Leadership Letters on Racial Diversity

We Must Continue Our Work to Defeat All Racial Injustices

Dear Colleagues and Friends: 

Despicable and hateful words can lead to despicable and hateful acts. Clearly, it was only a matter of time before some unbalanced or hateful person, who listened to and embraced the racist, bigoted rants of public officials, distorted social media, or untruthful “news” outlets against our Asian community, committed a heinous crime. Regardless of the underlying motives in the latest tragedy in Georgia or California or New York, a list that is far too long, sadly, this is just the latest in a recent series of hateful acts directed toward the Asian and Pacific Island community. Simply condemning these acts is not enough. All of us must work harder and act to ensure that our friends and colleagues from Asia or with roots in Asia know we are here for them. Further, it is incumbent upon all of us to work even harder to root out the evil of racism and bigotry that pervades our country.  We offer our thoughts and prayers to the families of those directly affected in Georgia, California, and New York as well as to all of our Asian colleagues in the Department of Biochemistry and throughout Duke University who are likely to feel targeted by these despicable acts indirectly but nevertheless, acutely. We are here for you and are available anytime to listen, learn, help and act. 

With warm wishes, 

The Leadership of the Department of Biochemistry, Duke University 

Leadership Statement on Pride Month

These past weeks have been filled with pain and anguish, as we have been able to witness the continued and targeted homicides of black Americans. If anything positive at all has come from these events, we are finally seeing demonstrations from all over America saying enough is enough. It is time for action. I realize that we are properly focussed on the most current events arising from systemic racism and unconscionable police action, but we should also take time to remember that June is LGBTQ+ Pride month and that this battle for equality still rages on as well.

During Pride month we now celebrate the gains in human rights of the LGBTQ+ community, but we should also remember the beginning of Pride and salute those incredibly brave individuals, including Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman, who with others “rioted” in response to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar on Christopher Street in New York City on 28 June 1969.  Johnson and other early activists, including Craig Rodwell, showed incredible courage and defended their humanity against the onslaught of a bigoted, racist police department. Hence, a community was galvanized and in November 1969 an annual march in NYC was proposed. As a result of their organization and commitment, the first gay pride march (not a parade) took place on Sunday 28 June 1970, appropriately named “Christopher Street Liberation Day”.

And here we are 51 years later looking back at the progress that has been made, but unfortunately also seeing that much still remains to be done for the LGBTQ+ community. Indeed, there have been recent attempts to take away many of these hard-fought for rights that the straight community simply takes for granted. Despite these attempts, just yesterday, 15 June 2020, in a historic victory for the LGBTQ+ community, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status!  This is a tremendous step forward. Through all of this though, we must never forget that LGBTQ+ rights, African American rights, and LatinX rights are equal rights, which are inherent to all Americans. We must push forward constantly to make this happen and also stamp out the growing anti-Asian, xenophobic sentiment that has been fostered by the targeting of the immigration status of Chinese nationals and by referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese flu”, resulting in a backlash against Asian Americans. We must also remember, that in demanding and obtaining equal rights for all, we can re-transform the United States to be the country of hope and promise not only for its own citizens but for those who want to immigrate to this country in order to make a better life for themselves, adding yet more ingredients to the rich cultural diversity of the United States. Diversity makes us better human beings.

With best wishes,

Dick, Mike, Hashim, and Meta