GHS Statement: Black Lives Matter
UPDATE 10/26/20: The faculty and staff of the Program in Global Health Studies reaffirm our commitment to racial equity and social justice, as outlined in our statement below. We also affirm our solidarity with and support for ongoing racial justice movements, including recent @CopsOutofNU protests of racist policing and anti-Black police brutality, and their demands for divestment from NUPD and investment in Black communities at Northwestern. We call on President Schapiro to mobilize university leadership to meaningfully address concerns expressed by the student protesters and by Northwestern’s African American Studies Department, outlined in their October 15 and October 20 letters. These letters detail the scope and consequences of structural racism in the United States and at Northwestern, and provide a timeline for concrete, meaningful action and accountability.
We, the faculty and staff of the Program in Global Health Studies (GHS), stand in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the people and organizations protesting the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Tony McDade, and countless others. We condemn these instances of anti-Black violence at the hands of the police and emphatically affirm that Black lives matter. These deaths are the product of systemic and structural anti-Blackness, and centuries of injustice against Black people, in and beyond the United States.
Police brutality and racial violence are public health issues, contributing to stark, long-standing disparities in life expectancy and health outcomes for Black people. These disparities are not the consequence of biology or individual shortcomings. Rather, they are the product of persistent, often deliberate structural inequities, shaped and sustained by anti-Black ideologies and policies with deep roots in our institutions.
Indeed, actions undertaken in the name of international public health, global health, international aid, and development have a long history of contributing to – or benefiting from – white supremacy, settler colonialism, and the military industrial complex, both at home and abroad. Regardless of intentions, these actions often disproportionately and systematically harm Black people while reproducing cultures and structures of inequality. Therefore, those committed to global health equity must continue to confront and dismantle the ways in which racist, colonial, and neoliberal ideologies have shaped international public health to the detriment of people of color worldwide.
Racial health disparities cannot be eliminated simply by expanding access to quality health care, though this is an important part of the solution. We must instead actively work to identify and transform the long-standing social, political, and structural forces (e.g., police violence; inequities in our systems of education and social support; unequal access to resources like safe and affordable housing, food, and water; unemployment and lack of living wages) that perpetuate anti-Blackness, white supremacy, and state sanctioned violence. These same structural inequities must also be confronted directly to eliminate the historically-rooted racial disparities in health outcomes across the globe.
We are committed to playing an active role in addressing these problems and contributing to solutions through our teaching, research, and engagement. Toward those ends, the Program commits to the following guiding values and concrete steps:
- We reaffirm our commitment to pedagogy and undergraduate research mentoring that (a) insists on the connections between public health and social problems, and therefore (b) includes and elevates the perspectives of Black and anti-racist scholars and (c) is radically inclusive, culturally relevant, and responsive. This commitment entails (but is not limited to) the continual revision of our syllabi and curricula to include the work of, for example, abolitionists, critical race scholars, and other under-represented scholars and activists.
- We reaffirm and expand our commitment to recognizing and providing special support for the needs and aspirations of our Black students (including those who may be FGLI students), including but not limited to financial aid, academic support, meaningful mentoring, and responsive accommodations.
- We support the student call for Northwestern University to invest in Black Students and divest from law enforcement and encourage our affiliates to add their individual signatures to this petition. In supporting this position, we recognize the need for viable and humane alternatives to ensure Northwestern campus and community safety, including, e.g., increased resources for units and professionals (diversity and inclusion, mental health, social work) that might be better placed than police to respond to key community safety and wellness needs. We further recognize that consideration of policing reforms and alternatives must be a process that equitably engages the entire University community, and are committed to playing an active and constructive role in this process.
- We commit to continuing to diversify our faculty and staff as the program evolves, and will prioritize Black candidates and candidates from marginalized/underrepresented backgrounds when relevant openings emerge.
- We commit to creating an interdisciplinary PhD cluster in GHS to better engage graduate students, in particular Black, Brown, and first-generation/low-income (FGLI) graduate students in our community.
- We commit not only to supporting but strongly encouraging current and future GHS faculty and staff to pursue professional development initiatives focused on anti-racist practices. Creating healthy and safe environments for Black scholars and students requires lifelong unlearning of anti-Blackness.
- We commit to continuing to do all we can to make the GHS community and spaces safe, welcoming, and supportive for all Black students and colleagues. This includes being reflexive and responsive if our actions are pointed out to be racist. It also includes fostering space where our students, colleagues and faculty can interrogate and be reflexive about the ways white supremacy affects them, and concrete actions they can undertake to contribute to a more equitable society over the long term.
- We commit to continuing our longstanding support for the work of Northwestern’s Department of African American Studies and to advancing its faculty, students, and initiatives.
- We commit to advocating for the central importance of understanding and addressing racial health disparities and the broad health impacts of anti-Blackness in the work of Feinberg’s new Institute for Global Health and the Center for Global Health Education.
- We commit our support for the inclusion of a critical race studies requirement as part of Weinberg’s new “Foundational Areas” framework.