Thank you to everyone that has protested and spoke out following George Floyd’s murder. Thank you to everyone that has fought for and continues to fight for exposing and destroying systemic racism. Thank you to those afflicted communities that respond to this injustice with passion, education, protest, and solidarity.
In my world of chronic disease treatment, one dogma stands above all others, and that is to look for, identify, and address the root causes of someones issues. When I see a patient, I spend time hearing and understanding their history and how it contributed to their current condition. I analyze the whole picture, find the specific root causes for that patient, and create a plan to address them. Approaching chronic disease this way is very different than the standard of care in our country, but immensely more effective. It also takes a certain skillset that includes educating myself, thinking analytically about problems, and understanding how similar root causes affect people differently. It’s ideal work for an anxious introvert that tends to move slowly, spend a lot of time in my head, and limit my time in large groups.
My personality and these traits make me very good at caring for patients with chronic disease, but at the same time they make me a shitty protestor. While thousands of people in Denver and around the country have left their homes in recent days to protest, I stayed at home. While friends and colleagues disseminated their anger and calls for action on social media and email, I did not.
Like I do with everything else, I’ve spent a lot of time in my head pondering this, both the actual reality, but also my lack of response to it. My anger at the George Floyd’s murder is real. My anger at the repeated physical and mental brutality that law enforcement inflicts on people of color is real. My understanding of and anger at systemic racism in this country is real.
While my default is to inflict upon myself repeated self-criticism, I know how toxic that is and am trying to break that cycle. I’ve also learned through the great work of Susan Cain that introverts have a role to play that often is in the background. So I thought about how an introvert like me approaches this and decided to write this for other individuals that might be sitting at home dealing with similar thoughts
So what can one do if you’re not willing or able to jump up, yell from the rooftops, march in solidarity, and be the loud voice the world needs to hear. What can you do if it’s your nature to think and analyze in the privacy of your own head and space.
- Understand the problem – white privilege and systemic racism are here just as much now as they were during slavery. It’s often hidden and manifests differently, but don’t kid yourself, it here. Take the time to learn this true history, and especially regularly use sources by African Americans. It’s their experience we need to be hearing and understanding, not our own so much. Do not immediately discount a view because you don’t understand it. It’s not your experience. Search out those voices first (instead of reading this article). Below are just some of the media I’ve explored over the years that I recommend.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates – Between the World and Me and We Were Eight Years in Power. Every word Mr. Coates writes seems to having purpose and meaning.
- Ibram X Kendi – Stamped From the Beginning. This was a beautifully written and exhaustive read but opened my eyes to the true systemic racism that has always and continues to exist and also a recent interview discussing racial inequities in the COVID era. I look forward to reading his two more recent books as well.
- The Autobiography of Malcom X as told to Alex Haley. Wonderful insights into the life of Malcom X and the impact of white supremacy on the black power movement.
- Yah Gyasi – Homegoing. A procession of intertwined short stories that describe the African-American experience from West Africa to the United States.
- Serial Podcast – Season 3. An eye-opening expose on the criminal justice system which of course affects minorities far more than others.
- White Lies Podcast. A well done history lesson that shows the inherent hate and racism that invades many individuals and can lead to horrific consequences.
- Ted Radio Hour Podcast – The Consequences of Racism – March 15, 2018
- Revisionist History Podcast – Season 2, Episode 3. An interesting and unique perspective on a major historical event that helps you understand why putting a band-aid on a problem isn’t the end of the story
- Two events happening later today as I write this from leaders in Colorado: here and here that I hope to watch replays of.
- Have 1 on 1 conversations – introverts tend to do fine in small groups and 1 on 1 so be willing to talk about these issues, even if you don’t have an opinion or point to make.
- Support the African-American community financially through business support and donations. This link has a list of businesses in Denver and it’s easy to find similar lists in other communities. This link has lists of online options.
- Look to your organizations – It might be your work, your religious organization, or your volleyball team, but many organizations have leaders that are actively speaking out and acting on these issues. Ask those leaders how you can support them.
- VOTE!! – If you do nothing else, please vote for those that understand these issues, or are at least willing to listen to those that do.