Black and Brown physicians must speak out against gun violence

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When is enough enough?

I cried inwardly when I heard the conservative response to a true threat to the health of Black Americans. The systematic killing of Black and Brown people is a fact in America.

After the killing of 19 children and two adults in Texas, the governor espoused the need for more guns. Yes, more guns

Guns are truly a health hazard for Black and Brown Americans. Charles Blow, op-ed columnist for the New York Times and MSNBC analyst, said as much.

The racial killings in Buffalo, along with the myriad of historical “White-on-Black killings” in the past, highlight that point. Instance after instance, these acts of terror are made with no response except “thoughts and prayers.”

Many of these same conservative “talking heads” ask for “a good guy with a gun to confront a bad guy with a gun.” Well, that is just what transpired in Uvalde! There were armed responders within the school who stood by and witnessed the mass killings. The NRA just stated again on national news last night that more guns save lives.

So, what can be done? As physicians who belong to numerous medical organizations, we should be leading the call for measures that limit this carnage in our streets and in our neighborhoods. But these organizations can be just as hypocritical as the conservatives who make up these same groups.

When it comes to smoking, automobile crashes, cancer, the environment, and global warming, we speak up. We engage our legislators, congress members, and even the president and push for reform. Yes, we create “position papers” and then rest on our laurels for doing so.

The most glaring aspect is the continued loss of life in our own Black communities. Young Black men make up 2% of the population yet account for 37% of the deaths due to firearms. If we, and I include all of us but especially physicians of color, do not call for change, then we are not the leaders we propose to be for the health of our communities.

All of this comes as we remember the murder of George Floyd!

As many have called for action in the response to that senseless, heinous act, we have to remember the few advances that have been started but then look at the lack of progress on gun control legislation. I am reminded by the words of Attorney General Keith Ellison that we as a community have to take matters into our hands and simply vote. 

That act alone can give one a sense of ownership and to some degree control of that we construe as out if reach. This is election season, though it seems to be year-round. 

I encourage, and even challenge you to not only get out and vote, but also support your candidate. Fight for those ideals you stand for and believe in. 

If there is someone that you feel is not supporting your community, vote them out of office. Organize community voting clubs, go door to door for your candidate, make a commitment.

We cannot rely on others to solve these problems. We as the major stakeholders in our communities must lead that effort. I am proud to say there are many organizations old and new who are doing the work. But much more is needed. 

I am personally calling the Black and Brown physicians who make up the medical community and organizations to speak up and act out. To quote Hillel the Elder, “If not now, when; if not you, who?

David Hamlar MD, DDS is an assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Minnesota. He specializes in craniofacial skull base surgery. He attended Howard University College of Dentistry (DDS) and Ohio State University (MD), and came to Minnesota for his fellowship in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. Besides medicine, he is a retired Minnesota National Guardsman achieving the rank of major general. His passion today is empowering students of color to achieve their dreams of entering the medical professions as well as other STEM-oriented careers.