Hello and welcome to Mike’s Mic.
For the last few months, we’ve seen a remarkable coming together of people, working side-by-side to transcend every difference between us -- profession, position, role, gender, and race. We have rallied around a common purpose: saving as many lives as possible in the face of an invisible foe – a virus created in nature that infects indiscriminately and threatens us all.
Our organization met this formidable challenge head on. We’ve thrived and we’ve prevailed against a deadly threat. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of Tufts Medical Center and Tufts Children's Hospital and part of your team.
I’d like to be sharing a celebratory message. I’d like to be refocusing our attention on our efforts to restore our levels of activity and deliver the great care that is our legacy and our promise. We have a lot to celebrate to be sure, but this isn’t the right time.
I, like you, have been troubled by the news of Ahmaud Arbery’s, Breonna Taylor’s, and now George Floyd’s death over a matter of days. I’ve seen the deeply disturbing images of George Floyd’s last minutes. Mr. Floyd, an unarmed black man, had been handcuffed and laid on the ground with the knee of a police officer firmly pressed into his neck for 8 minutes. That horrifying scene is incomprehensible to me. Like you, I’ve seen the images of our city and cities around the country with protesters giving voice to anger and frustration over these unrelenting and all-too-frequent episodes of violence -- with yet another black life lost.
The protest here in Boston started yesterday with a peaceful march to the Statehouse just a few blocks from here, conveying a strong message about equality and respect. I watched on the news as peaceful protesters walked by our campus, clapping for the Tufts MC community thanking ‘health care,’ and our teams acknowledged and clapped for them. As darkness fell, some became violent, throwing water bottles and bricks at police, and looting stores. Despite the best efforts of Boston and State Police, who responded with professionalism and restraint, some of our neighboring blocks are now unrecognizable.
Whatever the motivation, the kind of violence that has erupted from the few is abhorrent and as unacceptable as the police violence that triggered it. Neither has a place in a fair and just society. Moreover, the violent aspects of these protests are counterproductive to the important objective the overwhelming number of peaceful protesters seek – a change in this country that is far too long in coming – a change that addresses an injustice that goes back to before our country’s founding.
As I watched the videos, my mind went immediately to the meeting I attended with some of our staff on the day that Dr. Lola Fayanju visited Tufts to give Grand Rounds about diversity and inclusion. I thought about the words of one of our colleagues who shared the very real fear she had about her boys, now men, being targeted by law enforcement. She feared for her sons as they went through life, differenced from my own son only by the color of their skin.
I think about that meeting, the disturbing videos of George Floyd, and the long legacy of violence against black people and can’t help but believe we face another foe that has infected our communities for far too long and at far too high a cost – the racism that goes back to the founding of our country and that persists in some of our policies and institutions to this day. Like the foe we’ve been battling for the last few months, racism passes person-to-person, not by a virus but by sharing of the disturbing ideas that some people’s lives are worth less or are less important than others’.
Our nation was founded on the concept that “all men are created equal,” a concept we now, through the passage of time, understand to mean all people – regardless of gender. Still, we need to recognize that this concept remains an aspiration for far too many in this country.
I want to be clear that racism has no place in our community. Discrimination based on the color of one’s skin, their gender or their sexual preference or identity has no place in our community. At the same time, we need to recognize that bias exists and that we all are at risk of harboring biases of one sort or another.
We all have a role to play in driving change. The disease of racism and bias is one not treated by distance but by recognizing how little separates us. It’s a disease that can only be overcome through structural change and cultivating understanding. Not just our understanding of others, but also our understanding of ourselves and our biases. Not just an understanding of an individual person’s circumstances but of the historical patterns that have treated people differently based on color. Differently not only in terms of our justice system, but in every system of civil society, including health care.
We have even seen how inequity and structural racism have contributed to disproportionate disease burden among people of color across our county as we've faced this COVID pandemic:
I know that confronting these issues can be painful and that people may feel the impact of the week’s events in different ways. Please know that our Employee Assistance Program is here to help.
At Tufts Medical Center, we will do our part, redoubling our efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. This means embracing our cultural differences and learning from each other, so that our community becomes a vibrant mix with all of us having greater understanding of one another. These are themes being worked on by our own Diversity Council.
These last few months, facing a pandemic, have brought us even closer together as a community. Let’s build on that together. Let’s do our part by amplifying the respect and kindness we have in each and every interaction with our patients, our coworkers and others in our communities. Let’s do our part by being particularly aware and appreciative of what each one of us contributes to this vibrant community. Let’s create a deeper understanding that brings us even closer as a community. It is important in these trying times to stand up for what’s right and to stand together in this shared and noble purpose.