Doctors have known it for a long time, well before the resounding cries of “Black Lives Matter”: Black people suffer disproportionately.
They face countless challenges to good health, among them food, transportation and income. The stress of living with racism has very real, physical effects. And they are especially prone to diabetes, hypertension and other chronic diseases that can be tricky to manage even in normal times.
Then came COVID-19 and George Floyd — one killing Black people in alarming numbers, the other shining a harsh light on systemic racism. In a matter of months and nearly 8 minutes, it became clear that institutions designed to ensure the two most important things in life — health and safety — had converged to turn against one segment of the population in stark, horrific ways.
It’s a brutal blow to Black people’s well-being and renewed calls for racial justice in all realms including health care. Doctors and their patients are reeling from the impact.
“We are exhausted and we are not OK,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, a psychiatrist who just ended her yearlong term as president of the American Medical Association. She was speaking not so much for herself as for her community.
Police violence is always an injustice, “but its harm is elevated amid the remarkable stress people are facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Harris and AMA Trustee Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld said in a recent online opinion article.
Floyd’s death is the most extreme example of over-policing that has long plagued