Lately, many have said that we are living in “unprecedented” times. The COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately affects communities of color, highlights how society must improve its ability to care for its vulnerable members. Against this backdrop, we have witnessed the unjust deaths of black individuals, most recently of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, among countless others.
But these times are not as unprecedented as they might seem, and going forward, our community must ensure the right precedent is set. Just as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic previously illustrated the danger of being unprepared for deadly outbreaks, the unjust killings of Black people before 2020 have previously illustrated the danger of systemic racism. That these deaths occurred and continue to occur fills us with sorrow, anger, and pain.
The Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine stands against systemic racism and acts of violence against people of color. The College asserts that Black lives matter, and stands with its students, staff, faculty, and other members of the veterinary community as we mourn, listen, speak out, and act against racism.
To make progress, we need to listen to Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) voices, and we must listen with our hearts pointed toward action. This moment must not be fleeting.
The College has launched initiatives for our community to commune, express emotions, and learn from one another. These include town halls, moments of action, sharing anti-racism resources, and other activities that join our community together against racism and anti-blackness. Our longer-term commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion are outlined in our strategic plan, and include our concrete goals to hire a diverse body of staff and faculty, education and professional development plans, ways we intend to provide a cross-cultural learning experience, and more.
The College has worked tirelessly to create an inclusive community. Diversity is a key value we have outlined to inform decisions at all levels. Our students, faculty, and staff must feel and be safe, welcomed, and appreciated. We commit to examine our policies and programs with the intent to eliminate implicit bias and areas that may cause unintended disadvantages to some of our community members.
These topics extend beyond our community, so our outreach needs to go beyond our community. As an institution composed so heavily of veterinary medical professionals, we understand the importance of a holistic, One Health approach to medicine and the world at large. All parts affect the whole. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American College of Physicians have stated that racism is a public health concern—something important to bear in mind as we consider the impact of racism on the world around us.
Going forward, each of us must reach past any discomfort, fear, or hesitation in our fight against racism and anti-blackness in our communities and in ourselves. We must work together to actively promote a culture of anti-racism wherever we can. It won’t be easy, but it is necessary.