Racism is a public health crisis

A special message from Dean Javier Nieto

June 1, 2020

Still. Not again. STILL. Recent weeks have brought us more in what feels like a seemingly endless stream of horrific acts of violence against Blacks and other people of color. George Floyd killed under the knee of a white police officer while handcuffed, Ahmaud Aubrey gunned down by two white community members as he was out for a run, and Breonna Taylor shot by white police in her home.

These acts of violence and brutality leave us heartbroken and outraged, but sadly, they do not surprise us. As a College of Public Health and Human Sciences we recognize that, still, in America, racism prevails at systemic, institutional, and interpersonal levels.

We recognize as well that racism is a public health crisis in this country.

Racism is at the root of these most recent events of injustice.

Racism is the reason why COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting people of color.

Racism underlies every social determinant of health.

Recognizing racism is a step but, that is not enough. We must take action.

As President Ray said in his statement yesterday, “America must be a land of personal and equal freedom, safety and opportunity for all people.” He asked us to continue to participate in dialogue, leadership, and understanding as we seek to alter the direction of society.

As an institution, we should be leaders in the areas of care and compassion, especially for the black members of our community at this critical point in our history.

On an individual level, I strongly encourage all members of the CPHHS community to lend your voices and your privilege to those who are suffering.

The college’s communications team will be sharing photos of CPHHS community members who are participating in demonstrations or other social justice activities. In this way, we can be connected to each other even as the pandemic keeps us separated. Please consider using the hashtag #RacismIsAPublicHealthCrisis and tagging @CPHHS in your posts.

In solidarity,

F. Javier Nieto, MD, PhD, MPH | Dean and Professor

College of Public Health and Human Sciences | Oregon State University