The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery—only the latest in a shameful national history of killings of Black Americans by police and white vigilantes—reveal the epidemic of police violence against people of color in our country. Our condolences go out to the families of all victims of this senseless violence.
And still we rise. We stand with the millions of people protesting across the globe in stating, unequivocally, and with the utmost clarity: Black. Lives. Matter.
Public health is what we, as a society, do collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy. Racism is a significant determinant of health. White supremacy even more so. They shape where people live; what groceries they have access to; the cleanliness of their air; and yes, whether they will be shot in their own homes or if they will be believed when gasping “I can’t breathe” while being put in a chokehold. All of these realities are deeply connected to the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, scientific racism, eugenics, and other structural atrocities that the field of public health has often been complicit in. It is time that all schools of public health, and public health practitioners, acknowledge this history and understand its connection to the pressing reality before us. These are not variables that can be manipulated. Racism and white supremacy are our nation’s original sin, and a big reason for where we find ourselves at this moment in history.
Public Health must move forward from this moment with the lives of the victims of police violence in mind. We must research in their names, teach in their names, serve our communities in their names, and change our nation and the world in their names.