Shock, Sorrow, and Social Responsibility

Dear Members of the PHHP Community,

Shock and outrage have followed the horrifying killing of George Floyd, a tragedy that has fueled an outbreak of pent-up anger over the social conditions that have permitted a pervasive pattern of racial injustices across the U.S. Yet the dominant feeling for many of us is sorrow—a deep-seated grief emanating from the recognition that consequences of slavery continue 400 years after the first enslaved people were brought to the shores of this continent. As a nation, we have witnessed centuries of racial injustice and the development of an institutional racism that underlies the disparities faced by people of color in our country. Our sorrow stems from our sympathy for the victims like George Floyd and from a sense of helplessness that the situation has not changed.

Nevertheless, there are actions that we can take and must take. First, we must understand the roots of racism and confront the fact that biases, implicit as well as explicit, affect us all. We must use our scientific training to identify factors that contribute to the disparities in health, education, and income that perpetuate the divisions in our society between the have and have-nots. We must then take steps to modify those pernicious conditions through programs and policies. As scientists, we can take the lead on the development and evaluation of programs designed to redress disparities. Our research can form the basis of knowledge regarding what does and does not work. However, having an empirical basis for change will not be enough. We will need to go further and put ourselves forward as advocates for change in the public arena. Finally, we must serve as role models for our students, as educators, researchers, and advocates for social justice who are dedicated to improving the lives of those members of our society who have suffered injustices for too many years.

Sincerely,

Mike

Michael G. Perri, PhD, ABPP
Dean, College of Public Health and Health Professions
The Robert G. Frank Endowed Professor of Clinical and Health Psychology
University of Florida