UCGHI statement in response to the death of George Floyd

June 9th, 2020

UCGHI stands in solidarity against systemic racism, police brutality, and injustice – atrocities that tear down the health and well-being of Black communities. To be silent and to continue with business as usual is to be complicit. We as individuals and as an institution, stand with you. Black Lives Matter.

As the world rushes to defend against a highly contagious virus, George Floyd is killed in 9 minutes from a more seasoned threat—a pandemic of racism and police brutality. George Floyd has come to represent a sad and long string of African-Americans who police have murdered nationwide. Before being killed by the police, 26 year-old Breonna Taylor was asleep in her bed, 12 year-old Tamir Rice was playing in a park, 44 year-old Eric Garner had just broken up a fight, and 32 year-old Philando Castile was driving home with his girlfriend and her 4 year-old daughter. We are also horrified at the cruel murder of 25 year-old Ahmaud Arbery by armed White civilians and no arrests for months. These are just a few; there are many more whose lives police ended brutally and unfairly and whose perpetrators still walk free among us.

These murders do not exist in isolation. Within unjust social systems, COVID-19 afflicts the Black communities disproportionately with a 3-fold higher infection rate and 6-fold higher death rate than White communities—evidence of the ongoing damage and 21st century health disparities rippling from America’s history of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and racial discrimination. Other diseases follow the same disparate rates: HIV, hypertension, diabetes, and asthma to name just a few. African-American infant mortality rates are more than 2x greater than Whites. White men and women live longer, on average, than Black men or women due to preventable causes of death.

Even within our individual institutions and organizations, we see the impact, like the failure to speak and act prior to high-profile atrocities, the lack of representation in leadership positions, and the dearth of efforts to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in our initiatives and conversations.

As UC President Janet Napolitano reminds us, the United States’ brutal history for African Americans began over 400 years ago when the first African slaves were forcibly transported to the United States. Our shameful and ugly legacy of deliberate discrimination continues. We have deceived ourselves and others to believe that we are better, while US schools are now more segregated than ever since the momentous US Supreme Court Decision of Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.

The University of California Global Health Institute is committed to Black Lives Matter. This is both a moment and a movement. The UC Global Health Institute will contribute to this movement by addressing the continuing brutal history on three levels: 

First, systemic racism is not only a problem of our institutions; we, as individuals of the UC Global Health Institute, must own the problem too. Each of us commits to personal reflection on our implicit and explicit biases. This is not easy. We pledge to educate ourselves, embrace our discomfort, practice allyship, and practice what we preach as advocates for global health and equity for all. We must do better. 

Second, the UC Global Health Institute commits to addressing specific actions that the University of California must take to fight for racial justice. African-Americans are under-represented at every level in the University of California including students, faculty, and leadership. It is time to work together within and across our campuses towards concerted action to redress this imbalance. 

Third, the UC Global Health Institute is committed to ensure that health, equity, and environmental factors impacting Black Communities are addressed. The University of California is the 4th largest health care provider in the state and the UC Global Health Institute will leverage our diverse expertise across 10 UC campuses. The UC Global Health Institute has created a Black Lives Matter Task Force comprised of faculty and staff to develop specific plans to address systemic racism and the health and educational inequities that affect African-American communities in a highly disproportionate way.

The UC Global Health Institute stands committed to contribute to a better future for Black communities everywhere.  We see you and we hear you. We are here to support you. Black Lives Matter.