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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:

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