The deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and so many other people of color across the United States have highlighted an important concern that many physicians have understood: racism is a damaging and persistent force in America that we must all endeavor to combat. Structural, institutional and interpersonal racism and discrimination continue to afflict our patients, our society, and our relationships with communities of color. "Importantly, racism is detrimental to health in all its forms,” per a recent statement by the AMA which encourages medical societies and physicians to speak out about the issue and approach legal intervention deaths and officer homicides from a public health perspective.  

In these times, King County Medical Society affirms its support for equal and equitable medical care for all individuals in the United States irrespective of their race, gender, sexuality, religion, political beliefs, or legal/documented status. We recognize that the United States, Washington State, King County, and Seattle have a long history of institutionalized violence and discriminatory behaviors against people of color. As an independent non-profit composed of and dedicated to physicians across King County, this medical society recognizes that improving the medical health of our patient population cannot occur without addressing underlying injustices at many levels.

We support efforts by secular and faith leaders to promote dialogue. We support conversations between people of all backgrounds to speak about the social and medical ills that afflict them. We recognize that these conversations will be challenging for many, and, as a society of physicians who care and work their hardest, we welcome this challenge. We recognize that racism is ancient and harmful and that we must always be vigilant as to its many manifestations. We recognize that we will sometimes fail to meet the needs of our communities. We hope that we can work together with these communities to recognize our faults and do better. Striving to improve, aiming to heal, fighting for our patients, and doing good are the hallmarks of physicians who seek to be engaged, informed, and determined to change the social determinants of health that affect our patients.

With faith in a better future and a commitment to improve our society.
King County Medical Society, Board of Trustees

"Silence and inaction, you're complicit."

Minneapolis Police Chief Arradondo 


May 30, 2020, was a dark and rainy day in Seattle. The unusual presence of thunder and lightning was reflective of the perfect storm of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, mass unemployment, fraud, and uncertainty.  
Tensions culminated in the reaction to nine video-recorded minutes, when now-former Minneapolis white police officer Derek Chauvin pressed the full weight of his body to the neck of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man, occluding his blood vessels and airway, while Floyd begged for mercy until his death. Not one of the other police officers present attempted to intervene for the sake of proper procedure, professionalism, or humanity.  So, there were protests, and then riots, and then curfews, but no resolution. The events in Minneapolis and Seattle and other cities in The United States are calls for action against systemic, structural, institutional racism.

Glossary of Terms:
  • Structural The interplay of policies, practices, and programs of differing institutions, which leads to adverse outcomes and conditions for communities of color, compared to white communities that occur within the context of racialized historical and cultural conditions.
  • Institutional: Policies, practice, and procedures that work to the benefit of white people and the detriment of people of color, usually unintentionally or inadvertently.
  • Individual /Interpersonal: Pre-judgment, bias, stereotypes, or generalizations about an individual or group based on race. The impacts of racism on individuals – white people and people of color (internalized privilege and oppression). Individual racism can result in illegal discrimination.

White Privilege: Peggy McIntosh (LINK)
Inherent advantages possessed by a white person based on their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice.  This privilege manifests in over-representation and overt favoritism in education, media, business, economic opportunity, religion, and the criminal justice system.
For example,  Amy Cooper, the white woman who was breaking the law yet lied to the police about the circumstances of an encounter with  a black man, Christian Cooper, (no relation), in a public space in NYC, knowing that she would be taken at her word, save for the presence of video proof to the contrary.

Anti-Racism:  Teaching Tolerance (LINK)
Anti-racism is the practice of identifying, challenging, and changing the values, structures, and behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism. A person who practices anti-racism is someone who works to become aware.  It is not the same as being “non-racist” or the specious remark,  “ I don’t see color”.  This conversation is not about the individual’s perception of race.

Empathy: Empathy doesn’t mean you understand someone else’s struggle. Empathy means you understand someone else’s feelings, by imagining yourself in the same situation. 

After the riots in Watts/Los Angeles, CA in 1965,  Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “America has consistently taken a positive step forward on the question of racial justice and racial equality" only to follow it with "certain backward steps."  Because of widespread and widely ignored black poverty and racial injustice, King also said,  "All of our cities are potentially powder kegs… Let me say as I've always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating.“  Unfortunately, in Seattle, Bellevue, and other cities, factions that are set on destruction for destruction’s sake have corrupted the value of peaceful protests endorsed by Dr. King.  Many are hurting and this country is a long way to go towards healing.  There are no easy answers; however, the perpetuation of the status quo is not the solution. Physicians who are anti-racist work to eliminate health disparities, advocate for vulnerable populations, and organize to collectively improve health solutions and save lives.

If you are interested in reading more on the subject of racism,  there are many scholarly resources available. For a practical view, NYT bestseller, “ So  You Want to Talk About Race”, by Northwest author Ijeoma Oluo, offers a user-friendly primer.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." MLK 

Opinion Piece
by Dr. Rajneet Lamba

It is safe to say that 2020 has been a tough year for many of us.  We have all been experiencing increased stress related to an unpredictable, potentially lethal epidemic disease that has been vying for our limited attention every single day.  For the first time since late February another epidemic with similar features, for certain classes of people, has taken the spotlight.  Racism has been a part of our country’s history since its inception.  Police violence is a leading cause of death for young men, particularly black, indigenous, and Latinx.  With the advent of improved mobile technology, we are all privy to these grotesque scenes, but they are certainly not new.  Increasing efforts have been made by the American Public Health Association and the American Medical Association to recognize the existence and negative impacts of racism and police violence and advocate for a public health approach to the problems.  CampainZero has a number of excellent policy ideas including data showing that reducing police use of force with measures like banning chokeholds, requiring nonlethal methods of intervention before shooting, and something as simple as requiring comprehensive reporting can each independently reduce police killings by 25%. 

A JAMA study has shown increased adverse mental health events for individuals subjected to police violence.  A Lancet study noted that black Americans who were exposed to a recent killing of an unarmed black American in their state experienced “spillover effects” of worse mental health, demonstrating the existing reach of the problem.  As we share in the pain of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and EMT Breonna Taylor, all unarmed black Americans, these spillover effects look to have extended beyond state lines and racial boundaries.  The frequency of these events, their graphic nature, finality, and disparate appropriation are undeniable, and if you are experiencing stress, discomfort, or another form of empathy then you cannot deny that we need changes.  


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