In moments like these leaders of organizations and churches who are striving to address racial inequities and outright racism, pick up their digital pens and issue a statement. I have read many of them. They inform, exhort, rally and eloquently commit to dismantling an over 400 year legacy of racism and oppression of Black people. However, as I sit poised to write, as a Black American woman of Afro-Caribbean descent, I am overwhelmed with heartache and have struggled to make a statement. The recurrence of deadly violence toward Black and Brown people in this country is a horrific violation of God’s law, and it’s deeply personal. It opens a wound that comes with being Black in America.
Together we have experienced the horror of watching Ahmaud Arbery being chased, cornered and shot to death by white men; the shock of learning about Breonna Taylor being killed in her own home at the hands of those sworn to serve and protect; and the terrible sickening feeling in the center of our chests at the cold-hearted disregard of a white police officer as he knelt on the neck of George Floyd until he died - almost nine minutes, ignoring his pleas, the pleas of the crowd, ignoring the image of God in a human being.
Yesterday I watched a video of a little Black girl fight through tears as she pleaded for racial equality. This is deeply personal. That experience of horror, shock and dismay unearthed a multitude of personal pain for so many African Americans who mentally prepare daily for the potential racial threat that can come without warning. Parents fear for their sons, wives for their husbands, children for their dads even if they are just going for a run, driving through a white neighborhood, visiting a friend in an affluent part of town. My heart hurts as I recall my 6’4” brother feeling marked as a threat when he walked down the street or into a store for no other reason than being a tall Black man. I feel plagued by the constant thought of what to say, how to dress, how to act to avoid being seen as a threat when I go for a walk and visit a predominantly white part of town. I am weary of working twice as hard and twice as long to gain respect and confidence in my intelligence and leadership as a Black woman in medicine.
As Executive Director, I feel the expectation is for me to give you the horrific statistics of racism, police brutality and how Black and Brown people disproportionately carry the burden of chronic illness and death. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed once again these disparities, as the percentage of Black deaths exceeds the percentage of African Americans in many communities. And in our own hometown, 67% of the cases of COVID-19 are Latino. Today I encourage you to do some research for yourself. Today I encourage you to ponder the pain of racism that African Americans have felt for generations and hear the cries of “I can’t breathe” that have been uttered for far too long. Consider the anxiety of young children who are learning to fear for their life because of the color of their skin. Today I ask you to search the scriptures for God’s views on oppression and what he calls us as the body of Christ to do. Today I ask you to love your neighbor as yourself. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” (I Cor 13:1)
At LifeSpring, we mourn the unjust killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the many other Black and Brown people killed unjustly, whose names we may never know. We pray for their families that Jesus would comfort them in their loss. We stand against racism in all its forms, interpersonal, institutional and systemic; historic and generational; implicit bias and racial stereotyping; discriminatory practices in education, healthcare, housing, employment and economics. We condemn police brutality and the use of excessive force in our communities.
It has always been our mission to demonstrate the love of Christ by actively working to decrease racial and socioeconomic healthcare inequities by providing high-quality health care that addresses physical, spiritual and social needs. We will continue to stand with the Black and Brown families we serve as they weather health disparities illuminated by the pandemic and injustice in any form. We are committed to striving for the transformation of our community, body and soul. May we all be given the opportunity to reflect the beauty with which we were created. We hope you stand with us.
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:24)
Michele Pickett, MD