Events of the past week have no doubt produced a variety of emotions in each of us. The video of the events leading to George Floyd’s death shocked many, but reinforced for others their regular experience that inter-racial animus is a present reality for many, with lethal consequences for some. Demonstrations in cities near and far and unfortunate ongoing loss of life, including in Davenport last night, exemplify a critical escalation of an urgent national issue. The realization that Black Americans, especially men, face levels of incarceration and injury that are out of proportion to our numbers in the population has been forcefully thrust into the consciousness of many.
As I lend my voice to this discourse, I will not relitigate the historical roots of racial inequity or catalog examples of structural and systematic racism, but remind us of the way in which the other current contemporary crisis (COVID-19) has rallied all of us in the Department, the Carver College of Medicine and University of Iowa Health Care, along with many of the members of our wider community to organize and support each other for the common good. The present crisis demands leadership, not only from our politicians but from all of us. In addition to advocating for justice, it is important for us to reinforce our belief in the dignity of all humans as a core value of who we are, in addition to our commitment toward everyone’s fundamental right to health and well-being. I have seen widespread solidarity in our department’s community irrespective of our individual ethnicity and I am encouraged by this. Each of us is dedicated to the understanding that embracing diversity in all its forms challenges us to be better and makes us stronger as a result. There is the danger in the current moment for racial and ethnic wedges to separate us and make us forget what binds us into a community with shared ideals. Allowing that division into our lives would be a mistake and I trust each of you to stay vigilant and to speak out against this pernicious effect.
I endorse the statements released by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and University of Iowa President Harreld and Provost Fuentes that re-states our institution’s commitment to opposing discrimination of any kind and raises the issue that violence and hate crimes against Black Americans is a public health issue. Moreover, these two posts provide many helpful links pointing to university resources and others that discuss the roots of racism and the impact it has on individuals—mentally, emotionally, and physically. There are also self-assessment tools and resources to increase our awareness of and provide tools to address our implicit biases, which could influence the kind of care we deliver and the ways in which we interact with one another. As it has in the past, this crisis will grab our attention and then fade with at-best incremental resolution, but we should not let this moment pass without reflection on what we can do differently. Once we have looked inward, we should continue that constructive dialogue with each other and strategize proactive steps that can bolster positive growth.
I have had and will continue to have conversations with many of you, and I have also heard some of your thoughts and feelings about events that are transpiring in our country and community during these times. As you respond in your own individual way to the violence and suffering we must confront, it is also the time for each of us to reach out, to check in, to offer a hand, an ear, or a shoulder to a colleague who may be having a harder time. Now is the time for you to seek out help if you are struggling. We cannot rise to this challenge if we have not first taken care of ourselves and each other. We are always stronger together, and I am grateful for each of you and your unflinching commitment to our shared mission.