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A statement in concern and support

Dear Colleagues,

I am grateful to work at UMBC, with its commitment to equity and inclusion. Our leaders issued a superb statement about the inequality that videos of police and community violence and the disproportionate harm to Black, Indigenous, People of Color from COVID19 have made so visible. Grief and rage are our immediate responses. The continued centuries of racial inequality in the United States take a toll. We hope you are taking care of yourselves, and that those you love are as well as can be. 

Events affect us unequally. Some of us see our loved ones in Ahmed Arbery, Chris Cooper, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or in ill family members and those working on the front lines of the pandemic. Others know someone like Amy Cooper, or wonder whether we do. Unequal access to housing, loans, schools, health insurance, sick pay and too-frequent, dangerous encounters with police are daily life for Black, Indigenous, People of Color. White people in the United States can often choose whether to recognize inequality, and what to discuss with friends and family.  White people can choose to be too uncomfortable to discuss racism, and avoid it. Black, Indigenous, People of Color can’t. Ignoring racism allows benefits of whiteness to appear as if from nowhere. 

The United States political system is much more than one elected official. Myriad civil servants and people in civic organizations and businesses have opportunities to find ways to improve what we do. Anne Arundel County has just declared racism a public health issue. We want the study of public policy to enable hope, and to include our grief and rage in our hope. At its best, hope is a practical emotion: we expect better outcomes when we take steps to bring them about. Taking steps requires recognizing racism and inequality.  Inequality–recognizing it, ameliorating it–is at the heart of studying public policy. We thank you for your work and commitment. 

We invite you to continue to work with Nancy Miller and Zoë McLaren, who work on health disparities; with Pam Bennett and Jane Lincove who work on schooling, race and inequality; with Usman Ali and Lauren Edwards, our colleagues who work on policing and accountability; Yusuke Kuwayama who works on valuing environmental benefits; John Rennie Short, Fernando Tormos Aponte and myself, who work on inequity, disaster, social movements, and the politics of law. Multiple affiliate faculty are also committed to anti-racist work, including in Sociology, Anthropology and Public HealthHistoryEconomicsEducation, and Geography and Environmental Systems.

Please don’t hesitate to write to share thoughts or concerns.

My very best wishes.

Susan Sterett

Director

School of Public Policy