By Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director
Breast cancer sucks, and so does the current attack on any collective progress we’ve made over the past few decades—progress that’s moved the needle on gender equality, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, environmental protections, and healthcare. The backlash feels unrelenting. Breaking news hits with a near-physical force that’s increasingly exhausting. The words “I don’t even know what to say anymore” are uttered often and reveal overwhelming and deep fatigue. It feels like we’ve all lost a lot of ground over the past few months.
The thing is, working for health justice, like we are at Breast Cancer Action, has always been an uphill push. But we are in it for the long haul. We get back up when we’re knocked down. We pick ourselves up, extend a hand to our friends and allies, and get busy and creative with bold resistance strategies. And that’s what we’ve been doing since our last newsletter.
We’re focused on healthcare coverage right now because that’s where we’re currently getting hit the hardest. And, we’ve asked you to get involved and take action often—to help us defend the gains made under the ACA, and uphold a vision of universal coverage. That’s because we know that when we raise our collective voices, we can make change that’s not only important for women at risk and living with breast cancer, but that will benefit our health and well-being more generally. In this issue, you can read our position on universal healthcare, our letter of support for The Healthy California Act (SB 562) and watch our webinar—The Case for Universal Healthcare.
Because breast cancer is a public health crisis and social justice issue, we know it can’t be looked at as a stand-alone issue, separate from everything else that’s going on in this country. The disease is connected to healthcare access and corporate control of our regulatory and protection systems, and to environmental justice and unequal exposures to communities. In other words, the forces behind the breast cancer epidemic are also behind systemic racism, deregulation, corporate profiteering, and other oppressions.
If we, as an intersectional cancer activist organization that understands that injustices are connected, hope to address and end the breast cancer epidemic, we have to address other inequities along the way. Now is the time to push back hard against oppressive systems. Now is the time to push against the corporate interests that put industry profit before public health. Against entrenched systems that focus on detecting disease rather than preventing it. Against distractions that ask women to just “fight hard” and stay positive. We are angry for good reason!
Injustice and oppression aren’t new concepts ushered in by the current administration, but at a time when attacks on progress come in rapid succession, we have to keep in mind how oppressive systems work. One way they work is by isolating people, breaking them down into distinct groups and positioning them against each other. We saw this when woman’s suffrage was pitted against the black vote. We see it now when trans issues are set in opposition to more traditional gay/lesbian issues and when the need to create jobs is set in opposition to the need for environmental protections.
Breast Cancer Action is made for times like these. We have always been a social justice organization that connects the dots between issues. And we are focused on systemic solutions that get to the roots of the breast cancer epidemic and demand true system changes that will benefit all our health.
In this issue, you’ll also read about the people who make this work possible (see our Judy Brady tribute, JoAnn Loulan spotlight, and Welcome to New Staff and Board Member) and our analysis of treatment issues (Pembrolizumab and When Less Medicine Leads to Better Health).
Thank you for your activism and all the ways you make Breast Cancer Action a strong force for radical change.