Life during the COVID-19 pandemic — often described as “unprecedented” — has imposed pain throughout all aspects of our society. But it has been especially harsh for the most vulnerable from under resourced populations. We have seen clear and consistent racial disparities and inequities in mortality and economic hardship. The harshness of the pandemic has laid bare, once again, the longstanding and significant inequities in our society.
Now, in the context of this pandemic, our nation reels in pain, anguish, heartbreak, and, frankly, anger at the unfettered racism and intolerance that continues to plague our country. This past week, we bear witness to the brutality of social injustice with the murder of Mr. George Floyd, a Black man, in broad daylight on the streets of Minneapolis. Tragically, inhumane acts such as this one are all too familiar in cities across the US, including ours as we remember Freddie Gray, killed just over 5 years ago. And while COVID-19 may be unprecedented, the pandemic that is racism, quite obviously, has longstanding precedent, with deep historical context that continues today.
Last summer, Baltimore was targeted with harsh and dehumanizing language, including racist rhetoric. On behalf of our patients, students, families, and our staff, our community, our neighborhood, and our city, Kennedy Krieger spoke to the importance of calling out racism and xenophobia. We spoke to the stress produced by racism, both directly and indirectly, and how it adversely affects many aspects of life, not the least of which is the health and education outcomes for our patients and students. We also acknowledged then, and underscore now, the adverse effect this stress has on all of us who are part of this Kennedy Krieger community or family.
For the past 3 months, the resilience and innovative talents of our staff have been demonstrated daily, if not hourly, while at the same time we are navigating the most significant public health and economic challenge in modern human history. We’ve talked about the fact that while everyone is experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, we each are experiencing it differently due to innumerable reasons. A similar point can be made about the burdens of racism, while recognizing our staff and patients of color carry an ongoing historical context of racism mentioned above.
But what binds us together as a community at Kennedy Krieger is our shared values and belief system that every individual in our society, without exception, has the basic right to achieve their fullest potential. The unifying theme of all that we do as providers of care, education, service, advocacy and discovery is with that goal in mind. Therefore, when social injustice or inequities pose a barrier to that right of full potential, we need to speak out. Kennedy Krieger will continue our work to eliminate these barriers using health equity and social justice principles.
We remain committed to a culture of civility, equity, diversity, and inclusion for all those we serve and for all who comprise the Kennedy Krieger family.
Bradley L. Schlaggar, MD, PhD
President and CEO
Jacqueline Stone, PhD, MPA, PT
Vice President, Clinical Programs
Chair of the Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee