How does this relate to the work of Integrative & Lifestyle Medicine? For starters, as healthcare providers, we take an oath to provide care to everyone – to not discriminate based on race, gender, or any other measure. We dedicate our lives to doing no harm and protecting the health of all human beings.
Let me share my short backstory.
I’m a women’s health physical therapist. I’ve spent decades in practice, and several of those years dedicated to reviewing and reporting on the literature that unequivocally provides that systemic racism is alive and well in women’s health. The realities of it are terrible and nauseating. Here’s a talk I did on the Global Maternal Health Crisis in South Africa at World Congress on Physical Therapy back in 2017.
And there is more than enough proof to support the horrors of structural racism. “By February 2020, the US had reported its first deaths from COVID-19. It was not long before the overrepresentation of African American, Latino, and Native American populations among reported coronavirus infections and deaths became apparent. African Americans and Latino individuals have been approximately three times as likely to become infected and twice as likely to die from the virus as Whites. At the same time, calls for racial justice have erupted in the wake of several high-profile killings of African Americans — most notably, the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, witnessed by the world on video recording, after more than eight minutes of having a police officer kneel on his neck as he repeatedly cried out, “I can’t breathe.” ~ From the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Read more
These pictures were taken last summer downtown in my new hometown of Greensboro, NC. I believe that it is part of our duty as healthcare providers, and as parents, to be tangibly involved with peaceful action toward equality. Only then can everyone get the education and healthcare they need.
The kind of gross inequities that exist in healthcare should spur us to consistent action every day, not just to post a picture and quote on MLK, Jr. day
Halting the public health crisis of racism
I keep quotes on my desk. One quote at a time, sometimes for months. These quotes remind me to align my actions with my words. This particular quote from MLK has been on my desk for 6 months.
And below my quote stand is a small leather pouch filled with rocks that my youngest son made in his social justice-aware Sunday school. When he brought it home, I immediately recognized the lesson – David vs. Goliath.
I keep the pouch on my desk along with this quote, to remind me that no matter how BIG the evil of oppression, racism, and sexism look – WE SHALL OVERCOME.
I also think of the civil rights icon, RGB – that someone of small stature can exact massive influence and change for the better in our society.
This particular MLK, Jr. quote has occupied this important space on my desk multiple times in years past. Passages like this one, and others like it, serve to:
✅Spur regular conversations with my 3 white sons about the evils of systemic racism.
That we cannot allow it to continue cow the progress of the movement for social justice, healthcare justice, and the double whammy of ending sexism and racism.
✅Help me live out a big truth.
It isn’t just today that we should be talking about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream or his letter from Birmingham jail, which is where this quote comes from – we should be talking about and pursuing equality EVERY. DAY.
✅Remind me we don’t have equality. Yet.
The attempted Capitol coup and the police response showed us that. The massive uptick in hate crimes since 2016 have shown that. Infant and maternal death rates for black women have shown us that. Racism and its ugly partner in crime, sexism, still exist, rampantly, across our country.
✅Remind me not to feel helpless.
I fully realize that if MLK – as one person – could speak up for what’s right to launch an entire movement – then so can we. Each of us have an individual charge to do whatever we can, however small, right now.
✅Keep me true to my values, of pursuing the straight and narrow path.
t is FAR easier NOT to speak up about these things. But I believe God doesn’t put us on earth to live an easy life. I believe we are put here to make a difference in the world, for the better.
✅Speak to the white woman in me.
Though I recently and happily discovered I have African blood in me, I know why. It was because my ancestors owned slaves, not even an hour’s distance from where I sit writing this post now. That is devastating to me; but in understanding my ancestry I move forward and honor my African great (7-8th degree) grandmother. I can honor her by acknowledging that she still lives on in me today, by celebrating her, and by doing all I can to be anti-racist. And that makes me sing, with hopefully a giant measure of her Congolese soul in my voice.
It reminds me of another passage in the letter from Birmingham jail:
“Privileged groups rarely give up their privileged status voluntarily. Groups tend to be more immoral than individuals. Freedom is never given voluntarily.”Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Moving Forward, Together, to Eradicate Racism
We must begin to make the distinction between just and unjust law, truth and untruths, love of the status quo and love of justice. With our country in absolute turmoil right now, we need the words of MLK, Jr. now, perhaps, more than ever.
So on the 2021 celebration of MLK, Jr. Day, let’s not forget that racism is a human rights tragedy that impacts us all. Let’s keep marching forward to eradicate inequity and work toward dignified, compassionate, holistic healthcare and education for all.
About the Author
Ginger is a passionate, unapologetic advocate of improving access to healthcare, a mother to 3 sons, & a 20+ year veteran in Integrative & Lifestyle Medicine in women’s health physical therapy & athletic training. She is the author of Medical Therapeutic Yoga, founder of Living Well Institute, owner of EudeMOMIa Integrative PT & Lifestyle Medicine, and most recently uprooted to Greensboro, NC with her family after 21 years of beach living, where they and their rescue pup Scout are wildly joyous about their new hometown.