Black Lives Matter: When will there be real change?

By Roni Roseberg

TRIGGER WARNING: This blog discusses sensitive themes.

My first pregnancy was perfect. When my son was two years old, I then discovered I was pregnant again.

I wanted to give him a sibling and things were going along well until just after I announced the second pregnancy to family and friends.

Who would have suspected that I’d be in the hospital with a miscarriage that night? But that is what happened, to our disappointment.

It was while I was recovering that I noticed the many white blossoms on the ground around our apple tree. I then realised that not all flowers become fruit. Nature has her ways. And so, I accepted the loss.

My personal life was in flux for a while, so I didn’t attempt another pregnancy for two more years. At the time, I’d not have admitted it openly, but I realised that I wanted another baby despite the awareness that the fate of my marriage was unsure.

I had no illusions about the arrival of another child cementing the relationship; I simply wanted another child, and I was 34. To some, my choice might have seemed irresponsible, but I knew that life doesn’t give us unlimited chances.

I got pregnant again.

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Halfway through that pregnancy – too soon for the baby to survive at birth but far enough along for me to have felt his vigorous kicking – I nearly went into labour. When I went to the doctor with some suspicious signs, he whisked me off immediately to the hospital, explaining that he had to sew my womb shut to keep the baby inside.

I had something called ‘incompetent cervix’, not a confidence-building name. It was likely caused by a procedure undertaken when I had the previous miscarriage.

The doctor explained that early in a pregnancy, sewing the uterus shut is a relatively easy and safe procedure. However, at 20 weeks (where I was), it was very risky, and I could lose the baby.

I was briefly put under anaesthetic and woke up feeling okay, but I was lying in a bed tilted at an angle.

I was not allowed to get up for five days. At night, I’d dream that the bed was straightening itself out. During the day, I worried about my baby.

Sometime during that week, my doctor came to examine me and announced that things were not healing. My uterine sutures would have to come out, and I would go into labour.

I had a deep sense that my baby was well and fighting to live. I was fighting, too, and using visualisation techniques to promote healing. I begged the doctor to give me 24 more hours.

Because he was a good doctor, and he trusted me, he said yes. He even came in on his day off to check on me. It was that trust that saved my son.

In those 24 hours, things took a turn for the better, and I was soon discharged and went home. I rested for a couple of weeks and was even able to return to my teaching job.

I carried nearly to term, and my son was born healthy. Today, he is a magnificent young man, soon to be married and enjoying life.

Had my doctor not been such a good doctor and had he not trusted me, my son wouldn’t be here today.

And had my doctor, a man of African-American descent, not been accepted into medical school due to someone’s prejudice, or had not been hired by my healthcare provider, a professional would not have reached his goals of saving lives.

An immeasurable amount of good would have been lost.

Life in the USA: The need to challenge racism

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Prior to the terrible murder of George Floyd on 25th May 2020, it was no secret how African-Americans and people of colour were facing discrimination across the United States.

When previously questioned on the issue, around 3 out of 5 Americans said that they believe race relations in the USA are “bad”.

Research undertaken by the Pew Research Centre in 2019 (based on the views of 6,637 adults) found that:

About eight-in-ten blacks (78%) say the country hasn’t gone far enough when it comes to giving black people equal rights with whites, and fully half say it’s unlikely that the country will eventually achieve racial equality…

Blacks are more likely than other groups to say their race has had a negative impact on their ability to get ahead; whites are the most likely to say their race helped them.

The very doctor who treated me offered me kindness, understanding and a critical level of care.

So, who could imagine not giving this man a chance to practice medicine, just because of his skin colour?

Who can accept the mistreatment of medical students by members of staff and fellow students based on protected characteristics including race and also gender and/or sexual orientation?

Who can support the fact that people of colour in the USA receive “less care – and often worse care – than white Americans?”

And most critically of all: how can anyone with a conscience accept the death of poor George – and many more like him – at the hands of police brutality?

Well, I can’t.

George Floyd: A crucial tipping point

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When I myself used to hear of racial discrimination, I couldn’t help but think of the soft-spoken doctor who held my hand, honoured my judgement, and critically saved my son.

Now, several weeks after first writing this blog and following George’s death, the protests against the brutality that killed him are on my mind.

I’m left to sadly reflect on the minuscule amount of progress those of us who favour equal rights for all have seen in the last 50 years.

When I was an idealistic university student, I felt we could change the world, especially if the unjust could just see what we students saw. I marched, protested, and debated – sure that if others felt our commitment and appreciated the injustices, that things could and would change.

A few things did change, but not nearly enough. Statistics and face-to-face conversations tell us that people of colour, Muslims, gay and transgender people, and those with disabilities and prison records, are still very much excluded from the good things in life.

It is not simply a question of: “Work harder, and you will be rewarded”.

I’ve been in the field of education for a long time, so to me: much of the answer lies in education. It’s clear to me that there is a need for a major overhaul of what is being taught in American schools.

There would not be such massive deficits in the American public’s cultural literacy if education were better. There would be greater knowledge of Black history and divisive politics would seem less alluring.

We need to include more subjects and communities in schools. Communities have plenty to contribute towards dialogue on individual, collective and national experiences and needs.

Additionally, school districts need to loosen ties with publishers of academic materials. Competencies valued in schools need to include greater social awareness as well as academics.

As an educator and American citizen, I got involved in both education and civil rights to make a better world for my children and others, following the tenet of “tikkun olam” – the Jewish belief in repairing the world.

This is everyone’s responsibility. We’re all responsible for making the world a better – fairer, most just – place. One element of tikkun olam is therefore sharing, caring, and ending discrimination based on colour, gender, religion and sexual orientation.

An unselfish world where these things have been abated is the kind of world I want to see my grandchildren and their grandchildren grow up in.

Let us not put the lessons of today’s social unrest behind us. Let us convert the lessons to move forward as a society.

Let us honour George’s memory and declare that Black lives matter.

 

This blog is dedicated to the memory of the late George Floyd. Rest in peace dear brother.

Take action

Find out about how you can help the Black Lives Matters movement here.

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