Hatred for Black Men is Poisoning America: But Who Will Take The Antidote?

June 4, 2020

Hatred for Black Men is Poisoning America: But Who Will Take The Antidote?

May 29, 2023

I am a physician. I love people and care for them from the depths of my soul. When people first see me, they don’t see a doctor, they first see a black woman. I am a black woman with a black father, brother, nephews and cousins. I love them all.

The hatred towards black men and in many cases, black people disturbs me. But despite watching the video of George Floyd pleading for mercy minutes before his death, I was not filled with anger.

Part of me was numb, the other part on autopilot watching the scene as if it were a rerun.

It was. Trayvon, Michael, Eric, Sandra and so many more. I was not outraged. Instead I was curious. Wondering why this man’s heart is so filled with hate and disregard for human life? Wondering how his ears could be deafened and his eyes blinded by disdain such that he’d take another’s life? This hatred and contempt for black men and women coursing through the veins and oozing from the pores of America, is deeply embedded into our culture and psyche like an insidious poison.

The current pandemic is but another reminder.

It’s hard to turn on the television and not hear about COVID-19 death disparities. Black and brown people are dying of COVID-19 at disproportionate rates. The truth is we are unlikely to address these disparities because the same reason black people are dying at higher rates from COVID-19 are the reasons, despite protests, citizen outrage and investigations, unarmed black men are killed by the police.

Friends have reached out to check on me and ask, “What can I do?” Some offer condolences and say, “I can’t imagine what it must be like for you,” as if the loss is greatest for black people and I represent us all. Some apologize for being white. Don’t ever apologize for how you were created. Instead I need you to speak up and use your influence, your power, your authority to change America. Use your influence, power and authority to make it stop. The judgment and even disdain for a person of another skin color even though a heart beating and lungs breathing to sustain life makes us all the same. Despite the sameness, there is arrogance, bias and hatred manifesting as superiority, disparity and violence. It is traumatizing.

This is the poison. Every poison has an antidote, including this one. But you won’t like it because it requires a sacrifice many are not willing to endure.

A few years ago, I befriended a young man raised in a rich, influential family. He’d traveled around the country volunteering in underprivileged communities and confided in me about his moral dilemma. He was angry and insulted by the persistent disparity and inequity he witnessed from city to city and wanted my opinion about how he could help address the injustice. Rather than offer suggestions, I posed a question. “It seems you have a good understanding about what is driving the disparities so what keeps you from moving forward to help solve these problems?”

I was moved by his honesty. He said, “I don’t want to jeopardize what I have. I’m afraid of what I’d have to give up.” He knew that using his power and influence among his family, peers and eventually as a leader, meant he’d need to endorse changes in the system that might threaten the opportunities and access that had always been his. If he fought for equal access to high-quality education, would increasing the pool of competitors limit options for him and or his children? The elephant had entered the room.

Power is centralized in the heads, hearts and hands mostly of people who are not black or brown and who don’t have the awareness and courage to acknowledge the elephant. Leaders, whether government officials, CEOs or parents are responsible for setting the tone and changing hearts in the workplace, in the community and in the home. The antidote is compassion.

Leaders must embody and demand compassion from every leader around them and every person subordinate to them. If we lived in a country graced by leaders with the wisdom to demand and expect compassion, we’d never see police brutality. It would never occur to a police officer to treat another human the way George Floyd was treated no matter what transpired beforehand. Furthermore, we’d never see the shocking degree of unmitigated social disparity all around us.

There is risk in demanding compassion. What if it means relinquishing power as you know it? What if it means disrupting the access that landed you where you are? We need wise, courageous leaders to change our culture and our psyche. Otherwise, we can protest all we want but the hatred against black and brown people will persist for generations to come and will ultimately kill us like the poison it is.

Dr. Lisa is a 3-time MEA alum, physician, public health expert and founder of Grapevine Health and Dr. Lisa on the Street. She loves to help people better understand health, healthcare, science and medicine through storytelling, connection and photography.

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