April 20, 2021
The news of the murder conviction in the death of George Floyd comes after weeks, months and years of intense, accumulated pain. This moment does not take away the underlying, systemic causes of racism and violence that impact communities of color. But it can be a moment for us to reflect and set our own plans for how we can make a generational change to improve the lives of our patients, families and communities.
Many of you live and work in communities that have been traumatized and retraumatized by the killings of Black and brown teens by police. To my Black pediatrician colleagues, I do not know your pain, but I stand with you in it. We at the AAP will continue to speak out with our words and push forward with our actions to address racism's effects on children and families.
These principles are echoed in our Equity Agenda Year One work plan, which includes a focus on anti-Black racism. I will share more of these plans with you in the coming months, and I hope that many of you will be engaged in this critical work. A significant task before us is development of a new policy statement on the impact of adverse policing exposures on child, family and community health. The AAP Board of Directors approved the intent to draft this policy statement in November, and it will be an important, foundational document for AAP advocacy when it is published.
We know current policing practices often have a disparate and harmful impact on communities of color. As researchers documented in a research brief in Pediatrics in December, Black and Hispanic adolescents are significantly more likely to die from shootings related to police intervention, compared to non-Hispanic white adolescents. This mirrors similar racial and ethnic disparities in adults, and it highlights the need for interventions. We need comprehensive and community-engaged strategies to prevent more deaths like those of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and all the other young men and women we have lost.
As pediatricians, at an individual level, we must have open conversations with our patients in our exam rooms, to assess the impact of individual and community-level trauma and be prepared to provide care to them. At a local level, I encourage you to connect with your AAP chapter, advance policies in your state and be a voice in your community speaking out. At a national level, AAP is actively advocating for ways to counter and mitigate the harmful effects of racism on children and adolescents, and we will share whenever there are opportunities for you to join us. Our 2019 policy statement on the impact of racism on child and adolescent health provides a road map of strategies that we are pursuing at all levels.
Pediatricians play a vital role in this moment of reckoning. Using our voices to speak up for our patients, using our platform to push for meaningful change, we can make a real difference as we confront the work that lies ahead. Thank you for all you do for children.
Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP