To the NAAHP Community:
Our country is once again experiencing the tragic realities of the racism present in our society.
The slaying of Ahmaud Arbery while jogging; the police shooting of Breonna Taylor that led to her death; Amy Cooper’s false report on a 911 call against Christian Cooper in New York City’s Central Park; Officer Derek Chauvin’s killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as he was restrained by three police officers; and most recently, the killing of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks as he tried to flee after wrestling with officers and grabbing a Taser has rekindled protests in Atlanta that erupted in the wake of Floyd’s death.
It is understandable that this historical disregard for the human rights of African-Americans and due process in the criminal justice system would lead to outrage across the nation. As protesters respond to these human rights violations, we encourage law enforcement leaders to demonstrate restraint and seek out opportunities to collaborate with community leaders further escalation and harm.
The aforementioned events excise a hidden emotional and psychological tax on our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) colleagues and students, who are more likely to have experienced the loss of someone in their family and community, and to respond with a heightened awareness of the threat of racism.
We are experiencing only the most recent manifestations of the racist ideologies and their contribution to racial violence. At the same time, COVID-19 is epitomizing the structural factors that disproportionately impact the health and economic well-being of African-Americans. The pandemic has shed new light on the persistent health disparities and the social determinants of health impacting African-Americans and those from other historically marginalized communities.
During a series of conversations hosted by Professor Evelynn Hammonds on Epidemics & African American Communities from 1792 to the Present at Harvard University, Dr. Paul Farmer and Dr. Vanessa Northing Gamble explained that COVID-19 has unveiled the racial fault line in the United States. This observation resonates with statements made by 19th century abolitionist Frederick Douglass and 20th century thinker and civil rights founder Dr. W.E. B. DuBois who both commented on the color-line during slavery and the redemption of the South that followed failed Reconstruction efforts.
We as a society have a moral obligation to confront and eliminate the structural factors that impede human flourishing. We as an organization seek to support our students who will be on the front lines confronting these factors as health professionals.
The NAAHP begins by affirming the real and valid feelings that people of color and those from all marginalized populations are experiencing. Your experiences of trauma are real and valid. It is incumbent upon our NAAHP leaders and community members to demonstrate support for our Black colleagues, and those from other marginalized identities, by standing against these continued injustices.
Each of us needs to consider how best to do this within the context of our own roles and circumstances, but we all need to engage in action to create the healthy, equitable and inclusive community we desire. And we must urgently address law enforcement violence and inequities in our criminal justice system as public health issues.
As an association, we will hold virtual community meetings this summer to discuss what it means to be part of an institution that lifts up anti-racism as a core value and how NAAHP can come together to best support Black and all marginalized groups of students, staff, and faculty through these difficult times.