“I can’t breathe”
– George Floyd
While I am still processing my own complex feelings about the murder of George Floyd, I wanted to address the familiar sting and perhaps numbness that recent events may trigger. George Floyd should not be dead. His life was eliminated too early as part of an ongoing public health crisis in this country. And while the COVID-19 pandemic is new, the crisis of racism has been ongoing for over 400 years. Black people are at the bottom on every measure of human wellbeing, from health, to education, to incarceration in a large network of interconnected systemic racism. Minnesota has a particularly bad track record when it comes to disparities as you probably know. While there is much to be proud of, there is much work to do.
I hope that recent events provide a stark reminder to the School of Public Health community that dismantling racism is all of our responsibility. Black, indigenous, and people of color do not wield the power to do it alone. Those with privileged identities have a moral responsibility to engage in this difficult work as well. It is uncomfortable but your temporary discomfort could make a big difference in the experiences of marginalized people in your life.
To my Black colleagues and students, continue to lean on each other and your other communities as you always have. We have built resilience and strength because we have each other and the knowledge of the strength of our ancestors. To our non-Black community members, please use wisdom to provide space and/or support to us as we need it. This is one in a long history of injustices that we have learned about, hurt from, and endured. It will take a strong enduring commitment to justice and liberation, a lot of uncomfortable work, and deep honest reflection for us to move forward.
We continue to watch and wait for justice for George Floyd and so many others. But as we wait, we have work to do. Public health should lead in social justice issues and we have the imagination and tools to create a more just environment. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and partners all have something to contribute whether it is research, teaching, facilitation, translation, or funding. What is your role? How will these events impact your life and guide you forward? I am happy to continue to lead conversations and training, and to partner with units and organizations to help bring about change. Contact me with questions or ideas: email@example.com.
Our community already has everything we need to make the ecosystems we dream about. It is our job to now bring it into fruition.
SPH student, faculty, and staff groups are coordinating ways for our school community to pull together in the coming weeks, including the following events:
- Processing space for Black SPH faculty, staff, and students: Wed, June 3, 2 p.m. (RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Processing space for all SPH students: Wed, June 3, 5-7 p.m. (register online)
- Processing space for all SPH students: Thu, June 4, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (register online)
- BIPOC student space: Thu, June 4, 1-2 p.m. (register online)
- Webinar: Strengthening Our Community in Light of Tragedy: Fri, June 5, 10-11:30 a.m. (view the event website; hosted by the SPH Division of Epidemiology and Community Health)
- EDIT Book Club: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: Wed, June 17, 3-4 p.m. (register online)
Lauren L. Jones
Associate Director of Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion