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Standing up against structural racism

'We cannot permit the loss of any more lives by sitting idly by and simply hoping for change'

George Floyd.

Ahmaud Arbery.

Breonna Taylor.

These are the names of three recent victims of violence against people of color; a violence that remains rampant in our country. We have seen and listened in horror and utter disbelief at the tragic events surrounding their deaths in the media. These losses have impacted communities of color in deep and excruciatingly painful ways, as they represent so many others before them who also suffered untimely deaths from similarly tragic events. Their names will soon be replaced with others if we continue to allow systemic racism in thoughts, words and deeds to plague our nation.

While we process the anger and despair these events have evoked among so many of us, it’s important to remember who we are as a university. Our mission is to enhance the health and well-being of Oregonians. We are a community of healers who have dedicated our lives to improving the human condition of others. This includes the physical and mental anguish people of color are suffering from as a result of bias and discrimination. These senseless attacks are antithetical to OHSU’s values and contrary to the work we do.

This crisis demands the attention of us all—we cannot permit the loss of any more lives by sitting idly by and simply hoping for change. We must shatter the structural racism that perpetuates these cruel acts against people of color. The time to end racist-fueled discrimination and brutality is now.

Acknowledging the fact that racism exists is the first imperative step in committing to change. Let’s educate ourselves about the historical cultural norms that are embedded into our everyday lives that contribute to bias and prejudice that leads to the injury, trauma and untimely death of Black men and women. Institutional racism is also inherent to disparities in health, education, wealth and the criminal justice system. You can act by joining conversations about race, listening to new ideas, declaring an anti-racist stance with your friends, families and coworkers, and inviting others to join you. Silence and inaction have led our society to where we are today and can no longer be tolerated going forward.

OHSU firmly stands with the communities supporting George, Ahmaud and Breonna in calling for justice to be served and with our own members who are grieving and heartbroken. It is important to acknowledge the disproportionate psychological toll these events have on Black members of our community. If you are experiencing trauma, please practice self-care by seeking support from your friends, family and other community members, and utilizing the Employee Assistance Program, Confidential Advocacy Program and Resident and Faculty Wellness Program.

Other emotional wellness resources are available at OHSU for employees and students to help in dealing with these tragedies, and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion is also here to support you. Thank you for your commitment to creating a safe, inclusive and equitable society for all.

Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S., OHSU President

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