Becoming an activist in veterinary medicine and beyond

dvm360dvm360 August 2021
Volume 52

BluePearl veterinary hospital administrator sheds light on the overdue awakening with systemic racial disparities and injustices, plus offers a few tips for becoming an activist in and out of the veterinary profession.

As a member of the LGBTQ+ and LatinX communities, I, too, have engaged in the social online Pride celebrations, showing up and being proud! In a few days, we will return to our non-Pride work schedules and social media habits. Organizations alike will be returning to their non-Pride-colored logos. So, I beg to ask, what happens next?

Over the past few years, America, and Americans, have faced a reckoning, long overdue, with its history of systemic racial disparities and inequalities. This new woke generation is aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues, especially those dealing with racial and social justice, or injustice. But in today’s landscape, is it enough to be woke? Is veterinary medicine woke? I say we are far from woke.

The need for change

The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor brought a new level of attention to the everyday racial and social hardships faced by many Black, and People of Color (POC), individuals. Similarly concerning is the rise in statistics involving Black transgender women and the violence against them.

Some Black and POC trans women victims of violence in 2021 alone include:

  • Serenity Hollis, a 24-year-old Black transgender woman who was shot and killed in Albany, Georgia, on May 8, 2021.
  • Brianna Maritza Marquez, a 26-year-old Latina transgender woman, found/pronounced dead on April 5, 2021.
  • Jaida Peterson, a Black, transgender woman, found dead in a west Charlotte hotel room on April 4, 2021.
  • Natasha Keianna, a 37-year-old Black transgender woman, was reported missing on January 6, 2021.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, Black transgender women are murdered at a disproportionate rate because of their identities—being Black, being trans, and being women. That alone puts them at a greater risk of being killed and being victims of other forms of discrimination, too. Furthermore, per the National Center for Transgender Equality, transgender people, and transgender women of color specifically, face a “variety of types of violence, including intimate partner violence, violence fueled by transphobic and homophobic hatred, and violence from law enforcement and corrections officials.” In the National Center for Transgender Equality’s U.S. Transgender Survey, which included 28,000 respondents, 47% of “Black respondents reported being denied equal treatment, verbally harassed, and/or physically attacked in the past year because of being transgender.”

It isn’t just Black and POC individuals facing a staggering increase in violent crimes. Similarly disturbing are the attacks we have come to know against Asian Americans in a post-COVID world. Stop AAPI Hate has documented 6,603 hate incidents against Asian Americans from March 2020 to March 2021, and the true figure is estimated to be much higher, as many hate crimes go unreported.

Similarly, anti-Semitic sentiment against Jewish Americans is on the rise. In 2019 alone, the ADL recorded 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents throughout the United States. This netted a 12% increase from the 1,879 incidents recorded in 2018 and marked the highest number on record since ADL began tracking anti-Semitic incidents in 1979.

Ways to show support

These statistics, names, and crimes should be troubling to all. Names like Trayvon Martin should never be forgotten. So, to you, I say, don’t be complicit. Don’t just be an ally. Don’t just be an advocate. Be an activist!

The ADL defines ally, advocate, and activist as follows:

  • Ally: Someone who speaks out on behalf of someone else or takes actions that are supportive of someone else. Example: An ally is usually an outsider who elevates the work of advocates and activists. They’re willing to educate themselves and share their support on social media and their social circles.
  • Advocate: Someone who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. Example: An advocate publicly supports the work of activists, by donating, amplifying, lobbying, and driving the message to the broader world.
  • Activist: Someone who gets involved in activities that are meant to achieve political or social change; this also includes being a member of an organization that is working on change. Example: An activist is on the front lines, actively involved in forcing change, holding others accountable, and leading the charge.

I am an Activist because, when I see racial disparities, gender inequalities, and injustices, it negatively impacts me as a person. When we see such things, it has a negative impact on all of us. When we stand by and watch everyday injustices, and say nothing, we become implicit. We lose a little of our humanity each time.

The bottom line

A call to action, like Wake Up, Vet Med, and the desire to be more inclusive as a veterinary industry, should be of interest to everyone. After all, shouldn’t our hospitals, and our employees, represent the communities and clients we serve? Do we not produce better veterinary medicine when our clients feel they can connect with us on a personal level? I believe so.

In closing, I say, let’s encourage change in our hospitals and in our industry. Let us all be activists who welcome positive change and a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse veterinary culture. Let us commit to celebrating Pride, and the unique contributions of our teams, every month, whatever they may be. Together, through activism, we can be the change!

Paul Miranda is a hospital administrator with BluePearl Specialty + Emergency Pet Hospital, supporting Operations in multiple hospitals throughout Kansas and Missouri. In addition, he works with numerous veterinary affinity groups in the Equity, Inclusion, & Diversity space, and is a member of BluePearl’s EI&D Council where he identifies, addresses, and advocates for sustainable and scalable change.

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