Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) and Portland State University (PSU) School of Public Health

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10
Jul

Racism Is A Public Health Crisis

Dear SPH faculty and students,

Racism is a public health crisis. It has been a crisis for centuries, but now the wounds have been opened in the public consciousness. The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are among the most recent, high profile examples of the countless tragic human rights and social justice violations against Black Americans over the course of history. Closer to home, we continue to mourn the killing of Jason Washington by PSU campus police. And in recent weeks we have been faced with an act of racism found in our future SPH home, a symbol of hate and intimidation and another reminder of the long history of lynching in America. We are working with our universities and partner tenants of the new building to engage our communities in how, together, we can cleanse that space and heal from this new affront.

As a School of Public Health, it is our responsibility to recognize and respond to the devastating harms that structural and systemic racism, colonialism, discrimination, injustice, and state-sanctioned violence have on the safety, security, prosperity, and health of communities of color.

Social justice is the bedrock of our field, and yet our social institutions do not always align with this fundamental principle. As a School of Public Health, it is our responsibility to fully confront our roles in these systems and to commit to meaningful change. As educators, holding ourselves accountable and demanding change is as important, influential, and impactful as anything we teach in the classroom. In fact, we must be bringing these practices into our work in the classroom. This is public health at its core and in action.

The OHSU-PSU SPH stands with the American Public Health Association and the Association of Schools & Programs in Public Health in declaring both racism and police violence public health crises. As such, I am committed to building and sustaining an antiracist SPH that boldly confronts racism and works to dismantle the oppressive structures and systems that allow racism to persist.

As we work toward this vision, we will engage those most impacted by structural racism, colonialism, and oppression. Together as the SPH community, we will create a committed, transparent, and accountable antiracist action plan to advance our school’s work of eliminating racism at every level of practice, policy, and procedure.

We will engage with and hear from our students, faculty, staff, and researchers about your experiences and your ideas for change in the School. We want, and need, your candid and committed participation and expertise. We are aware that this is a dynamic situation and we want to be sure to prioritize your recommendations.

As we actively move along the path toward an antiracist SPH, I encourage you to send your feedback directly to me. I also ask you to continue to send reports of direct experiences of oppression and racism within our school to the following offices at our two universities: the PSU Office of Equity and Compliance (Interim Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion Julie Caron jucaron@pdx.edu) or equityandcompliance@pdx.edu; or, OHSU Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Director Laura Stadum (staduml@ohsu.edu) or Interim Chief Diversity Officer, Derick Du Vivier (duvivier@ohsu.edu).

Thank you for your engagement and collective commitment to achieving the common goal of building and sustaining an antiracist SPH and advancing equitable health and justice for all.

Sincerely,

David Bangsberg, MD, MPH