Wikipedia tells us that the Latin phrase Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno means “One for all, all for one.” (I also learned it is the unofficial motto of Switzerland, but that’s beside the point.) A French version of the saying—Un pour tous, tous pour un—was made famous by Alexandre Dumas in the novel The Three Musketeers.
I flunked Latin, but I did learn the motto from The Three Musketeers. It’s a concept I’m remembering as I watch a fierce “Us vs Them” culture war igniting all over our country.
Today we are all witnesses to alarming discord in the United States that is dividing the country into opposing teams. We seem to be losing sight of who we are as Americans—one team, one nation. One for all, all for one. We are not a country of us and them—we are better than that—we are America.
That said, as individuals many of us are struggling to deal with serious challenges we never imagined we’d be facing: the pandemic, illness, loss of life, civil unrest, financial hardship, unemployment, lack of child care. . . . It’s a long list. However, it’s been worse for Black people across the board, especially in loss of human life. To me, it’s clear that as a country we cannot move forward without meaningful change for Black Americans. We must insure that all of humanity enjoys love, kindness, inclusion, equality, equity and peace.
It’s not enough to be aware of racism; we must all willfully be anti-racist.
As Americans our focus should be on every American. One for all, all for one. Instead, we are failing Black Americans. We see this failure in the state of health and health care in the U.S. population as a whole. We see it in places like Flint, Michigan, where lead in drinking water has disproportionately affected Black residents. In my hometown of Detroit, the rising pandemic death toll is much greater among Blacks.
We know it is not only different for Black Americans, but that there is a widening gap of unaddressed health issues in Black communities compared to white ones. Black lives have not mattered, and that must change in order for this country to be united.
For years I have seen disparities in health, but I never understood the magnitude of white privilege in this country and its influence on the health landscape. Now it is crystal clear to me. In public health and health care models where life expectancy and health outcomes can be evaluated by race, it’s abundantly obvious that education, money, and power translate to a life of good health and good health care. In America today, that’s the security enjoyed mostly by white Americans. As victims of systemic racism, Black people and other minorities have suffered from a lack of health care, which should be the right of every American.
Black Lives Matter. And that is the reason why Less Cancer’s National Cancer Prevention Workshop has a permanent, active panel to address public health and health care inequities. Our Less Cancer Health Disparities Panel recognizes that, for most cancers, African Americans in the U.S. have the highest death rate and lowest survival rate of any other racial or ethnic group.
How do we change this? How do we become a country that is not politically red and blue, but rather patriotically red, white and blue? A country where we all root for our team—a team of Black and white and all genders, religions, and sexual orientations? That’s who we are and that’s who we must support—all Americans, not just white Americans. We all need to be represented at the table, not to engage in a war of words, but to work together to achieve real solutions.
We have the opportunity now to reimagine what health and health care can look like for every American if fairness and equity are the standards. I am personally committed to raising the bar and achieving good health for all Americans, starting with basics such as access to clean water for drinking and hand washing.
Racial injustice must end once and for all. My heart is with the families of victims of recent violence, and those whose lives and dreams have been affected by overarching racism.
In the words of Rosa Parks: “Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.”