Speaking Up About The Things That Matter: Hidden Forms of Racism

Like most of you, I’m feeling the heaviness of our national news. The injustice we continue to be reminded of through violent, devastating acts needs to stop. We cannot tolerate a system that ignores equality and deems it acceptable to ignore a human plea for air, for life. On April 4, 2018, on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, I was honored to be asked to speak at Riverside Church in Harlem. The day was focused on MLK Jr.’s fight for civil rights and social justice for minorities and the poor. Today, in lieu of airing our previously planned episode, I am instead sharing that talk I gave at Riverside Church just over two years ago, as an acknowledgment of the targeting of Black lives in our society and the need for systemic change to protect Black health and Black lives. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” We can no longer be silent about this. As a doctor, I took an oath to do no harm. Because there is harm being done to millions, I must speak out. We know all too well the visible forms of racism in our society. We know the inequities in income and opportunity. We know the brutal violence and discrimination of the police. We know that Black lives are being stolen. We know the names George Floyd, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner. And there are so many others... We don’t know the names of millions of Black Americans killed every year by an invisible form of racism, a silent and insidious injustice. Our food system is a deadly weapon used against the poor and minorities. The food industry even specifically targets them, and then we’re told diet and disease comes down to personal choice. Nonsense. Foods are engineered to be addictive and the systemic racism of our culture and food system make these fake, disease-promoting foods the most accessible options. 70% of deaths are caused by chronic disease—mostly the result of our toxic food system. More people within the Black community are killed by bad food than anything else. This is an often-internalized force of racism and oppression that disproportionately affects the poor and Black communities. If you are Black you are 80% more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, over 4 times as likely to have kidney failure, and 3.5 times as likely to suffer amputations as whites. Yet we remain silent about the role of the food system killing millions of Americans. Black lives matter. Black health matters, too! This must stop. We can stop it with our forks, voices, and votes. These are powerful weapons to change our health, our communities, our economy, and the health of the planet. I hope you’ll tune in to hear more about taking action to support the health and lives of Black communities.
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