We are at a historic moment in time. The health inequalities revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the senseless murder of Black people by police officers have made us all painfully aware of the systemic racism that has existed in our nation for more than 400 years. And now we are at a crossroads: we can either band together to change minds and improve our public institutions so they work better for all of us, or sit on the sidelines, watch, and do nothing.
At AltaMed, we are committed to health equity, advocacy, activism, and, most of all, equality. If you want to make a difference but don’t know where or how to start, we’ve put together a simple guide to help.
A Note About Racial Injustice
You’ve heard the term #BlackLivesMatter, and you’ve probably heard #AllLivesMatter – and you may wonder how they are different, or why there is such uproar about the second phrase.
By supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, you are not saying Black lives are more important or that all lives don’t have value. Black Lives Matter is about recognizing the long-term, ingrained racism that Black Americans face, and committing to change it.
For Black people in America, racism shapes almost every aspect of their lives, and the very real fear of being murdered because of the color of their skin controls how they must live in the society around them. Black people are being jailed, killed, and beaten by police at higher rates than any other ethnicity, and officers are rarely prosecuted. Through our nation’s short history, there have been laws that have made it impossible for Black Americans to own property, live in certain areas, and gain entrance to schools and hospitals; as well as policies that have made it legal to oppress or even brutalize them.
These are just some of the reasons why we must state firmly that Black Lives Matter. We know that systemic racism affects many of those we serve. However, at this moment, the national focus is on saving Black lives so we can continue to fight for all denied their human rights.
How You Can Lift the Black Community
There are many ways to get involved that don’t require you to take to the streets. In fact, there are little things you can do on a regular, if not daily, basis to make a difference.
- Vote. If you can, vote in EVERY election, even the ones that seem small: local elections often determine how, or if, systemic reform happens. This not only helps Black lives but also other marginalized, minority communities. Do your homework and vote for candidates that support equality and racial justice.
- Volunteer with AltaMed. Around the year, we have “get out the vote” events where you can motivate people in our community to participate. If you don’t already, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn about these opportunities.
- Shop at Black-owned businesses. Against all odds, many Black-owned restaurants and businesses throughout LA and Orange County have thrived. Your ongoing support is more important than ever.
- Educate yourself. Sometimes people hold beliefs that they don’t even realize are racist. Exposing yourself to new ideas and voices can help. Start following some of these Black voices on Twitter and Instagram, and listen with intention:
- Support protestors. If you can’t safely attend a protest or walk in a march, you can assemble kits with water bottles, masks, and snacks, and send them to local protest organizations, volunteer to make signs, or donate funds to support their efforts.
- Have tough conversations about racist beliefs and behavior. If you’ve heard your friends and family saying “all lives matter” or making other casually racist remarks, speak up in a productive, non-confrontational way that won't embarrass them. Letting racist remarks go unchallenged, even if the person making them claims they mean no harm, normalizes racism. Change may not happen immediately, but it’s vital that you have these conversations.
- Donate or fundraise. Find a trustworthy organization and either donate your own money or have a social media fundraiser. No amount is too small. Consider donating to:
If You Decide to Protest, Do It Safely
Demonstrations let you show your support and show our civic leaders how many people care about an issue. Even in the best of times, all protests involve some risk, including injury or arrest. If you are immunocompromised, disabled, have a serious health condition, or just feel sick, stay home and find another way to get involved.
We encourage you to follow any path to activism you feel strongly about, but if you choose to protest, protect yourself:
- Wear a mask at all times
- Bring hand-sanitizer
- Pack more water bottles than you think you need
- Do your best to stay six feet away from others
- Limit how long you stay
- Remain vigilant and aware of your circumstances at all times
- As soon as you get home, shower and wash all the clothes you wore
Don’t Forget to Practice Self-Care
For many of us, the events we’ve seen on TV, or even in our own neighborhoods have been scary and even traumatic. So much bad news, on top of all the news about COVID-19, can be exhausting.
To be a better ally, you need to stay mentally strong and healthy. Make self-care a priority. It’s OK to turn off the news once in a while. And remember, AltaMed is here for you. We hope you will join us and take whatever steps you can to make our communities healthier, safer, and more just for everyone.