It’s hard to know how to express my feelings about the state of our country at the moment, namely the pandemic of racial injustice that has been laid bare, yet again, for us to see in all of its awfulness. Many others have spoken eloquently about the perpetual institutional violence against black, brown, and Indigenous people. I echo their outrage and sadness about the continued injustices - large and small, those that shatter our headlines and those that are experienced in silence daily.
The world of sexual health is certainly not immune to racial injustice - birth control has been wielded as a weapon against people of color for centuries and sexual violence has been perpetrated against communities of color as a tool of power, just two examples of the checkered history of sexual health. Sex education itself has been used as a tool against communities of color - imposing beliefs about who should be allowed to reproduce and when or how much autonomy people of color get to have over their bodies. The list goes on.
So, what is our role, at Health Connected, in the fight against racial injustice?
First, we must continue to educate ourselves and reflect on the implicit and explicit biases we hold, regardless of the color of our skin, though the opportunity is particularly important for those of us who experience privilege due to the color of our skin or ethnic background.
Second, we must seek to uncover the ways in which our work perpetuates or counters the forces of injustice - in our programs, in our curricula, and in our language. I know we will not be perfect in this effort. And it will have to be a continued, iterative, never-ending effort.
Lastly, we must double down on the opportunities we have to cultivate empathy, curiosity, and respect among the thousands of students we have the privilege of teaching every year. These young people are our future and we have a gift in the opportunity to help build up our young people to be advocates, allies, and upstanders against all forms of injustice, but particularly racial injustice.
Despite the awful news that is particularly inundating right now, I have hope. I suspect that hope is a product of my privilege, but it is hope nonetheless. I feel lucky to have an opportunity to work with an exceptional team of professionals at Health Connected who are motivated by our opportunity to support young people to become thoughtful, caring agents of change.
Yes, we must change the systems that perpetuate police brutality, health disparities, and a host of other injustices. These systems are made of individuals - individuals like the young people who we teach everyday.