Reflections on Recent Events and Our Department's Mission

To the Duke Pathology Community:

The event of recent days and months have been a stark reminder that racism and specifically anti-Blackness is a deadly force in our country. The senseless murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others are the terrible consequences of a policing system that is steeped in the racism and bigotry that are woven into the very fabric of our society. This lethal disparity holds beyond the handful of cases that make headlines; the rate of death by law enforcement in the United States is more than twice as high for Black men and boys, compared to White men and boys.

At the same time that our country is facing an ongoing epidemic of police violence against people of color, Covid-19 is highlighting the deadly consequences of the inequities in our health care system. In North Carolina, Black people make up about 1/5 of the population, but have suffered over 1/3 of Covid-19-related deaths. However, even before the advent of the pandemic, as frontline diagnosticians, we in the Pathology Department could see the tangible results of race-based health care disparities every day in the form of cancers diagnosed at a late stage, cardiovascular disease caused by inadequately treated hypertension, and limbs and organs ravaged by uncontrolled diabetes.

 

What we believe:

We acknowledge the horrifying harm that is caused by systemic racism in our country.

We acknowledge that Black lives matter.

We acknowledge that pervasive racism, hatred and intolerance in our nation hurts every single person in it.

We also acknowledge that our colleagues, friends, and family members who are people of color bear the heaviest part of the burden of racism: the trauma that comes from living in a society that fails to acknowledge one’s very humanity and that threatens the very lives of children, spouses, siblings, and parents.

We acknowledge that systemic racism and societal inequity are large and complicated problems, without simple or quick solutions. At the same time, we acknowledge that silence and inaction are deadly.

We commit to ensuring that the daily practices in our department reflect our values of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We commit to listening to thoughts, concerns, and perspectives of all members of the Duke Pathology community and particularly to those whose voices have historically been silenced.

 

What we can do:

Racism in the United States is a long standing and deeply embedded problem. It can feel overwhelming and almost paralyzing. At the same time, doing nothing is not an acceptable option.

As health care workers, we know that our first obligation is to “do no harm.” At the same time, we know that caring for our patients requires much more than not harming them. In the same way, it is not enough to simply avoid engaging in overtly racist speech and actions. We must actively work against the racism in the structure of our society and embrace the ideals of anti-racism.

So, what can each of us do?

We can educate ourselves about the history of racism in this country and its ongoing effects throughout our society today.

We can teach our children about the harmful effects of racism and about those who have fought against it.

We can listen when the people in our lives tell us that they have experienced racism.

We can speak up when we see inequality, racist stereotypes, and other forms of bigotry in our daily lives.

We can speak out to businesses and our elected representatives when we hear of incidents in which people of color are treated unfairly.

We can make sure that the books and articles we read, the podcasts and music we listen to, the movies and television shows we watch include voices of people of color. 

We can donate to antiracist causes.

 

An abundance of anti-racist resources are available. We are highlighting a few below as places to get started:

Self-care resources for people of color:

Surviving & Resisting Hate: A Toolkit For People of Color

Self-Care Tips for Black People Who Are Struggling With This Very Painful Week

Self Care For People Of Color After Psychological Trauma

 

Resources about race and racism in the United States:

Historical Foundations of Race and Racism in the United States from the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Resources for understanding Racism in America from the Smithsonian

Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Okay — Chances Are They’re Not

 

Resources about race and health in the United States:

Evidence Brief: Health Equity Implications of Police Violence from UNC

A Terrible Price: The Deadly Racial Disparities of Covid-19 in America

Preventing maternal mortality: We have to address the racism first

Trends in Health Equity in the United States by Race/Ethnicity, Sex, and Income, 1993-2017

 

Resources on antiracism:

Being Antiracist from the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Upstander Action Guide from University of Texas, San Antonio

 

Resources for teaching children about race, racism, and anti-racism:

Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners: books for children and young adults

These Books Can Help You Explain Racism and Protest to Your Kids

PBS’s Teaching Your Child About Black History Month

From Christian Cooper to George Floyd: A Letter To White Parents

CNN/Sesame Street’s racism town hall for kids

 

 

Books to read:

How To Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

 

Movies to watch:

13th (Ava DuVernay)

Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler)

I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin documentary)

Selma (Ava DuVernay)

The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.)

 

Podcasts to listen to:

Codeswitch (NPR)

Come through with Rebecca Carroll

 

 

If you are interested in participating in a departmental focus group on diversity, equity, and inclusion, please contact departmental Diversity and Inclusion representative Pam Harris (pamela.harris@duke.edu). If you have previously expressed interest, please confirm that you would like to participate. We plan to have the first meeting soon.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this. We are eager to hear your reactions, thoughts and concerns.

 

 

Jiaoti Huang

Pam Harris