The body is political.
From how we talk about healthcare and race to gender and age, it’s impossible to separate ourselves from the politics of the body.
Millennials, and in particular, women, are at the forefront of these difficult — yet necessary — conversations surrounding inequities in U.S. healthcare and the need for reform.
This has been illuminated in recent months with the onset of COVID-19, which sparked a global pandemic in March 2020. A mere months later, the murder of George Floyd, who cried out “I can’t breathe” while a police officer in Minneapolis kneeled on his neck until Floyd died, prompted a national outcry, energizing the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality in Black communities around the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, death rates due to COVID-19 are at least six times higher for Black and Hispanic/Latino populations than they are for white people, particularly among those ages 45-54. Studies show racism and economic inequalities are to blame.
“We are dealing with two pandemics, one due to the novel coronavirus and one due to systemic and generational racism. And as we see, both are showcasing the vast health disparities in our country,” said Natalie Bencivenga, LSW, MSW and Ask Natalie advice columnist. “It is important to note that not only are we fighting for physical lives, but the mental and emotional toll these pandemics are taking on people of all walks of life must be acknowledged, as well.”
Furthermore, those who survive COVID-19 are often left with looming medical bills, straining a healthcare system already on the brink of collapse.
For millennials, this doesn’t sit well. This generation has expressed that it’s not acceptable to turn away and ignore the plight of those who may be in less privileged positions. Many of these debates and transformative conversations, including the need for affordable access to healthcare and how systemic racism impacts health disparities, have played out on social media. This generation wants to change outcomes for the better.
“It isn’t enough to talk about these issues and how they intersect,” Bencivenga added. “Millennials want intentional action on every level, creating policy that will empower people to be able to make healthier choices for themselves and their families, as well as sweeping reform through the lens of racial and social equities. We need to care more deeply about one another.”
What are intentional ways we can harness our passion and desire for equality and social justice in actionable and constructive ways?
“Self education is one of the steps in the approach which leads to actions,” said Dr. Vonda Wright, founder of Women’s Health Conversations.
She believes that healing and justice will not be reached by any means of a “happy accident” but through intention.
“How will I take action?” she asked. “I’ll educate myself, educate my family and others around me and then use my spheres of influence to enact changes. We cannot forget to vote.”
Let’s have multiple conversations around systemic racism and social inequities. Let’s learn more about our history in a way that’s comprehensive, and then analyze that history. Let’s ask ourselves: How can we make things better, more just, more equitable? How can we level the playing field so that everyone has a chance at a better life?
“There are 1,440 moments every day where we can do what is right through checking our own privilege, noting who we provide opportunities at work to, and using our positions to ensure a commitment from communities,” Dr. Vonda Wright said.