Zero tolerance for racismJan 06, 2021
I had a nice conversation with my good friend, Dr. Bruce Goldfeder, Emergency Room doctor. He is a hero, as last year, he was shot while he took actions to subdue a gunman at the West Palm Beach VA Emergency Department, where he worked. His actions prevented the death of the patients he was serving. I’ve known Bruce for many years and I can tell you that he is one of the kindest, people-loving doctors I know. Bruce loves the black community, and it shows.
Bruce and I were discussing the public disarray as a result of the death of George Floyd. We talked about different topics related to the biology of trauma, acts of looting and vandalism, crime, and many other issues that a lot of us are worried about right now. In our conversation, the issue of police violence against black men came about.
All of us have been living the COVID-19 pandemic for several months now. Every white, Asian, Hispanic, black, and human of every race and ethnic background on the planet understands the word FEAR. For about three months, we have been in fear of going out to avoid getting infected. Now imagine walking a LIFETIME in a black man’s shoes. The fear of going out that a black person feels due to the color of their skin is heavy, and black men and women have to walk in that fear for a lifetime. Although fear is only one dimension of racism, we hope you understand the difference of living this reality for three months vs. a lifetime.
Bruce and I recognize that there are great men and women who work in the police department and we personally know many of them. Most cops are kind and would not hesitate to put their own lives in danger to safeguard our lives. Some cops have been victimized, and many have suffered injuries while protecting us. Their work is difficult and we have much gratitude for them. However, there is the issue of “bad cops” or the ones who engage in police violence against other people, specifically, against black people. It is true that not every cop is bad, but it is a fact that there are “a few bad cops.” Don’t we all know that?
George Floyd’s death brings to light this issue. We all can agree that this was a murder by more than one officer. That’s not the point I’m going to make here with the help of my friend Bruce. The deeper issue is that we have gotten accustomed to saying that, “there are some bad cops,“ and that, “not everyone is bad.” Under this mindset, we have allowed the deaths of black men and women to go unpunished. Let’s put things into perspective here.
When we get on a plane to go to another city, do we expect all pilots to have the necessary training to take us to our destination? Would we tolerate it if there were some “bad pilots,” and that we could expect a plane crash because of those “bad pilots”? Would we have tolerance for airline executives to excuse a plane crash because there are some “bad pilots” but the majority are “good pilots”? Would the “bad pilots” continue working for that airline without consequence?
When someone goes to the emergency room, are we ok with “bad doctors” who engage in practices that do harm, or do we expect for every doctor to know how to treat people’s injuries or illnesses every single time? Would we be ok if we knew that sometimes, when we go to the emergency room, there will be “bad doctors” who may treat us with practices that could kills us? Would we be ok if hospital directors told us, “well, the majority of our doctors are good, but there are some bad doctors.” If a “bad doctor” causes a death, would we be ok if he went unpunished and continued serving at the emergency room?
The issue here is a systemic problem. For far too long we have made it ok not to treat black men and women equally in every aspect. And as it pertains to the police, we have excused police violence against blacks as isolated incidents, called the cops who engaged in this violence as “a few bad cops,” and we have continued business as usual, making it acceptable to have “a few bad cops.” You see, there should be ZERO TOLERANCE for “a few bad cops” at police departments in cities across our nation, just like we have zero tolerance for “a few bad pilots” and “a few bad doctors.” We must hold police to the same standard.
Since we know that the underlying issue that leads to violence against blacks is racism, what are we going to do to change the system? What are police departments and entire cities going to do to eradicate the notion that police who engage in violence against blacks are excused because we expect this to happen due to the “few bad cops” mentality? Reform is going to be more effective if we take a look at systems to implement change. Yes, we punish those who killed George Floyd, but it should not stop there. Every single police department in the nation should start taking action for systems change. Every police officer should have the mentality of ZERO TOLERANCE FOR RACISM. We must prevent other black men and women from falling victim and we must start changing the system. Life is precious and black lives matter.
Bruce and I recognize that the police are not the only group who needs to change. There is racism in different groups of people, within every race and against every race. There are so many humans consumed by hate toward a fellow human. Hate robs happiness because, where there is hate, there is no love. One of Bruce’s friends told him that we have to have compassion for the perpetrator, because his soul needs help. I could not agree more. I have faith that God can help us have compassion because, to eliminate racism, we have to love all humans.
Thank you, Bruce. Deeper conversations about racism amongst friends are so needed right now. And, as we agreed, perhaps what we are seeing on the streets is what was needed as a catalyst for change. We remain hopeful and active on behalf of our black friends. We have to do better to support them.
Thanks for reading.
Dr. Monica Oganes (www.DrMonicaOganes.com)
Dr. Bruce Goldfeder, (www.DrBruceGoldfeder.com)