We, at The Neurology Center, generally think of ourselves as an apolitical organization. Our mission is to treat all who need neurologic care, without regard to race, color, creed, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.
We pride ourselves on giving uniformly excellent care and, for more than fifty years, The Neurology Center has remained silent, as an organization, on the sociopolitical events in the world around us.
Nevertheless, The Neurology Center is a group of people and, like all of you, we are acutely aware that we are currently in the midst of a moment without precedent in our collective history.
Our prior stance of choosing not to wade in will no longer suffice. Silence at this time is simply unacceptable.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. His name was added to a tragic roster of names some of us already know: Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, Tamir Rice, to name a small fraction. But also Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, James Byrd Jr., and Emmett Till. That these deaths occurred, and their circumstances, cannot be denied.
There are other facts borne out by simple statistics. Statistics may not be as powerful as video, but the facts are just as unarguable. Beyond this specter of unwarranted violence and death, African-Americans face disparities in prenatal care, infant mortality, educational attainment, nonviolent criminal sentencing, community healthcare availability, lifetime earning potential, and overall life expectancy. Black people die from COVID-19 almost three times more than white people and, in the nation’s capital, where we live and work, that number is nearly six times as high. There is no medical explanation for this; the only explanations reflect differing life circumstances, limited choices, and restricted access to care. The reasons for the gap in access may be debated and argued, but not the basic fact that a difference exists
These are the reasons we are seeing the protests and unrest we have witnessed throughout this nation since Memorial Day.
If you have read or seen news stories regarding the recent protests, the events may have been described as “unrest”. The use of that word implies a departure from a state of “rest”. The reality, though, is that African-Americans in this country have never experienced rest. African-American parents for the past 400 years have had to instruct their children, from an appallingly early age, how they should behave in public, in order to minimize the risk of harm or even death, simply because of the color of their skin. This risk comes not only from avowed racists but from the very people in positions of authority who have sworn to uphold the public trust. Not one of these parents sleeps easy.
It is important for us, as a corporation, to say we recognize this struggle and we refuse to turn away. We understand that people of color throughout this country live with burdens that white people do not carry. And that these burdens persist no matter what any single member of the community may achieve.
We are committed not just to being non-racist but to being anti-racist. We commit to individual and collective action that challenges systemic racism and racial prejudice, with the goal of creating equity and justice. We are committed to recognizing and understanding we human beings have implicit and often subconscious biases; and we intend to champion racial, ethnic and cultural diversity at all levels.
And we commit to listen. We recognize that most of us in the governance and management of this group have no personal experience of racism and can never truly understand the impact it has on the lives of those victimized. We are here to listen, learn, and question our long-held assumptions. We acknowledge that racism cannot be combated by people of color alone. Black people have been carrying this burden alone for too long.
We are ready and willing to have the uncomfortable conversations and do the hard work to ensure equity within our small corner of society and the wider world. To that end, we hereby recommit to actively seeking increased diversity in the ranks of our physicians and executive suite, a process that is already underway, and we welcome and encourage all members of the Neurology Center community to speak up and speak out against implicit or explicit bias that you see, without fear of negative repercussions.
The size and diversity of crowds peacefully protesting throughout the United States and, indeed, much of the world, over the past two weeks, are an encouraging sign. Perhaps we are, as a people, coming together in recognition that this is not an issue only for people of color, but, ultimately, a humanitarian issue.
All of us can be leaders on this topic.