The past few months have been challenging in many ways, including in confronting and beginning to address issues related to systemic racism and social justice. The students, faculty and staff of the School of Public Health and Health Professions has engaged in many conversations about social justice issues; within the School, the University at Buffalo, and the wider Buffalo metropolitan area/Western New York. We hope that these conversations have begun a process that will help all of us to move forward. Along with the conversations, many have sought ways to engage in actions and activities to begin to mitigate the effects of the 400 hundred-year-long history of slavery and racial division in the US.
In the words of SUNY’s Dr. Crystal Fleming (Stony Brook University), “white folks need to make a proactive decision to do this work, rather than rely on people of color (who are already subject to the terror of racial violence) to pick up your slack and carry the burden of dismantling oppression.” ~ “How to be Less Stupid About Race”
We, as faculty, staff and students of SPHHP, all need to “do the work,” and the following is a list of recommended readings and additional resources as a first step. Rather than reinvent the wheel, in the list below, we refer you to extensive resources collated by scholars of racism and activists working in this space. We hope to continue this conversation in our efforts at SPHHP to “commit ourselves to undoing racism across all American systems, including health care, education, economic development, housing, transportation, and environmental protection. We recognize that systemic racism is the driver of health inequities that cause millions of premature deaths every year, including those from COVID-19.”
In this extensive Anti-racist resource guide, Victoria Alexander (@victoriaalxndr) suggests “unlearning and relearning through literature” and recommends anti-racist reading (examples listed below–click on the link for the full list). She also provides resources of organizations you can follow, suggestions on where to donate, and resources for having conversations on racism and bias.
Sample books from Victoria’s Alexander’s Anti-racist resource guide:
Sample articles from Victoria’s Alexander’s Anti-racist resource guide:
Another anti-racism resource list has been collated by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein.
Similarly, our UB colleagues at University Libraries have put together a list of readings, as have colleagues at UB’s School of Social Work (list of readings and resources) to counter anti-Black racism, including a list of local organizations working on this issue in Buffalo and Erie County (H/T Shaanta Murshid).
JSTOR has compiled a syllabus of readings on institutionalized racism in the United States published over the past five years (H/T @noraj_williams) and introduces this syllabus with the following words, “Educators everywhere are asking how can we help students understand that this was not an isolated, tragic incident perpetrated by a few bad individuals, but part of a broader pattern of institutionalized racism.”
Dismantling racism in academia: Because our community is an academic one, it’s important that we discuss these issues as we directly influence and perpetuate them. Here is a list of readings, syllabi, and online courses that can help in this space:
The following links may be of particular interest to those of us in SPHHP and in the public health field in general:
A related issue for those of us working in public health in a global setting is the discussion around “decolonizing global heath.” Systemic racism has played out historically in the development of departments and schools working in global health (formerly referred to as “tropical health,” reflecting colonial framing of the research), and continues to influence agenda setting, funding, and authorship, placing scholars in the global south at a disadvantage in studying issues in their own settings. In fact, Dr. Seye Abimbola, editor-in-chief of BMJ Global Health and incoming Prince Claus Chair in Development and Equity at Utrecht University, has and stated in reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, “We must use this as a moment of reflection to first acknowledge, and then work to reject the present fault lines in global health so that we can begin to mould a more equitable system.” There is a growing movement to decolonize global health, and you can watch conference proceedings watch the conference proceedings, or follow these folks on twitter to learn more about decolonizing global health: @dukedecolonize @decolonizeGH @EdinburghDecol1 @udnore @seyeabimbola @laura_mkumba @paimadhu @YapBoum2 (there are many more–this is just a sample!). Select additional links on this topic are listed below:
If you’re a parent who wants to diversify their kids’ reading shelf, here are some recommendations of books that center Black characters and the Black Experience from Book Reviewer Kristin Wald (@kdwald; H/T Laura Seay @texasinafrica). Another list of diverse books for children can be found diverse books for children.
If you’re eager to purchase any of the above-referenced readings, here’s a list of Black-owned bookstores you can order from.
We recognize the victims of police violence in the U.S. and the pain that it causes our university community, and particularly our students, staff and faculty who are BIPOC. In recognition of this pain, we provide a list of resources below if you want to take action on behalf of victims and their families and/or protesters. These include data and evidence links as well as links where you can donate:
Below are links to activities and organizations that address some of the components of systemic racism, social justice and economic inequity/poverty in Buffalo and the Western New York region. The list is a work in progress, but provides a way to start engaging with the local community.
Given the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be challenging to engage in many activities, especially if they must be undertaken in-person. However, within these constraints, please consider volunteering to help organizations that are making a difference in Buffalo and Western New York.