By Margery Weinstein
Editor-in-Chef, Review of Optometric Business
June 11, 2020
The tumultuous events following the tragic death of George Floyd by Minnesota police earlier this month have caused many, including those in optometry, to consider their role in advancing important reforms. ROB spoke to two optometrists who participated in peaceful protests to push for equal treatment of African-Americans by police, and who support the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement. They shared both their own experiences and their thoughts for how other ODs and the optical industry can encourage important reforms.
Danielle Richardson, OD, Zak, Los Angeles
“The killing of George Floyd marked a turning point in the country and in the Black Lives Matter movement. It took a global pandemic and no distractions of sports and travel to bring the national attention to what is really happening. People are waking up to not only the injustice of police brutality, but also the history of institutionalized white supremacy, and are responding by taking to the streets to demand change.
I attended a peaceful protest in downtown Los Angeles, and I was inspired by the coalition of people marching for an end to police brutality and racial injustice. The energy was one of unity as we honored all of our brothers and sisters whose lives have unjustly been cut short, and reminded the world that their Black Lives Matter. While there is out-sized media attention on negative elements of looting and rioting, I’m proud of the country for not losing sight of the real issue.
Zak, our Los Angeles-based practice, has supported the Black Lives Matter movement by releasing a statement of solidarity and explicitly condemning both police brutality and racism. Ally-ship extends beyond public declarations; in this moment it is important to let people know where you stand. We’re also committed to educating and providing our community with resources in support of anti-racism activism and true diversity and inclusion.
Martin Luther King, Jr once said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” This is a moment for us as individuals and as a collective to stand up for what is right. It is no longer enough to be “not racist,” but this moment calls on each of us to actively be “anti-racist.” Support for the Black Lives Matter movement will look different between individuals and businesses. Some will donate publicly, others will protest, and even more will commit to becoming more educated and civically engaged. No action is too small, but action is required.”
Kate Hamm, OD, Wichita, Kan.
“I truly believe in the necessity and mission of the Black Lives Matter movement. Last week I marched in a protest in downtown Wichita, Kan. Our police chief has been very active in creating a community where he and others can be held accountable for actions in our community. There is still work to do. Black community members are still arrested and incarcerated at faster rates and in larger proportions than their white counterparts.
As a community we asked our police department to be better by banning choke-holds and strangleholds, requiring deescalation, and being required to exhaust all alternatives before shooting, along with enforcing a duty to intervene, and banning shooting at motor vehicles (as noted by the 8 Can’t Wait Organization).
Optometry is a profession that desires to be on the forefront of change, and I am working to make that change happen.
I am personally creating more opportunities to speak to high school and college students regarding opportunities within optometry, and letting them know how wonderful this profession is. For my colleagues and industry partners, I ask that you find ways to financially support opportunities for our black students pursuing optometry. Join the NOA and find ways to support their mission. And for all organizations within optometry, intentionally create spaces and promote our Black colleagues into places of leadership. Great places to find resources is Black EyeCare Perspective and the National Optometric Association!
For optometry to be a leader in the medical field, we need to become a leader in diversifying our profession.”
Kate Hamm, OD, practices in Wichita, Kan. To contact her: email@example.com