Mark, as I read through your guest column in the Herald-Zeitung (Thursday, July 23), I found myself truly realizing why my presence here in a town like New Braunfels is needed. I also would like to say you have missed the entire purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement.
I am a second-generation African-American physician. My father was the first Black doctor to graduate from the medical school we both attended and he fought tooth and nail to do that.
As I began to reach out to other Black physicians in the area, I spoke with one stated that she shadowed him in the late ’80s before pursuing medicine. He even wrote her a letter of recommendation for medical school. This man is single-handedly responsible for helping multiple Black physicians all over Texas getting their start in medicine.
Now that we have established my credentials, where I come from and how I am the perfect individual to speak on this topic, I am ready to have this conversation.
Since slaves were freed in the 1800s, Black Americans have been struggling to get the same recognition, rights and respect as white Americans. From being packed like sardines on slaveships, to being forced to breastfeed our slave owner’s babies, to being beaten and killed for trying to learn how to read while in slavery — to finally becoming free, we have continued to get the short end of the stick.
In the 1930s, many of our thriving, all Black neighborhoods were bombed and rioted. In the 1950s, we were purposely infected with syphilis. In the 80s, crack-cocaine was systematically placed into our communities and the war on drugs ensued on our race, separating our family units. Now in 2020, we are dealing with being killed by police.
Black Lives Matter was formed after Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old CHILD, was walking home alone one night and was profiled, followed and ultimately killed by the coward we all know as George Zimmerman. He was found not guilty and is still free while Trayvon should have been graduating from college and starting a career right now.
The mission of Black Lives Matter is “to build local power and to intervene when violence was inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes and we’ve committed to struggling together and to imagining and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive.”
Life in the city
Based on your column, it appears you have a lot to say about the inner cities. If you are up for it, I would like to discuss the disparities that these communities face and how we as Americans can improve them.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation 2016 study about race, Blacks and Hispanics were more likely to say that representation in media is rarely accurate.
In addition, did you know that:
The Black unemployment rate is consistently double that of whites. Further data shows Black people are twice as likely to not get hired due to their name.
Non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic children are less likely than non-Hispanic white children to have parents report their neighborhood is safe. Black students are 2.3 times as likely to receive a referral to law enforcement or be subject to a school-related arrest as white students.
Schools with 90 percent or more students of color spend $733 less per student per year than schools with 90 percent or more white students.
According to the Office for Civil Rights, 1.6 million students attend a school with sworn law enforcement officers — but not a school counselor.
These communities have less safety, less funding for education, more interaction with the criminal justice system — even while in school — and over a million students have a law enforcement officer and not a counselor.
It’s basically starting from behind.
Let’s talk about our child hunger problem. One in five children goes to bed hungry. Some kids act out because their clothes don’t fit or their shoes are too tight.
On the police
Had your column come with solutions, I would have agreed with you that as a community we have a lot of work to do within, but I don’t expect a gang member who has known crime since a young age to protect and serve my community — but I expect police to.
Let’s talk some more stats now. I find it very interesting that more than 90% of white police officers think that equality has been achieved by the black population while almost 70% of black police officers say that there is more work to do.
Since you mentioned George Floyd, I want to mention him, too. As Derek Chauvin drove his knee into his neck, three sheepishly afraid officers stood by and did nothing to stop him.
Did you know that he had 12 police brutality complaints during his career and that he has killed multiple people of color on the job?
So the real question is, WHY ON EARTH WAS HE TRAINING ANYONE?
Why is there a code of silence within police forces to “not rat” on each other? Qualified Immunity is a huge issue because it creates people who can abuse the power of their job without criminal consequence or liability. As a physician, if I were to harm someone, I would have the medical board to answer to and even a criminal court depending on how bad the damage was. Who do police answer to?
People in inner cities are tired, they are angry and they want a better America. I don’t agree with riots but I would caution you to check your sources about who those perpetrators actually are and how small of a subset of the peaceful protests they actually are.
As the calls come for defunding police departments, I believe that the word choices are poor but the concept is the same. Why do we have a national guard if city police departments have tanks and specialized military weapons? How do we have enough money for that but not enough to create safe housing, create criminal justice reform, feed children for free at school and bring back trade programs to all high schools?
Have you ever heard of the school to prison pipeline? If you haven’t, this is what is happening in our inner city schools and is affecting our next generation.
I would like to tell you a story about a young black man who was caught with a gun after seeing and experiencing so much violence in his community.
He served almost a year in jail awaiting trial because his mother could not afford bond. He was then given 10 years of probation and it almost ruined his career that he worked so hard to build.
Imagine this happening to someone without a future ahead of them. How do they pick up the pieces?
They are already less likely to get hired due to the color of their skin and possibly their name but now they are dealing with a record.
How do they get housing? How do they acquire the funds to purchase a car, etc. Without an equal playing field, how would one expect them to make it?
As it is Black Maternal Mental Health Week, I would like to comment that black women are 3 times more likely to die in childbirth despite education or insurance status. I am proud to be the only Black Birth Provider in our town, one of three doctors in town who accepts Medicaid for obstetrical care and I am saving lives one patient at a time. Representation matters and I am glad to be here to offer a different perspective.
Making things better
In closing, I encourage you to really explore why the phrase “Black lives matter” bothers you so much. I also encourage you to explore the ties between the criminal justice system and how this directly affects those within the inner city Black community.
In addition, I encourage you to befriend a person of color and have thoughtful discussions about race in America and how we start to rebuild.
Here is short list of things we can do right here in New Braunfels to work toward achieving equity:
• Continue to improve our diversity in each sector of our town from medicine to education
• Partner with local organizations like the MLK Association to continue the conversation
• Recognize Juneteenth as a holiday
• Education for our communities about inequities that people of color face
• Provide support to the Black Student Union in our respective school districts to let our young, black New Braunfelsers know that we support them
• Call out implicit bias when it lands on our doorsteps and foster accountability within our community
• Examine our local criminal justice system and continue the conversation
Some of these action items embody the social, economic, and political power to thrive that the Black Lives Matter movement is demanding — which they have every right to do.
I hope that you and other readers learned something new and I am happy to speak with you anytime.
Dr. Jessica Edwards is a physician and the owner of Zara Medical in New Braunfels.