SOPHE is committed to health equity, condemning and tackling racism while advocating and fighting for social justice.
Washington, D.C. – June 1, 2020 – Structural and systemic racism that has led to civil unrest of this past week, precipitated by the death of an unarmed Minneapolis African American man, George Floyd, has once again brought many of us to tears, anger, and calls for social justice. These reprehensible acts directly contradict SOPHE’s core mission, principles and values shared by our 4,000 members who, stand and advocate for equality, human rights, and dignity of all people.
“If as a nation we recommit to space exploration, we must also recommit to correcting the injustices on earth,” says SOPHE President Cam Escoffery, PhD, CHES®. “As a civil society, we can and must do better.“ In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
Therefore, SOPHE calls on its members and all those who believe in dignity, freedom of expression, and social justice to:
Practice anti-racism. Fight against not just discrimination, but also the policies and practices that perpetuate and foster racism in today’s criminal justice, housing, food, media, or other societal contexts.
Own your privilege and be an ally. If you have privilege, use it to protect and help others. Own what you have access to while understanding everyone doesn’t share that privilege. Ask yourself, “What do I have access to that will help this situation? How can I advocate for better conditions for those most vulnerable?”
Act against racial microaggressions. Common slights, insults, putdowns, invalidations, and other offensive behaviors toward people of color – often by well-meaning, unaware White Americans – need to be called out. Racially demeaning slights in social media, entertainment media, mascots, and other symbols also should be denounced. These acts perpetuate a hostile and invalidating societal climate that ultimately harms employment, education, health care, and overall civil society.
Practice cultural humility. Strive to be respectful, considerate, open-minded, and interested in learning more about other peoples and their cultures and values. Leave your assumptions and prejudices at the door. You will learn insights, open doors and build bridges that you never thought possible.
Racism is a public health problem that is only now being amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately harmed black and brown populations in urban communities. We must now all commit to not being silent in our anti-racism efforts particularly in the face of blatant systems of oppression and police brutality.
SOPHE is committed to health equity, condemning and tackling racism while advocating and fighting for social justice. For 70 years, SOPHE has and will continue to work with our members to learn, advocate and advance policy changes to end racism in this country to achieve health equity.
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Cam Escoffery, PhD, MPH, CHES®, SOPHE President
Jean M. Breny, PhD, MPH, SOPHE Immediate Past President
Deborah Fortune, PhD, FAAHE, SOPHE President-Elect
Elaine Auld, MPH, MCHES®, SOPHE Chief Executive Officer
We are grateful to the following SOPHE members who also contributed to the development and review of this statement: Dr. Collins Airhihenbuwa, Dr. Keon Gilbert, and Dr. Jody Early.