Dear NUNM Community,
Our hearts are broken as we try to express thoughts about the senseless death of yet another Black person. Protests are now occurring across the United States after the death of George Floyd. As with the case of Eric Garner, both men died pleading for the basic need that many of us take for granted—air. “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” were the last words uttered by both men.
Garner, Floyd and Breonna Taylor are in a long line of Black people slain by those in positions of authority. Their untimely deaths serve as a reminder that our society has long treated the lives and minds of certain communities as lesser than others. This is appalling and egregious, no matter who we are. We live in a world where fear for and disdain of Black bodies is normalized. It is up to all of us to speak up when we witness instances of injustice.
These acts of racism and violence leave us with the same question that has been asked for centuries: When will racism, bigotry, and discrimination end? We are hopeful that white supremacy will be eradicated, but our hopes won’t get the job done. The work and sacrifice of all people, individually and as a collective, are needed to create a social and cultural shift towards a society that treats all people equally.
At NUNM we believe that it is important that we dismantle inequities and acknowledge overt and covert inequities. We have given voice to our disparities and have been working diligently to create a campus that considers equity and inclusion as the lens that guides all of our educational and administrative activities. Our equity and inclusion work is an ongoing process that changes based on the needs of our community. We are consistently working to create a campus community that honors individuality, celebrates cultural differences, and fosters a sense of belonging for all.
The Board of Directors has recently created a standing committee to work at the board level on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion. NUNM’s bias and discrimination reporting system for students, staff and faculty is being updated by the Office of Equity and Inclusion and more information will be communicated on June 30th. In the meantime, please contact the Office of Equity and Inclusion directly with any concerns that you have. Also, reach out to NUNM’s Counseling Services or the Employee Assistance Program by phone: 800-433-2320, text: 503-850-7721 or email: email@example.com.
The protests, pain and trauma that we are witnessing are the results of centuries of systematic and institutional racism and oppression of Black people. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Research has shown that racism takes shape in many ways, including microaggressions. Social determinants of health contribute to racial disparities in health care. The most recent evidence of this is in the data that demonstrates the disproportionate disease burden of COVID-19 on Black, Indigenous and other communities of color. If you wish to build on your knowledge and apply it to practice, sign up for the Race and Disparities in Healthcare course offered this fall (NDET6215E, Thursday 4-5:50 p.m.). Also, to better understand what we are experiencing the following books are helpful: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness by Michelle Alexander, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo, and How to Be Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.
Dr. Carrie Louise Daenell, Chair NUNM’s Board Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion shared this with me, “As we prioritize our attention to these events—what can we do today? Check on your friends that may be feeling especially vulnerable right now. Our Black friends and colleagues are more likely to have experienced the loss of a family or community member. The heightened threat of racism is very real.”
At this moment, engage each other in dialogue, challenge the status quo of tacit acceptance of violence to Black, Indigenous and People of Color due to white supremacy, use your voice, engage in justice work, show up where you are needed, help raise the next generation to be intolerant of hate, and continue to work for change for full equity and inclusion at NUNM.
We will be in touch, soon, to address actionable steps that NUNM will take moving forward.
We can do better and we will be better.
On Behalf of the President’s Cabinet, the Board of Directors, and the Office of Equity and Inclusion,
Christine L. Girard, ND, MPH