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We have failed the Black community.

As a country and as an organization, we have failed Black communities. Black women, Black transgender people, and Black families have all suffered from us not openly and unapologetically condemning a justice system where Black people are over-policed, over-incarcerated, and killed right before our eyes. 

As a white woman privileged by race, class, and organizational position, I’m learning that silence makes us complicit. I am learning that dismantling systemic racism requires more inclusive and better strategies, and that failure to hold a focus on ending systemic racism makes us complicit in it. Complicit in a system where we know Black families are more likely to die from police violence and COVID-19 than people of any other race.

Due to myriad socio-cultural health factors which boil down to systemic racism, Black people in America are more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than pregnant people of any other race. There has never been a time in our country’s history when this has not been true. I, as a leader, have failed the Black community by not having a plan to address the violence that has persisted against Black lives, hoping in vain this would improve automatically in time. 

As a largely white-led organization, I now understand that we have to dismantle structural racism on purpose. It is dissonant for those of us who see police engage peacefully, maintain order, and uphold the law in our communities and health centers every day, to then see those same police use such violence against our Black neighbors. We know that our collective vision of a more just and equitable society is indeed possible. However, if Black families, Black women, Black transgender people, and Black children do not have the right to body sovereignty—or the right to organize peacefully against racist violence—we can never truly achieve a unified vision of a just society, let alone guarantee reproductive freedom for all.

The history of reproductive health care is replete with abuses perpetrated on Black bodies, including but not limited to the Tuskegee Study, clandestine sterilizations without consent, and the theft of cell lines from a cancer victim. This inhumanity and lack of ethics has led to generational mistrust of the health care system. Planned Parenthood must work to earn and maintain the trust of our Black communities in partnership and alliance. We do this by our actions, not just our words.

Planned Parenthood stands publicly and proudly in solidarity with Black communities to dismantle white supremacy and raise structural racism as a public health crisis.  

The onus to protect Black lives, Black women, Black transgender people, and Black families is on all of us.  Planned Parenthood has a responsibility to respond to this moment by naming the racism of our organization’s past, in order to change the trajectory of the future. Our task now is to untangle the racial bias implicitly woven into our organization today.

To assist us in doing this, the Strategic Alliance will turn to our Black leadership within the organization for guidance. Their lived experience and subject matter expertise can help us see where our privilege blinds us. We need to trust our community partnerships, so that the voices of our Black patients, our Black youth, and our Black LGBTQ communities, teach us how to best improve the quality of their lives. We have undertaken an Equity Community Wellness Initiative to light our path, so that we can learn, grow and provide some semblance of safety and support to those who are feeling overwhelmed, afraid and under-represented in our country and in our organization.

I’ll close by saying, yes, there is more work I, and we can do, and our organization must do—and we must do it together. As we grow wiser in these moments, we will use our power, privilege and position as public health leaders to care for, and to protect Black communities, Black women, Black transgender people, Black families, and Black lives—no matter what.

 

Chris Charbonneau
CEO - PPGNHI & PPINK

Tags: Black community, racism, BlackLivesMatter

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