I’m a Democrat-leaning Black doctor with a ton of white conservative friends. If we are to survive the pandemics of COVID and systemic racism, we need all hands on-deck: especially the Black ones. Here are ten ways to save Black lives:
- Get a Doctor, Part 1: Give $100,000 grant to physician-led direct primary care practices that enroll at least 80% Black people.
Direct primary care is a model of healthcare finance that cuts out the middleman (health insurers.) Patients pay their clinician directly; this creates a very important fiduciary relationship between the clinician and the patient. These relationships (clinical, fiduciary, compassion) improve adherence to treatment plans and health outcomes. Our current 3rd party payor system is opaque and biased against Black people, who have less money (due to inequities of wealth and income.) Since most DPC practices have a transparent fee (around $100 a month) this is the fastest affordable option to get Black people into a long-term medical home. To supercharge the rollout of getting Black folks care in a DPC practice, I suggest a 5-year interstate medical agreement, allowing physicians in any state to treat Black patients in any other state via telemedicine. (How can Black folks afford to pay $100 bucks a month? Skip to the bottom.)
- Get a Doctor, Part 2: Create a national Consult Network Fund for subspecialists
As a child psychiatrist and pediatrician, I don’t work for free. Expecting physicians (especially Black physicians) to donate their time and expertise at a financial loss only worsens economic disparity. Similar to the consortium in Massachusetts, having a national Consult Network allows primary care clinicians to consult with subspecialists quickly and adequately compensates the participating subspecialists for their time. Following the interstate medical agreement model above, Black physicians and Black patients will now get better care, cheaper, closer, and faster.
- Put Up or Shut Up: Donate to Together Forward’s “I’m Sorry” Jar
Drew Brees knows better. Joe Biden knows better. Amy Cooper knows better. Every non-racist white person knows better. Yet, they’re not exercising their anti-racist muscles enough to stop themselves from saying and doing really dumb things. Money is a powerful motivator (hence why paying a lot for a gym membership makes you more likely to go) so when you hear your white friend say something racially insensitive, racist, or just dumb, refer them to the “I’m Sorry” Jar. All monies go to fueling big ideas like this list. www.TogetherForward.org
(Note: you can also just donate directly if you want; we have multiple BHAGs to scale.)
- Ignore City/State/Federal Leadership: Go Microlocal
As the President of my neighborhood association, I laugh thinking about the fact I have white people deliver groceries and food to my house in the hood with the worst life expectancy in Texas (76104). It got me thinking: in a world where Amazon can deliver a box within a day, “food deserts” don’t actually exist except as talking points for politicians with no creativity. Cities have proven to be pretty inept at neighborhood level concerns, so to save ourselves, we need some civic ingenuity that puts neighborhood management inside the neighborhood.
To solve the “fresh food” problem, I propose neighborhood associations take up the charge of coordinating bulk fresh food supply chain with grocery stores to bring foodstuffs to their neighbors. An app (see #8 below) will make this even easier, keeping the local money in the local economy. Additionally, a functioning neighborhood association gives local farmers markets a functioning network with which to sell direct-to-consumer rather than only relying on the good will of people who happen to be off on a Saturday morning. Don’t like your neighbors? You’ll improve those relationships after you’ve completed #9 below.
- Save Ourselves: Build the bBlac network.
The viral pandemic and racial unrest clearly show that Black folks are on their own in America. Yet we Black folks must have our own come-to-Jesus meeting about next steps because Black people are just as diverse within the culture as we are within the larger American body politic. Oddly enough, there is one universal tenet that cuts across all genders, races, cultures, and locations: employed people have no concept of how business actually works. :) Expecting Starbucks to be social justice advocates is weird because their job is to sell coffee. If you want social justice coffee then go to a company that specializes in social justice and has good coffee. “But those don’t exist!” you exclaim. And you’re right. That’s why we need the bBlac network. Participants in this private network sign a pledge to work on behalf of the group to further “branding Black American culture.” Black culture is magnificent, rich, and creative and we lose momentum competing against one another. Operationalizing our actions in concert to protect/promote our culture like a business allows us to build economies of scale faster and more efficiently. (Visit www.bBlac.co)
- Get off Our Backs, Part 1: Forgive all federal student debt for Black people.
Reparations is an amorphous idea that triggers everyone that tries to debate it. We can’t even broach the topic without triggering someone, somewhere. Our collective American morality doesn’t agree with “free for all”, our meritocratic beliefs prohibit line jumping, and we still believe if you work hard enough, you could be a billionaire (it’s a lie, y’all)
Fortunately, forgiving black student loan debt is a tangible, concrete, “flip-the-switch” thing that can happen without a Black person having to lift a finger. The government knows my outstanding loan debt ($100,000 and counting). Wiping it out gives me an additional 1,000 bucks a month to invest in other things. It’s like a Black stimulus check without me having to beg for it. Given that I make 23% less than my white male counterparts, I think student loan debt resolution is a good start.
