Executive Council Statement on Health Disparities and Institutionalized Racism

As many across the country are doing, the Washtenaw County Medical Society must also speak out and confess our inaction and failure, both personal and political, to address the continued problems of racial inequities both in health care and society at-large.

Two events catalyzed this most recent unrest in 2020. The first is the COVID-19 pandemic, in which we have clearly seen disproportionate morbidity and mortality within communities of color. The second is the graphic, incontrovertible evidence of the wasting of Black lives that is a continuation of a long record of deaths at the hands of police and vigilantes. These events have come together to put before our eyes the inequities, biases, and failures of our society in the most powerful way. The public outcry we are seeing is clearly warranted.

The WCMS Executive Council states, “Institutionalized racism is a manifestation of societal oppression, antipathy, and exclusion of people of color. This is evidenced in centuries of violence toward people of color, including, police brutality and incarceration. It is also evidenced in wage inequality and wealth disparity; housing instability and inadequacy; food insufficiency; underfunded, low quality education; inadequate access to health care insurance; and inadequate access to high quality health care.”

Heretofore, the physician community has for the most part stood by, accepting the status quo, thereby manifesting its own implicit bias. It can no longer do so. Racial inequities and civil injustices are related public health crises that must be faced and dealt with as one. Call it what you will: a legacy of unspoken hate, racial disparity, implicit bias, discrimination; we can no longer cover it up with promises and programs, acknowledging but not believing, listening but not hearing, training but not changing. We need to get at the legislative, legal, judicial, cultural, doctrinal, and other root causes.

As physicians and medical leaders, we pledge to use our professional tools to become positive agents of change in order to help society advance at this critical moment. We pledge to continue our work in challenging biases in medicine, to really listen to our colleagues of color, amplify marginalized and underrepresented voices, and connect with those in critical leadership roles. We recognize our responsibility as advocates to promote health equity and denounce racism as a public health crisis. We call on all of our members to roll up their sleeves and join us as we work to grow and heal our diverse community.

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