Diversity

Racial Injustice Affects the Health of All

By Howard Straker, EdD, MPH, PA-CJune 2, 2020

yard signs saying hate has no place here in multiple languages

Image: Shutterstock

The events of the past week have provided a shocking reminder of the racism that remains embedded in this country.

Over the past month, as most of us have been isolated in our homes, news and social media have brought us more evidence of violent, racist acts that have disrespected, harmed, and killed people of color — especially the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. We have also witnessed acts and words against Asian Americans, scapegoating them for the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen the news reports of the disproportionate number of Black, Latinx, and Native peoples contracting and dying from the virus. The senseless killing of George Floyd, by depriving him of his breath while a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, has proved to be a tipping point and galvanized a demand for justice, one that has unfortunately spilled over in some cases into rioting. This is inevitable unless we act with urgency.

Racism is an injustice that denies people their humanity, jeopardizes their safety, and cheats them out of their best health. African Americans and other members of communities of color live with these threats daily. For PAEA, an organization whose vision is Health for All, we must acknowledge that these acts of inhumanity represent a threat to both the health of the nation and our individual patients. It is our duty and intention to move toward eliminating racism through education. There is work we must do within our programs and with each other.

We call upon PA programs to support their students, faculty, and staff through these traumatic events, particularly those who are of African descent. Let them know you care, through a phone call, an email, or whatever communication seems right. Our PA education community should not have members suffering in silence.

As PAEA president, I am committed to doing my part for all of you and the students you serve in the PA education community on an issue that is deeply important to me personally. To this end, PAEA has hosted two virtual town halls — safe spaces where faculty and students can have brave and crucial conversations about these issues, learn about each other’s experiences and needs, and work toward concrete actions to help break down the structural supports of racial injustice. The first Student Town Hall was so well attended that another one has already been scheduled.

Head shot of Howard Straker
Howard Straker, EdD, MPH, PA-C

Howard is the president of PAEA and assistant professor of PA studies at The George Washington University.