Statement of Solidarity

Systemic Racism is Public Health IssueCOEH Statement of Solidarity

A Statement of Solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement from the Northern California Center for Occupational and Environmental Health.

The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are a short list of the countless individuals victimized by our shameful history of a racist society, one where Black Americans are killed disproportionately by police) and civilian vigilantes. Systemic racism has also created another more insidious killer - the environmental and occupational inequities that lead to illnesses, injuries, and premature deaths of Black Americans. These inequities have been made increasingly visible during the COVID-19 pandemic, where Black Americans have suffered a higher proportion of COVID-related deaths than any other group, particularly in relation to white Americans.

As voiced by the Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley, we at the Northern California Center of Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) also “stand with the millions of people protesting across the globe in stating, unequivocally, and with the utmost clarity: Black. Lives. Matter.

The COEH is composed of experts, students, and staff who can play a more significant role in ensuring that Black lives matter. Together we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and pledge to learn more about the determinants of the inequities related to environmental and occupational exposures. We pledge to teach about these inequities to our students, future anti-racism leaders in environmental and occupational health. We pledge to serve vulnerable populations of black and brown skin. We recognize that the center’s efforts of the past have not been enough to increase the representation of Black students, faculty, and staff in higher education. With diverse cohorts across academic programs, COEH can ensure that our future occupational and environmental health practitioners, researchers, and leaders reflect the population that they serve.

We pledge to do better.

As we reflect on how we can do more to identify and mitigate the inequities, we commit to the following actionable responses:

  • Prioritize the recruitment and mentoring of Black students who will become practitioners, researchers, government regulators, and labor representatives of the environmental and occupational health workforce

  • Provide outreach to younger Black students to support awareness of the opportunities available to pursue careers in occupational and environmental health.

  • Prioritize research that addresses social, economic, and health inequities created by the environment and/or workplace.

  • Educate our staff and faculty on identifying implicit biases, showing up as anti-racists, and on the existence and impact of systemic racism.

  • Provide resources and mentorship for students to apply for training and research grants successfully.

  • Develop outreach and education programs in partnership with organizations that represent people of color so that we may continue to address occupational and environmental inequities impacting Black communities.