It’s OK to not be ok – Continued [racialized] violence and why dialogue matters in the journey to racial equity and inclusion
By Carlos S. Smith, D.D.S., MDiv, FACD
Director, Diversity Equity and Inclusion; Director, Ethics Curriculum
Many in the dental profession are known to be high achievers – rightly so, navigating the landscape of both dental and dental hygiene education as well as the life of clinical practice, is a serious matter. But where does the healer go when they find themselves in need of healing? What does the perfectionist do amid circumstances that seem far from any logical footing?
With continued violence and trauma played out literally before our eyes – Atlanta and the rising anti-Asian hate that has taken place throughout the pandemic to a mass shooting in Indianapolis and active shooter in Austin to continued violence in Chicago and even Kenosha, Wisconsin, the constant barrage of news cycle tragedy takes its toll – on all of us. Faculty, staff, students and even patients are affected.
2020 and now 2021 have seen the United States battle a global pandemic as well as face palpable racial tensions long brimming right underneath our political veneer of civility. Worldwide calls for racial equity (both specific to health care and also more generally speaking) over the last year have been much attributed to a single catalytic event, the very public death of George Floyd at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin in June 2020. While the Chauvin trial has come to an end and we await a verdict, the overwhelming disproportionate killing of African Americans as a result of police brutality has not halted. The list of names continues to grow, most recently Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy, have been added to the plethora of social media hashtags – all fatalities of police violence.
The American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and most recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have all made the case for understanding racism as a matter of public health. What is also clear – marginalized communities are doubly harmed by police violence because of the compounded effects of witnessing and experiencing intergenerational trauma. This trauma actually affects us all – irrespective of race, but studies (UPenn, Journal of Social Issues, and Psychology Benefits Society) have shown a disproportionate harm to our community members of color.
So why make mention of this in a dental school environment?
What can one do?
Is the joke actually funny or cruel? Is the comment or analogy destructive to someone around you? Do you really know what another is feeling or experiencing?
We must continue to educate ourselves and do the hard work of consistently examining our own biases, and then we must engage in our communities in ways that are constructive, respectful and inclusive of others.
We thank you for your compassion and support for those in our community who may be suffering during this period.
We must never forget that the School of Dentistry is a community with many members
who live in dread that the color of their skin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and religion make them targets of hate and worse. We must support each other as we move forward in our continued journey of inclusion and belonging.
Again, it’s OK, to not be ok.
Employees can obtain help from the School of Dentistry Human Resources Office and/or VCU Employee Relations.
In addition, the following resources are available to all students, staff, and faculty at VCU:
Division of Inclusive Excellence (http://www.inclusive.vcu.edu/)
University Counseling Services (http://www.students.vcu.edu/counseling/)
Wellness Resource Center (http://thewell.vcu.edu/
The VCU Dean of Students, Dr. Reuban Rodriguez (email@example.com)
Equity and Access Services and Title IX Compliance (http://equity.vcu.edu/)
VCU Employee Relations (firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-828-1510)
VCU Dental Care Employee Relations (804-828-8873)
VCU Ombudsperson (http://ombudsperson.vcu.edu/)
VCU Helpline (www.vcuhelpline.com)
VCU Employee Assistance Program (http://www.anthemeap.com)
VCU Dental Care Employee Assistance Program (1-800-327 2255)