June 1, 2020

Dear colleagues:

I write to you for three interrelated reasons on this Monday morning, with deep sadness in my heart mirroring the gray skies outside:

  • To convey my sorrow, horror, and rage at the killing of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis
  • To clearly, strongly, and unequivocally underscore the cause of his death: police violence against black people, one of the many ugly manifestations of long-standing and deeply ingrained structural racism in our country
  • And to check in with you and offer support and resources to help both in addressing and coping with the root causes of this tragedy.

I know many of us are hurting. My heart goes out to all of you, but particularly to our black colleagues, and to all people of color. Please know that I as Chair, and we as a Department, embrace you, mourn with you, and offer our unqualified love and support.

Compounding our grief, Mr. Floyd's death at the hands of law enforcement comes close on the heels of two others that are hard to fathom: Breonna Taylor in March (killed in her home) and Ahmaud Arbery in February (killed while jogging in his neighborhood). Make no mistake: these are not coincidentally clustered, one-off tragedies, but rather the latest in an appallingly long line of racism-driven police killings of black Americans. Indeed, the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Association, our UCD Health and UCD School of Medicine leaders, and others in our profession have explicitly labeled police violence against black people as an epidemic adversely impacting on public health.

Sam Hawgood, MBBS, the Chancellor at UC San Francisco, commented clearly and insightfully on the root cause of these deaths in a statement issued yesterday, which Dr. Godzich graciously forwarded to me. Dr. Hawgood said:

"What these tragedies have in common is that all three victims are black. These incidents expose the double standard of racism that provides privileges to some, and denies them to others, based on the color of their skin. It is a double standard all people of color face, but that black people experience most painfully. Those of us who are not black cannot fully understand what the black experience is in this country. We are privileged to do things without concern that black people simply cannot. This inequitable system of privilege is so pervasive and foundational in our society that it is accurately described as structural racism."

Crucially, in his statement Dr. Hawgood then also pointed out that condemning acts of police violence and empathizing with those targeted is not enough. I wholeheartedly agree. The deaths of George Floyd and other black people at the hands of police are a call to action. Now, more than ever, we must rise to the challenge of fully pursuing our Departmental vision – "a healthier and more equitable world" – and carrying out our mission – "to enhance the health of the population and mitigate health disparities through person- and family-centered care, education, and discovery."

Those vision and mission statements were written in 2018; in the current societal context, it is painfully clear that we failed to name one other critical aspect of the Department's work in our last mission statement: advocacy. Suffice to say, we won't make the same mistake in creating our next mission statement.

To paraphrase recent comments made by Vice Chancellor Lubarsky, Deans Brashear and Cavanaugh, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Dr. Ton: as a Department, we stand in solidarity and will put the weight of our community behind Chancellor May's call "to do what we can to eliminate racism, sexism, and other negative influences on our progression as a nation."

We must work together to be upstanders for positive change, foster strong police accountability, and address the structural racism that underlies this health and public health crisis. Along those lines, I would like to provide you with several resources to support our community's efforts in enhancing self-awareness about racism. These were assembled by Dr. Renee Navarro, Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Outreach at UCSF and again helpfully forwarded to me by Dr. Godzich:

I would also like to provide this link to a video from this morning in which Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) founder Bryan Stevenson calls out the long, deep roots of the "presumption of guilt" endured by black Americans. The EJI has long advocated and worked for improvements in the treatment of black people by law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Mr. Stevenson's work for the EJI was featured in the film Just Mercy, based on his book of the same name, one of the most powerful I have read. Their web site provides a wealth of information and resources, and outlines ways that all of us can help to advance this work.

Finally, I'd like to provide you with the following resources to help us all support and take care of ourselves:

While I hope these resources will be useful, they are far from exhaustive.So, please don't hesitate to reach out and let me know what else you might need in this difficult time, and how I can help.

As always, I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for your work on behalf of the Department - so often carried out in times of great sorrow, turmoil, and adversity such as these.

Sincerely and in solidarity,

Tony

Anthony Jerant, MD
Professor and Chair
Department of Family and Community Medicine
UC Davis School of Medicine

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White privilege

I have privilege as a white person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice about it...

I can go birding (#ChristianCooper).
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery).
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson).
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride).
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark).
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards).
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis).
I can sell CD's (#AltonSterling).
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown).
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice).
I can go to church (#Charleston9).
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin).
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell).
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant).
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland).
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile).
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones).
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford).
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher).
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott).
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover).
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese).
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans).
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood).
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo).
I can run (#WalterScott).
I can breathe (#EricGarner).
I can live (#FreddieGray).
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED. (#GeorgeFloyd)

White privilege is real. Take a minute to consider a Black person’s experience today.

#BlackLivesMatter