by: Kyle Fish
I know the statistics. Patterns of discrimination and oppression. Inequalities in education, employment, housing, law enforcement, criminal justice. But this year those data points came to life. For two months I volunteered in the emergency department at the Los Angeles County and USC Medical Center, and the facts I’d read about became a lot more than facts.
Every day at the hospital I met people of color who had been failed by social structures and support systems that I take for granted. Young men who were victims of gang violence. Families denied housing, who used the emergency department as a haven from the streets. People whose lack of access to primary care created preventable health emergencies.
They all received good care. But the circumstances that left them in need and the context in which care was administered made it clear to me that their health is not a priority in our society.
That’s not right.
Injustice and racism are woven into the fabric of social institutions. Including hospitals. Many people are hurting as a result, and I don’t know how to fix it.
But I have hope. Because of the people I worked with.
A doctor, researching the barriers encountered by minorities seeking care, and devising creative ways to break them down. A clinical social worker, connecting people to networks of resources to help them overcome all manner of challenges. A sheriff, advocating fiercely to secure the means of health and well-being for incarcerated patients under his supervision.
These individuals were using their chosen roles to work tirelessly against injustice in their community. I began asking myself, what does it look like for me to do the same?
I’m not yet sure. But I am looking. Listening. Learning. Trying. Failing. And trying again.