Statement on Racial Justice and Police Brutality
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, Chicago, March 1966
“Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from “The Other America,” Stanford University, April 1967
Black Lives Matter.
And that means Black Health Matters.
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a crisis of our infrastructure on all levels, deepened long-standing systemic inequalities, and necessitated constant vigilance. All of which have now been heightened by an outbreak of a more dangerous and persistent threat: police brutality. As tens of thousands of people gather amidst a pandemic to protest an eruption of police brutality, and are paradoxically but unsurprisingly met with further oppression, many have awakened to what others have long known: this violence has been present since this country was founded on stolen land and built by slaves. The racially privileged cannot truly fathom the experiences and lasting trauma of Black Americans.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Atatiana Jefferson, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, and a tragic litany of so many others were murdered by police. They deserved to live healthy, full lives.
Health care is a human right and should not be tied to employment, age, marital status, housing status, or citizenship. One’s ability to have quality, comprehensive care should not be affected by those social determinants nor because of race, ethnicity, gender identity, or any other factors. Health care injustice and inequality are fundamentally tied to racial and socioeconomic injustices and inequalities.
We join others in this movement in solidarity and in explicitly calling police violence a healthcare crisis… while we are already undergoing a healthcare crisis. Per The Washington Post: “Even amid the coronavirus pandemic and orders that kept millions at home for weeks, police shot and killed 463 people through the first week of June — 49 more than the same period in 2019. In May, police shot and killed 110 people, the most in any one month since The Post began tracking such incidents [in 2015].”
Police “reform” will not solve the crisis. Perhaps the clearest and most somber illustration of this is the Minneapolis Police Department:
“The Minneapolis Police Department [is] held up as a model of progressive police reform. The department offers procedural justice as well as trainings for implicit bias, mindfulness and de-escalation. It embraces community policing and officer diversity, bans ‘warrior style’ policing, uses body cameras, implemented an early intervention system to identify problematic officers, receives training around mental health crisis intervention, and practices ‘reconciliation’ efforts in communities of color.
George Floyd was still murdered.” — The New York Times, “No More Money for the Police,” May 30, 2020
And then a wave of righteous anti-racist protests started, no doubt compounded by the pandemic that has kept people in fear and isolation, with inadequate health care and widespread loss of income. It is only through widely recognized civil unrest and organizing pressure that officials took action. Per this news report, on Sunday June 7th, less than two weeks after protests began, a majority of the members of the Minneapolis City Council said they support disbanding the city’s police department. “It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” Lisa Bender, the council president, said. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.”
We call upon all like-minded organizations and activists to focus on the abolition of policing as we know it — in short, #DefundThePolice. Please visit #8toAbolition for a comprehensive, holistic platform that will bring about safer, healthier communities for all. Further actions are suggested below.
Using systematic defunding mechanisms as a progressive tactic is not new. The movement for single-payer healthcare (popularized as “Medicare for All”) is as old as the Civil Rights Movement, and only exists because of the history of structural racism. As chronicled in the 2018 documentary Power to Heal: Medicare and the Civil Rights Revolution*, President Lyndon B. Johnson, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., health care professionals, and activists organized to desegregate thousands of hospitals in order for Medicare to be enacted in July 1965. That monumental and successful movement, largely grassroots-led and unprecedented, was focused on the tactic of prohibiting federal funding from Medicare if hospitals did not desegregate. It worked. Learning from and honoring those who came before us, we call for and challenge our fellow organizers and all working-class Californians to demand a similar tactic in defunding police departments, and mandating that money be reinvested in health care and other actually essential services.
California was the first state to experience COVID-19, and the first to order a shelter-in-place in order to safeguard its population. We can and should be the first state to enact single-payer health care for all, and bring a measure of safety, justice, and comfort to millions.
Healthy California Now is founded on the principles that health care is a human right, and that publicly financed guaranteed health care — care with a single standard for all Californians — is critical to our state’s social and economic well-being. We are dedicated to establishing a single-payer system in California as a model for a just and equitable U.S. healthcare system that eliminates all barriers to care. We are a statewide, non-partisan coalition of community, consumer, labor, health, disability, LGBTQ, business, faith, and political organizations committed to building and broadening the movement to guarantee health care for all Californians. We at Healthy California Now stand in solidarity with those protesting police brutality and advocating for a better way forward. We seek out and welcome Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-led organizations to champion in our collective fight for a healthier future.
Organizing together works.
Black Health Matters.
Black Lives Matter.
Some Immediate Actions
- Donate to racial justice organizations, community bail funds and mutual aid funds. New York Magazine also has a list of 115 ways to donate, including specific health care funds.
- Organize with others in your community by calling for your city leadership to #DefundThePolice, and to instead reinvest in health care, housing, education, transportation, and other actually essential services. Alternatives to policing include crisis teams to address drug and mental health issues. Check Defund12.org to see if there is already a template for contacting your city officials.
- Pledge to stop calling the police for anything except situations so dangerous that gunfire is happening or can be expected when cops arrive — and convince ten people you know to stop calling the cops, asking each of them to also convince ten people.
Resources and Recommended Reading
We also encourage you to read these statements from some of our Affiliates:
- National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW)
- Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP)
- Democratic Socialists of America — Los Angeles (DSA LA)
- UNITE HERE
- “America, This is Your Chance,” Michelle Alexander, The New York Times
- “On the Minds of Black Lives Matter Protestors: A Racist Health System,” Akilah Johnson, ProPublica
- “Why Minneapolis Was the Breaking Point,” Wesley Lowery, The Atlantic
- “How Do We Change America?,” Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, The New Yorker
- “Public Health Experts Say the Pandemic Is Exactly Why Protests Must Continue,” Shannon Palus, Slate
- TransformHarm.org, created by Mariam Kaba
- Resource Guide: Prisons, Policing, and Punishment, curated by Micah Herskind
- “From Policing to Pandemic: America’s Lethal Racism,” Mark Wrede, Heal California
- “When Protestors Cry ‘Defund the Police,’ What Does it Mean?”
- Read and support authors who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color — order from Black-owned bookstores and not Amazon.
* If you represent an organization advocating for racial, socioeconomic, and/or healthcare justice, and want to co-host a virtual screening of Power to Heal: Medicare and the Civil Rights Revolution, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in becoming a Healthy California Now affiliate, please visit our website.