Our HBCUs are the pride of Atlanta, yet their Black students cannot learn in safety.
- Read about ways to improve social justice (unaffiliated organizations):