Racism is a public health emergency. We, the faculty and leadership of the Department of Epidemiology, condemn racism in all its forms and its adverse effects on the health and well-being of our society. Recent events surrounding the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Aubery have awakened the country to current manifestations of racism. However, a long history of institutionally codified anti-Blackness has enabled pervasive racism in our culture, including our department. We have contributed to this racism, and we apologize for the trauma this has caused. To be silent is to be complicit with continued marginalization, discrimination, and outright violence towards Black individuals and the Black community. We pledge not only to critically evaluate, investigate, and remove racism in our work and institution, but also advocate for Black students, staff, and faculty in a way that is accountable and sustainable.
Our commitment comprehensively addresses racism and requires engagement and investigation in all areas of our department, including staff, students, faculty, administration, research, teaching, service, policies, procedures, and climate. Any established structures that hinder this work must be changed. Making sweeping changes from within an organization is difficult but will be necessary to succeed.
Anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices, and attitudes so that power becomes redistributed and shared equitably. As we develop specific goals and actions to embrace anti-racism with critical input from our community, and our Black colleagues, students, and staff, we pledge no less than to:
- Educate ourselves and our community regarding historical and present structural racism and white supremacy
- Implement existing and proven anti-racist strategies, prioritizing those created by minorities
- Evaluate and Remove signs of racism from all department research, education, service, policies, and procedures and
- Advocate on behalf of the Black students, faculty, and staff
- Perform this work in ways that are both Accountable and Sustainable with Oversight by diversity professionals outside of Pitt Public Health
A departmental working group will determine how implementation of the above will be structured, defined, operationalized, and measured. This initiative will include financial support for anti-racism policies and actions, including funding for students, and the integration of a permanent presence of diversity oversight in our committee structure. We will use best practices and guidance from groups and organizations with expertise in this area, including the Associate Dean for Diversity, the Office of Health Sciences Diversity, the Center for Health Equity, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and outside organizations as well as our Black colleagues, within and outside our community. The working group will develop and present initial proposals by August 2020 to implement our pledge.
We make this commitment to the students, staff, faculty, administration, school, university, alumni, and the Pittsburgh community. We seek engagement and feedback as we work together to promote public health and social justice.