BY: DANIELLE K. LAMBERT*
The last week has been a painful, painful time for everyone in the country. I scroll through my phone and see so many horrible things day in and day out and I am sorry that all of us are experiencing this level of chaos.
This has also been a painful time in veterinary medicine, where we are being asked to come to a reckoning with some very challenging realities, such as the manner in which our inaction has led to a deafening lack of diversity. I knew we were the whitest profession in America, but I am sorry I didn’t question why sooner.
It’s pretty obvious I am a direct and intense person, but I wanted to respond to the issues our black colleagues face with intention.
I went to non-white colleagues that so kindly offered me their time. It is not their job to educate us, so I also found black colleagues and followed them on Instagram. I listened to black activists and academics. I read their work, and I revisted the book White Fragility.
The answer on how I could help was pretty clear: Speak up. Hold your white colleagues accountable. It will be intense, and real, and needed.
So I did. And I am sorry that the directness and bluntness I brought to the table, most of all to myself, has become a source of contention and distraction more than the actual meaning I’m trying to convey. But this intense social media style? It’s nothing new.
I’ve directly and bluntly told the profession we suck at marketing, and people agreed and changed.
I’ve directly and bluntly told the profession we had needed to elevate women entrepreneurs, and people agreed and changed.
I’ve directly and bluntly said we need to eliminate essential services during a pandemic, and people agreed and changed.
Then I directly and bluntly asked people to join me and yell that there is no place for racism in veterinary medicine, and the reaction was very different. I’m not sorry for asking why.
This is an extraordinarily hard topic for us to discuss as we struggle with the concept that we can be both a kind, compassionate white person and part of a racist system that affords us privilege. I’m not sorry for pointing that out, and asking for your help to change.
My approach to this topic is just like my approach to every other topic, and I knew ahead of time that this was going to get people upset, and angry, and that was probably unavoidable. I accept that.
Like all of us, I am learning, and I am sorry that this has turned into two camps of white people pointing fingers while, yet again, commandeering the conversation away from the very problems and voices I meant to help.
I am not sorry for being me, and for doing something hard and uncomfortable, and for making errors, and for trying to fix them. If I call myself a “thought leader,” then I must think about what being white in this world means.
I am not sorry for asking you to do the same, and to question and push.
The comments from veterinary hospitals telling me clients applauded them for taking an anti-racist stance give me hope. The fact that I’ve made new non-white friends on Instagram this week makes me smile. I am not sorry for any of this.
But I am sorry for whatever role I played in making this a conversation whose focus has strayed, whose allies are retreating, whose willingness to talk has shut down, and whose arguments are focused on social media posts as opposed to solutions.
I am trying to level up as a human every single day, and learning to be anti-racist is part of that. I ask that you vow to level up with me. I will never be sorry for that.
Snout School is committed to continuing this conversation, but we need time to plan and organize. In the meantime, check out some of my favorite resources from this week:
Black DVM Network – A great place for black veterinary professionals to connect, but also a great place for others to find content to share that is not just from a white viewpoint. I’ve really enjoyed the Instagram lives they’ve been doing in the last few months. We will be donating proceeds from the There Is No Place In Veterinary Medicine For Racism shirts to them.
White Fragility – The easiest book on the tough subject of what it means to be white, especially in America. Might be sold out in book form, but it’s available through Audible and Kindle. It’s not gonna be easy to get through, but you can do it.
Navigating Diversity and Inclusion in Veterinary Medicine – It was edited by a woman I fangirl for, but also call a friend, Dr. Lisa Greenhill. Way more insight than I can offer on what all this means for us.
@Rachel.Cargle – A black thought leader and teacher whose information on Instagram is invaluable. I especially appreciated her concept of DAVRO about how white people basically deflect and blame when people call us out on this. Again, hard to stomach but valid. You can Venmo @rachelcargle to support her.
@BrandonKGood – This man just feels like someone I’d be friends with, and so his video “To My White Friends” and this one about what to do if you’re feeling shame as a white person hit me hardest of all the content I consumed this week. Go binge watch his IGTV.
*THANK YOU to my incredibly talented friend and colleague Dr. Jessica Vogelsang for helping me so eloquently build upon my typically bullish social media copy style. You are one of the most powerful assets veterinary medicine has, and knowing I can always count on you to be my anger translator empowers me to be the noisy bish I am. <3