Beyond surface: our non-optical allyship

I stand unequivocally with our community against racism and oppression. Column Health stands unequivocally with our community against racism and oppression. We as a team and a family stand unequivocally with our community against racism and oppression.

The senseless murder of George Floyd, and the many who preceded him, emphasizes the injustice and inequity that have perpetuated both physical and psychological violence against the Black community in this country since even before its founding. We share in the outrage at the brutality we have witnessed and that people of color in this country have been and continue to be subjected to. It has come to a point in time where mere short term advocacy or superficial support for change from afar is radically, painfully, glaringly insufficient.

It bears stating openly and overtly - Black lives matter. We can not merely say “all lives matter” because in this country, “all” has never included Black lives, native lives or any people of color. Thomas Jefferson did not include black lives in “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence. The Founding Fathers did not include Black lives in “we the people”. It's in our country's DNA - violence, oppression, and disenfranchisement of people of color has been institutionalized over centuries, has been coded into the founding documents of our nation that pulse through the vascular history of governance, imagery, agency, actions and inactions of our country. So we must work to ingrain and institutionalize the changes to that DNA that we wish to see, to go beyond the surface and get to the DNA of our organizations in order to ensure that we counter the long history of oppression more than optically, and that we encode our organizations and our behaviors anew with a brand of allyship that delivers long term, sustainable agency of change to both the oppressed and to each other.

We need to be prepared to do the work. Coming to terms with our own privilege is not comfortable, but it is necessary to get to the hard work beyond the surface. Evaluating our history of oppression is not comfortable, but it is necessary to get to the hard work beyond the surface. Dealing with our own guilt, shame and anger is not comfortable, but it is necessary to get to the hard work beyond the surface. We need to do the hard work.

Donate and support initiatives. We know from our experience as specialists in our field, that expertise and access to knowledge matter immensely. While we try our best to uphold these values internally at Column Health, we are not experts in this area externally; but there are organizations of specialty and expertise working to make these changes to our nation and we can put our money where our pen is to support them. Column Health will donate $25,000 to these ends and many of us will be contributing individually as well.

We must keep supporting and evolving even after the cameras are turned off. I’ve said before that we all pay dues but what matters is what we each do between writing those personal checks. We should not look to acts of violence captured on video to empower us going forward. We should not wait for the next event to activate us to try to prevent the subsequent event. We should continue to meet, discuss, labor and be impassioned to act with empathy, to support the change we wish to become. As a company, we will compile resources and identify organizations that can be long term partners for Column Health and our employees to continue to work towards change year after year.

Stop supporting organizations or individuals who promote hate. We often inadvertently support companies, products, individuals, politicians who are part of the problem. We sometimes support those entities and individuals and turn a blind eye. We might think that somehow our passivity is not the same as support and therefore it is not problematic - it is… and it to passively stand by is to actively empower those who would hate. We must do the work to understand who our politicians are, what views they loudly or quietly espouse. We must do the work to identify the companies we each do business with to see who they support, what views they espouse. We must defund them, unfriend them, and stop supporting them. We must vote responsibly - we must activate our own citizenship and that of people around us to let our voices be heard in our votes and those we elect to positions of authority. We must spend responsibly - we must become educated consumers of the goods we buy and work to only buy from those companies who resonate with our shared views. Column Health is reviewing our vendors and partners and politicians for this very purpose.

Allyship is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people. We are at the nascent stages of our organization, and we are at the nascent stages of what will be our lifelong work of allyship with people of color in this country. Showing up imperfectly to start the long work ahead is perhaps the closest thing to the perfect next step.

I’m encouraged by the openness and engagement many in our community family have shown around these complex and challenging sets of issues that impact our community, our staff, our patients and our extended family. We will continue to benefit from this family approach and we will continue to try to meet each other where each of us is.

Sincerely and Humbly,
Colin