The safety and health of children is a pediatrician’s first concern, and has never been more so than now. I know many of you, like me, watched recent explosive events unfold knowing that they will shape the children of today and the adults of tomorrow. As pediatricians, we recognize that racism is a social determinant of health which impacts the long-term outcomes of health, education and economic stability of our communities of color. And in the days following the tragic death of George Floyd, we have seen the immediate outcomes of the effects of racism, accelerated and brought in to sharp focus. Children across Minnesota are being affected by violence and upheaval. Families that already live in precarious situations were left without reliable access to food or formula, medicine or first aid. Children and adolescents are traumatized from the sights and sounds in their worlds, whether it be the sirens and fires in their communities, or the video images of a man’s agonizing last moments as he pleads for help.
Our children were already experiencing an imbalance in their sense of physical safety as a global pandemic uprooted their lives, and this trauma has been compounded by the abhorrent act of racism that resulted in the death of Mr. Floyd and the subsequent violence that has erupted. The disparate consequences of racism are laid bare for all to see during this outcry in our communities and we need to reassure families that pediatricians are here to support all children and help create safe environments for all families.
In times of crisis and uncertainty, children and adolescents look to their grown-ups for a road map on how to travel through the experience. We need to encourage parents across our state and nation to see their child’s doctor as an ally in addressing the systemic disease of racism. Having an age-appropriate conversation with children or adolescents about racism is a crucial part to preventing a future generation that enables inequity and human suffering. It can feel like a daunting task, but it is imperative. MNAAP has collected resources and guides that can be helpful in approaching and facilitating these conversations. You can find them at www.mnaap.org/racism-and-violence-undermine-childrens-safety/.
The members of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics stand firm in our collective mission to recognize the challenges that our children are facing, identify implicit bias and advocate for equity in all areas of our social structure that will allow them to grow up to be healthy and strong.
Lori DeFrance, MD, FAAP
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
– Helen Keller