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Violence and Hate Crimes against Black Americans is a Public Health Issue - Statement on Behalf of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Black Americans have a long history of being a target of hate crimes and violent acts because of their race.  The recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna TaylorNina Pop and George Floyd highlight the inequality and racism faced by Black Americans, but also transphobia and misogynoir against Black women.  For many, these killings shed light on the fears that Black people face regarding racial profiling, attacks, and killings based on the color of their skin.  This history of injustice and suffering endured by the Black community dates back to slavery in this country.  

As violence and hate crimes continue to occur against Black Americans, so does the impact of this public health crisis.  As noted by the American College of Physicians in 2017 “Hate crimes directed against individuals based on their race, ethnic origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity, nationality, primary language, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, cultural background, age, disability, or religion are a public health issue.”  Violence towards a Black American not only impacts the individual physically but can often lead to psychological distress.  The psychological distress from a violent act and/or hate crime can include a general sense of fear, hopelessness, and anger that can develop into anxiety, post-traumatic stress (PTSD), and depressive disorders.  However, the violent act and hate crime reach farther than just the individual’s health.   The Black community has a long history of directly and indirectly experiencing discrimination, abuse, and segregation.   The stress caused by discrimination, abuse, and segregation has been associated with poorer health outcomes and health disparities.  Over time chronic stress has been found to impact not only mental health, but also physical health. 

As a healthcare community that strives to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment, consider the following as ways of how we might think and respond to this public health crisis:

  1. Increase your knowledge and read more about this public health issue.
  2. Being aware of your own potential biases by taking the online Implicit Association Test.
  3. After being aware of your own potential biases, attend or request an implicit bias training for your department/office/etc. from the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion.
  4. Provide resources to alleviate the trauma to individuals and communities associated with hate crimes. ​

Prepared by Nicole Del Castillo, MD, MPH,  - Director, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


Denise Martinez, MD -  Associate Dean, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Tuesday, May 26, 2020