- Dream Big: Support the bBlac Continental Congress.
This is a personal BHAG: create the nations’ first invite-only summit of entrepreneurs, tech, influencers, civic, management, education, political, and science experts to create new economic sectors that bBlac people can own. No tire-kickers: only people who want to TEAM invest (Time, Energy, Attention, Money) into work product that produce a real return on investment. The incentive: attendees share ownership of all intellectual property generated by the conference. This curated conference will be like a Black “Davos-meets-Hackathon” experience: participants sign an NDA and we work collectively through small and large group facilitation to capture and operationalize every thought. One of the 3 conference goals is the Microlocal food app (#4 above). The other two are confidential until we get onsite. We will also figure out which politicians to “buy.” (see below)
- Get off Our Backs, Part 2: Forgive up to 50k in Black business debt
The neurobiology of money and behavior discourages me from the “give someone a blank check” idea. In business, the thrill (and evolution of markets and economics) requires risk. Black business owners take on more risk in starting a business because they have less startup capital, less access to capital, and less safety net if they fail. And those are only the brave ones; most Black people are so risk averse (see #9) that they don’t even try to monetize an idea.
Providing an SBA forgiveness loan of up to 50K to every Black business then immediately forgiving that loan means that Black businesses have the opportunity to catch up to their white counterparts. I assure you, this does not enable Black business owners to go out and splurge: the pain of paying debt on a bad business decision 3 years ago is a great deterrent to repeating past mistakes.
- Therapy-For-All: Black people first.
Regardless of demographic, trauma begets trauma and being Black in today’s America means you’re traumatized. Traumatized people become avoidant (“I can’t care anymore, just leave me alone”), hypervigilant (“I don’t trust none of you white people; all y’all do is hurt us”), and hyperaroused (“I can’t sleep, I eat too much, I’m stressed all the damn time; I can’t wait to get to heaven.”)
“Therapeutic reparations” is the idea that when we treat our cultural trauma, we’ll see lower rates of anxiety, depression, substance use in ourselves, help prevent transmission to our kids (abuse, neglect) and engage our communities (voting, home ownership/investment).
Completing a 12 week course of therapy (e.g. Cognitive Behavioral therapy, solution-focused therapy, and EMDR) runs about $100/week but pays generational dividends as we build mindfulness, promote self compassion, and produce a mentally healthier voting constituency.
- Change Your Eating Habits: Eliminate all Food Subsidies and Government Food Based Programs
Just like healthcare costs, any time the government puts a financial incentive on one side of the scale, it creates a deleterious chain reaction. In our country, not only do we eat too much meat, we eat too much, period. Portion sizes have crept up 25-50% of what we actually need and if you don’t burn what you consume, those extra calories lead to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Agricultural subsidies fuel government based food programs (like SNAP, WIC, etc) which lead to overconsumption of poor quality food. When poor quality food is cheap and easily accessible, we consume more. And guess what happens to your consumption when you’re traumatized? Yup. It’s like the perfect storm of awfulness (and food companies know this.)
Black people need a direct line to grown food. Plant based diets based on locally grown foods from improved soil (community composting should be everywhere) leads to better health. We need more Black farmers (i.e. plant entrepreneurs) who can sell their produce in a fair food marketplace (no government subsidies).
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. It’s meant to show you that there are ways out of the quagmire created from slavery and ignited by this administration. When I first started this missive, I planned to price out the cost of each item, to show you how we can afford to save Black lives. But then I remembered: The Fed found $2.3 trillion to play with while the Treasury pulled another $2 trillion out of thin air. Thus it’s not a matter of if we can fund these ideas but rather, if we want to fund these ideas.
(Note: I recommend saving another 2 trillion by restructuring the 3.6 trillion dollar medico-industrial complex: www.ChangeHealth.today)
Lastly, racist police officers are the worst; we trust them not to hurt us and in turn, they kill us because they can. Peaceful protests and uprisings appropriately bring this issue to top of mind. The question going forward is “how do we collectively reform the police across this country?”
Fortunately, not all police officers are racist and anyone can learn from good trauma-informed training.
Who decides police training?
The police administration.
Who chooses the police administration?
Who chooses City Councils/Mayors?
When Black people are healthier and wealthier, you’ll have the time and money to “buy” the correct City Councilmembers and Mayors who can ensure our police are mindful, well trained, and embedded in our communities. “Buying” politicians is straight out of Dr. Claud Anderson’s “Powernomics” playbook because he asserts that we need to build a strong economic base, couple it with strong communities to buy the politicians who will work for us. I think he’s on to something.
Now that we know better, where should we start?