Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health Statement
“True heroism is remarkably sober, very un-dramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost” – Arthur Ashe
In acknowledging the disturbing events of the past week, we like our founder, Arthur Ashe, acknowledge the need to address injustices and promote social justice. The Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health and our community and academic partners, in addressing health inequities, recognize the importance of addressing those social and systemic issues, such as racism, that promote disparities. Therefore, much of our work is focused on health equity by developing and implementing programs to empower community members to be advocates for their health and to increase diversity in the health professions.
Over the past weeks, our country has been riddled by fear and anger as we have confronted the menace of a virus and racism. For several months, we have been impacted by a virus that drastically changed the world as we knew it. The pandemic also exposed the grave disparities in health, as people of color bore an unprecedented burden of morbidity related to COVID19. The impact of COVID19 across our communities has included increased unemployment, housing instability and food insecurity, coupled with mistrust of the healthcare system, as the poor health outcomes from COVID19 have been highlighted within our communities. However, we recognize that these disparities are not new, and continue to point to a broken and inequitable healthcare system, and the social inequities that exist within our nation.
As we have come together to flatten curves and work to control the disease, we have been harshly reminded of the scourge of racism, reminiscent of the historical injustices. We have been appalled by the public death of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, at the hands or “knee” of a white police officer, while other law enforcement watched without action. In New York City, we have witnessed the deliberate false racist accusations of a white woman against a Black man, Christian Cooper. While technology might have brought to the forefront some blatant incidences of racism, there are so many that are not caught on camera.
Given the historical and continued atrocities related to race relations within our country, the future for the next generation is dismal if systems are not changed. Nevertheless, amidst the pain, fear and anger, we have been encouraged by the youth of diverse ethnicity and race that have come out in protest of the recent incidents of injustice. Furthermore, the activism of our youth, which would have made Arthur Ashe proud, greatly expresses the desire of our young people to shape their own futures and that of their communities. Like our youth, our job is not to stay silent in the sight of injustice. In order to construct a society that is more equitable, our job is to deconstruct racism. Today, we are at a time in our history where human emotion, morality and righteous indignation are fueling a call to action and we need to urgently answer that call for systemic change. Therefore, we at the Arthur Ashe Institute, stand in solidarity with those in our nation and around the world against these heinous acts of racism.
Marilyn Fraser, MD
Co-Director, Brooklyn Health Disparities Center