Doctor Gator: How have recent events like COVID-19 and George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis exacerbated these existing issues?
Dr. Vinson: There is variability in news cycles and in how and when this is brought to the national consciousness. As a Black person who is conscious, this isn’t new. This isn’t shocking. Some have the luxury of paying attention to this sometimes, but Black people don’t.
It’s come to a head, and COVID-19 has contributed to it in some ways. Black people are dying from COVID-19 in a disproportionate amount. People are seeing how deadly structural racism can be, and this came on the heels of it.
Doctor Gator: What suggestions for coping do you recommend for Black Americans, keeping in mind that the mechanisms and conditions that form the root of their issues may not change in their lifetime?
Dr. Vinson: We know that people do better when they have a sense of purpose, when they are supported and when their feelings are validated. It’s important that people are honest with trusted individuals in their lives about what they’re experiencing.
When it comes to microaggressions, people cope better if they do something, if they don’t just passively receive it.
These issues are so large and pervasive that every single one of us, regardless of what sector we work in or position we hold, can do something. We can take power where we have it. Maybe you can’t stop structural racism yourself, but you can look at the structural racism in the organization you’re a part of. I can teach about racism in my medical courses. I can make it part of my child psychiatry training program. I can be a support and mentor for my Black medical students.
There’s a quote from Arthur Ashe that I find very grounding and helpful. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
Also, we have to take care of ourselves as we’re fighting. This is not going to be fixed in five days, five months or five years, so be kind to yourself, understand that your advocacy may look different and you can take time to rest.