I grew up in a neighborhood not far from the Houston Astrodome. My friends and I spent our summers playing sandlot ball, diving for pennies at the local pool and catching lightning bugs in Mason jars. My mom was the only stay-at-home mom in our cul-de-sac, where others were nurses and teachers. All the dads borrowed each other’s Craftsman tools and gathered on the back patio on Saturday nights for a serious game of pingpong. At the time, I thought it was a pretty "All-American" childhood experience.
I was naive. I now know I was actually living through a powerful experiment in equity and inclusion. I remember first hearing the term "redlining" when I was eight years old – although I did not know what it meant. I just knew that the other white families had moved away and that my dad was attending a lot of meetings at the Jones’ house next door. I heard adults throw around terms like "white flight" and "forced integration." While I did not know it intellectually, I felt that things were tense in my neighborhood. Despite the fun I was having playing with the new kids who moved in and the talk at school about how things were "separate but equal," I could tell that others did not treat my new friends equally.
These experiences are the pillars of my worldview. I know that equality does not mean equity. I experienced white privilege but did not know there was a name for it. Alas, as an adult "forced integration" took on new meaning for me as a parent of a child with disabilities. Attempting to navigate multiple health care systems as a parent can make social justice and health equity seem like distant goals; however, I am committed to possibilities and solutions that will result in lasting change.
As the president of AMCHP, I want to assure you that this organization is committed to taking an authentic approach to the issue of social parity. Along with being featured prominently in our current strategic plan as core values, AMCHP keeps social justice and health equity at the core of our planning and decisions. As you will see throughout the pages of this month’s Pulse, AMCHP is involved with initiatives dealing with issues ranging from women and the criminal justice system to the support of young people fighting to address social justice issues in their local communities. I hope you will enjoy this issue and feel inspired by the great work our MCH partners and colleagues are doing across the country to further these goals.
Although social injustice is deeply rooted into the systems that shape our country, your AMCHP colleagues are just as deep in the trenches, fighting to create systemic change. I look forward to hearing from you about the challenges you’ve successfully faced on this journey. In the meantime, continue to link arms and cross this bridge together!
All the best,