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'The healing of our communities is in our hands'

Dentistry leaders implore dentists to act amid national protests against racial injustice

June 03, 2020

By Kimber Solana

From speaking up for those disenfranchised to committing to empathy and understanding, national organized dentistry leaders, including ADA President Chad P. Gehani, are calling on dentists to help heal their respective communities amid the ongoing national protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
   
“This is the moment of the dental community — as a robust tapestry of people from all backgrounds and walks of life — to live its values,” the leaders said in a June 3 joint statement. “We must live each day with intention. We must choose to live with integrity and respect toward our fellow human beings. We must choose to recognize that their lives matter, too.”

Dr. Gehani is joined in the message by Dr. Edwin A. del Valle-Sepulveda, Hispanic Dental Association president; Dr. Frederick Jeremy John, Society of American Indian Dentist president; and Dr. Daphne Ferguson-Young, American Association for Women Dentists president. The statement was released to and demonstrate solidarity with the National Dental Association, which issued an independent statement on June 3.

“The healing of our communities is in our hands,” the group said.
   
The joint statement comes as protests denouncing the acts of racism and violence continue across the country following the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 while he was being restrained by police in Minneapolis.
  
“We are faced with a hurt that is, unfortunately, all too familiar,” the leaders said in the statement. “The ensuing outcry over Mr. Floyd’s death is not just about this singular incident, but instead a centuries-long history of discrimination and brutality against black people and other communities of color.”
  
Mr. Floyd’s death followed recent high-profiled deaths of African-Americans, including the March 13 officer-involved fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and the Feb. 23 shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, while jogging in Glynn County, Georgia.
   
“We add [Mr. Floyd’s] name to the list of others whose lives have also been cut short under the heinous, yet enduring legacy of racial injustice,” the leaders said in the statement. “And with every addition to this list, there is a wound that weeps from repeated injury.”

The group recalls Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who in 1963, shared his dream that society would one day “hew a stone of hope” for his children and generations then unborn, all in the name of democracy and in the security of justice.

“Instead, 57 years later, we continue to reach new altitudes on what he called ‘a mountain of despair,’” the group said. “Today, our organizations stand alongside the National Dental Association...to say NO MORE.”
   
Denouncing the acts of racism and violence, the leaders said they “stand with our colleagues who have been affected by current events, and with those whose longstanding fears and heartaches have been stoked once again.”
   
The group implored dentists to embrace diversity and inclusion, “not as buzzwords or intellectual exercises.”

Instead, they asked their respective members to advocate for the people they serve, to become allies, recognize personal biases, to listen and to speak up for those who have been disenfranchised, to commit to empathy and understanding.

“We won’t dismantle systemic inequality overnight,” the group said, “To paraphrase Theodore Parker, the 19th century abolitionist minister whose work inspired the writings of Dr. [Martin Luther King, Jr.], the arc of the moral universe is long. But, today, we must do what we can — by actions and conscience — to ensure that the arc bends toward justice.”