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As many stand together to fight injustice, change feels real

Standing in unity

For those who have been on the front lines of the diversity and inclusion movement across the country, change is palpable.

Members of the Black Lives Matter movement are finding their voice, gaining strength in numbers, and members of all communities are rising up in solidarity and looking for ways to support each other, and especially people of color.

Dr. Annette Walker

Dr. Annette Walker

I’m living this. For me, it feels very real.

As Life West’s Diversity and Inclusion Officer, it’s my job to create a platform for all voices and open that door for support.

I find myself grappling with this outside of Life West as well. I am also President of the Board of Education in the Hayward Unified School District, on my second term. In June, in the midst of the response to the death of George Floyd and the sudden very vocal response across the nation, one of my colleagues on the board proposed an equity policy, asked for an immediate review and then called for a vote.

I had to ask, am I seeing white privilege? And I suddenly found myself in a very public conversation.

I said: What’s new about this? Are you bringing forth something different that we haven’t been doing? What about the work we have been doing and the policies that do exist – do we just dismiss all of those years of trying to push forward because you’re now seeing what others have already seen, and you feel compelled to respond?

For me, white privilege is defined as going around processes and procedures, dismissing what has come before you, in order to get what you want. That’s what I saw happening in the recent school board meeting.

Now is the time to build on a common thread and begin conversations about racism, social injustice, system inequalities – whatever we happen to be dealing with.

That’s why I’m at Life West, which is also dealing with those kinds of issues. There’s so much I want to tackle for Life West.

Why things have changed is hard to define. I feel like we have all hit a wall, that breaking point where we can own our own biases, some of which we may not even be aware of, or being willing to step out in protests.

What drove me to speak out at that moment in the public school board meeting, and what drives me to speak up now, is the content of the conversations many of us are having. In the last 30 days, I see a difference in how people perceive social justice and race.

That same drive and the energy behind it is what I’m bringing to Life West as the D&I officer – that same passion, that same conviction. I need to get that out.

And in the last 50 days, that’s where everybody is, and that’s what’s new. That’s what’s different.

Fuel for change

There’s a lot of emotion, things feel raw, and all of us are experiencing some kind of energy around this. I’m hoping this energy can help fuel change and movement at Life West. What’s different for me is that I really have hope that change will ensue, that we will address racism and have a conversation about race.

That’s what happened at the school board meeting. We had a real conversation about race, and it was a turning point.

That’s also my hope for Life West. I want Life West to be transparent about the culture here, and I know many want to learn and just don’t know what to do.

Life West is working to be transparent about that elephant in room. One of first things I have done here is finalize an inclusive language policy and begin training around that. This policy answers questions such as how you address someone who is transgender, and how you include race in the curriculum.

Owning that elephant in room, then putting action behind it and addressing it, is a good first step forward. We are in the beginning stages of having conversations about race and change at Life West. We’re talking about what it means for the clinic, really truly helping patients of color, and opening the profession’s once-closed doors to doctors of color.

I hear a lot of people who are new to this trying to express that they really care about black folks. They ask: How do I help? What do I do?

My answer is that we must unite in solidarity and fight injustice, instead of just reacting to this one instance where George Floyd lost his life in a violent, very public moment.

And in this moment, after the last 50 days, I have hope that we can.




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