Black Lives Matter. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and countless others, who have been killed by police brutality or racist violence, rest in peace and power.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic where the Black community is disproportionately at risk, we are reminded of another pandemic: Racism. As Black-white health disparities are rooted in systemic racism, we understand that police brutality grows from the same roots. Consequently, we also must recognize that police brutality is a public health crisis that requires our science to help address it.
The Prevention Research Center of Michigan (PRC-MI) stands with the Black Lives Matter movement in denouncing police brutality, white supremacy, and racism. Our current climate is illuminating a number of challenges facing our nation and we know too well that this problem has persisted for centuries. Recent events have forced many of us who are more privileged by our whiteness to confront the harsh reality that many Black Americans have always known: racism is embedded in the founding ideology of this nation and continues to drive the systems and structures of our nation to the present.
The privileged among us must bear the weight of undoing racism, and we need to work with our Black colleagues and friends, sometimes leading, sometimes supporting, but always working toward a more just and equitable society. It is all of our responsibilities to do more than simply acknowledge systemic racism. We need to tear down the structures that are in place that disadvantage people of color. We have no more pressing public health issue than this one.
The PRC-MI stands with those across the nation and globally who are rising up in outrage and grief following the most recent murders of Black people in this nation. We are horrified, outraged, and afraid. Yet, we are also inspired and hopeful that we can make progress to eliminate systemic racism. As protesters continue to march and chant “Black Lives Matter!”, “I Can’t Breathe!”, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” through the streets and communities continue to mobilize, the trauma of racism is exposed for what it is: unfair, unjust, and unrelenting. We recognize that a collective effort is needed to break down systemic racism and that we need to be persistent, vigilant, and proactive to undo racism in everything we do. This effort begins at home, at work, and in all corners of our lives because the rot of racism has invaded everywhere. It also extends to all Black people who also identify as LGBTQ because of the compounding bias perpetuated on people with these intersecting identities.
We at the PRC-MI have committed to continue, build upon, and sustain our efforts to address these issues directly and explicitly through what we do best: action research. Although we have examined disparities and discrimination in our research (e.g., http://fas.sph.umich.edu/findings/racial-identity/), we have not done enough. We need to do more and we need to speak out about it. Research has to be more than simply generating knowledge if we are going to contribute to change. We have to apply our skills and talents to the change we want to see in the world. We need action in research that addresses structural racism in every part of our lives and in our work.
To that end, we are committed to the following actions as a prevention research center. These initial goals are the foundation upon which we will pursue social justice and undo racism in all the work we do. In the next year we will work to achieve these goals:
Goal 1: Identify gaps in our knowledge and create a research agenda for PRC-MI
- Critically analyze our past work to identify research questions and gaps using a social justice and racial equity lens.
- Conduct and publish systematic literature reviews on topics related to racism, policing, violence and other public health outcomes to identify gaps and areas for future research.
- Identify and apply for funding for projects that address systemic racism across various sectors including, but not limited to, health, law enforcement, judicial systems, and policing.
- Develop strategies for theory-based evaluation for undoing racism in law enforcement and the judicial system.
- Take a lead in the PRC national network to address racism in our research beginning with a survey of PRCs across the nation about their work on racism and efforts to eliminate it.
Goal 2: Translate and disseminate research findings to turn these findings into actionable social change
- Work with colleagues and partners, who address racism in their research, to disseminate their findings.
- Create positive frameworks that avoid victim-blaming and recognize systemic influences for communicating our research.
- Make findings readily accessible to policymakers and community audiences using social media, infographics, white papers, webinars, public meetings and town halls.
- Support community partners through participation and promotion of community events and activities around undoing racism.
Goal 3: Manage our center operations and educational activities to ensure an inclusive and equitable working environment
- Provide support for an ecosystem of connected research on racism and public health.
- Train and implement practices involving recruitment, hiring, and management that consider how systemic racism may influence decision-making and help undo procedures that advantage or disadvantage individuals based on race, gender, or LGBTQ characteristics.
- Reach out to SPH minority student groups to create research mentorship experiences.
- Organize student forums to share PRC work and provide networking opportunities for all student groups within SPH.
- Provide assistance for faculty and staff for mentorship, partnership and support for conducting their research on undoing racism.
- Organize and participate in activities during days of action through service.
- Examine all of our research activities through an anti-racism lens to ensure that we are including anti-racism components in all that we do.
- Explicitly address and discuss racism and bias in our work during our PRC staff meetings and create an environment for open dialogue in all of our work.
- Obtain continuing education and hold ourselves accountable to our anti-racism activities.
- Work with DEI workgroups within the department and school (and university) on race-specific issues and actions.
PRC of Michigan faculty and staff
Dana Greene, Jr.
Susan P. Franzen
Peter M. Hutchison
Kevin D. Michaels
Ardele Lynn Stewart