Dear SPH Community,
August has begun with prominent attacks on two fundamental American values: the right to the free exercise of religion and the belief that all people are created equal.
On early Saturday morning, August 5, a bomb was thrown into the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn. As of this writing, we don’t know who was responsible, but it was a criminal act and possibly a hate crime.
A week later on another Saturday morning, this time in Charlottesville, Va., white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan members rallied to protest the proposed removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Violence erupted. A car plowed into a crowd of counterdemonstrators killing a woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring at least 19 other people.
Hate is everywhere, and the crimes committed in its name are not anomalies in Minnesota, Virginia, or any community in our country. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, American Indians, people of color, the LGBT community, women, immigrants, and many others have experienced hate in so many ways, some lethal, all with emotional impact.
Hate inflicts major damage on the health of communities, populations, survivors, and even the perpetrators as a culturally engendered and systemically supported disorder. At its worst on a large scale, it is a nation-killing cancer just a few steps from mass violence. Short of that, it is a parasite that sucks life and joy out of our human urge to thrive, progress, and achieve.
How do we at the School of Public Health respond to hate?
First, we reaffirm our own strong support for the values of diversity and inclusiveness in our University community and at our school. Everyone who comes here is welcome. When we fail to open our arms, we are committed to recognizing that shortcoming and doing better.
Second, as Minnesota’s only School of Public Health, we recognize our public obligation to excel at our missions of research, learning, and community engagement, and to use those missions in service of a more inclusive, affirming, and educated world.
Third, because we believe a healthy life free from violence is a human right, our school is stepping forward and out of our collective comfort zone to speak up and advocate to make sure that everyone has that fundamental opportunity.
Among our talented and committed faculty, we have many people who are working hard to forge a more just and equitable world. Among them is Dr. Rachel Hardeman, who examines the impact of racism and violence on the health of minority communities and how we can intervene to change systems that support these destructive forces. Dr. Marizen Ramirez studies the impact of trauma and prevention on vulnerable populations subject to intimidation, bullying, and violence. Dr. Sonya Brady researches the effects of violence on mental health and resilience. Dr. Linda Frizzell focuses on health issues facing American Indians, and Drs. Keith Horvath and Simon Rosser are concerned with the mental health of gay populations and the challenges to which they are exposed in our society.
As the new school year begins in a few weeks, please keep this truth uppermost in your thoughts and demeanor: All are welcome at our school to learn, thrive, and engage. We all belong!
John R. Finnegan
Dean and Professor, School of Public Health